Silk is the filament with which silkworms form a cocoon within which they transform from worm to moth. This filament is made up of fibroin (the protein that gives silk its structure) and sericin (the protein that acts as a "glue" for the fibers to stick together.
But how does a silkworm cocoon become the yarn we use to weave?
First, whole cocoons are boiled to soften the sericin and make the filaments separate more easily.
With the cocoon still wet, between 30 and 50 filaments are unraveled and gathered, twisting them together to form the yarn.
They are then wound into skeins to be washed, bleached, and dyed.
The filaments of the broken cocoons are also used. Being shorter, they are carded and spun with other fibers such as wool.
Contrary to popular belief, silk is not brittle, but rather one of nature's strongest fibers and has many properties that make it a very good choice for weaving.
- In very good insulator
- Has the ability to absorb moisture
- is extremely strong
- It is antifungal
- Defines and maintains the point very well
- It has a spectacular fall
- It is a luxurious fiber with a special shine
- absorbs dyes very well
A percentage of 10-15% silk in the composition of a yarn will make it benefit from all these properties and a 100% yarn will have the most drape, shine and resistance.
Despite all its properties, we cannot ignore the fact that it is a delicate fiber when wet, that it is not elastic and that, due to the entire process that its extraction requires, it is not cheap.
TIPS FOR KNITTING SILK
100% silk is very slippery and weaving it requires paying attention to certain aspects of the process in order to have a pleasant experience.
- take care of your hands
Silk yarn tends to snag, so it's essential to make sure your hands are soft and moisturized before you start handling it. If you use hand cream or oil, let it fully absorb before starting so as not to damage the silk.
- ball by hand
Winding silk yarn with a winder can be the worst of tortures. As it is not elastic and the ball slips so much in the machine it tends to fall apart, which can cause tangles. The best option is to make a ball by hand, neither too tight nor too loose, and use a woolen bowl or similar when weaving.
- Use wooden or bamboo needles
The "roughness" and grip of the wooden or bamboo needles help to offset the slippery tendency of floss. Remember: each fiber behaves differently and, luckily, there are a variety of tools on the market to help us with the task, you just need to know which one is best for each occasion.
- control the tension
Silk is slippery and very inelastic, which means that when we weave it we tense our hands and, therefore, the tension of the fabric changes. For an optimal result it is important to control the tension and weave consciously.
Pausing and stretching your hands will help you control excessive tension while knitting and make the process more enjoyable.
- Use life lines
Using lifelines is highly recommended on any fabric, but especially when weaving silk as the fabric tends to unravel on its own. It's better to prevent.
Don't you know what a lifeline is or have you never put one? Don't worry, here's how to do it:
CARE AFTER KNITTING
One of the biggest concerns when weaving silk is how to treat the garment once it has been woven. I am going to tell you how to do it so that it looks perfect and you do not have unpleasant surprises.
- The first step is to hide the ends and finish them off. When we knit wool we can do it after blocking the garment, but not with silk, since, during the blocking process, especially if we have to stretch, the ends would slip between the stitches and come loose. So: leave very long threads and finish them off following the shape of the stitches and then sew the end of the thread to the fabric with a needle and sewing thread. It's more laborious, but it's well worth it.
- Silk responds very well to steam lock. If you choose this option, set the iron at a medium temperature and at a minimum distance of 5cm from the garment (do not let the sole of the iron touch the fabric, you can do it on the wrong side of the garment to avoid accidents).
- If you have to wash (always by hand) or choose to block by immersion, you should always use cold water and an appropriate soap. Treat her gently. To wring it out, gather the entire garment in your hands, don't let any part hang down as it will stretch. Once rinsed, place the fabric between two towels and press to remove excess water (do not twist or twist the towels). To dry it, spread it out on a flat surface in the shade.
- I recommend you store your silk garments in individual cloth bags or wrapped in tissue paper. It is important to protect them from possible friction with other clothes in the closet.
PATTERNS TO KNIT WITH SILK
Not all the fibers are used to weave all the patterns nor do all the patterns look good with all the fibers.
Silk and its blends are ideal for weaving all kinds of garments that do not need to be washed very often, such as jumpers, jackets, T-shirts and shawls.
If you want to knit with silk and you don't know which design to choose, here are some pattern ideas that I really like and that would look especially good with silk (Emmy) or its mixtures (Bárbara and Lise).
I hope you have found this article interesting. If you feel like knitting with silk or one of its blends, you can find different bases in fingering thickness (400m/100g) at www.shop.aitanavillaknits.com
Knitting is love, knit a lot!
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