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Silk, Silk, Silk

Posted by Deborah Bergman on


Unspun but not unsung: bottom, raw (tussah) silk top.  Above, silk blended with yak. Right:  Thrust.  I spun these two silk fibers to create prototype drawstrings for the protective bags that DBD pieces come inside.


I got to know silk when I learned how to spin it.

And I learned how to spin very soon after I learned how to knit because I had figured out that if I really wanted to have control over my own projects, I couldn't depend 100% on someone else's yarn. (Even though commercial and artisanal yarn are very, very nice.)

As soon as I began to take lessons, I found out what every spinner already knows: hands, not yarn, are really what spinning is all about. Hands are smart and they get to know the quality any textile fiber or variation much better than your mind ever will or could.  And while yarn is beautiful, and knitted garments even more so, it is the feeling of fiber in the hands, and the rhythm of the wheel that keeps spinners hoped.

Not soon after I went for the silk.

Silk is known as a more challenging spinning fiber. It's fast and it's slippery. It can cut your hands. While wool and many goat fibers are elastic, lofty, buttery, and forgiving  (you can break off many like cotton candy and then just pick them up and spin another poof on, so if your fiber gets away from you you can almost always get it back) silk is not quite as obliging. Getting it going can be more like lighting a match in the wind. And as unseen top or roving goes, it's fairly pricey.

But it's strong as all get out. Spinners are forever breaking a length of plied or single yarn from our bobbins because we need a little piece.  Forget the scissors.  They're such bad form!  (Kind of like using an umbrella in Portland.)

But even a fine single of well-spun silk will hurt your hand for a while before you finally give up on that breaking-it-off idea and discreetly capitulate to your scissor.

Silk is light, light, light.  And it's warm, warm, warm. In the summer. it's cool, cool, cool. It also plays well with others.  Add a little silk yarn to a cuff, or card a little top into a wool or mohair, or even ply one silk single with one  wool single and you likely have magic.   Given its light weight, that strength, the luster it can subtly provide, it's an ally you don't really want to go without.

Not to mention the way it subtly but distinctly reflects light and in so doing can also pick up and blend in the colors surrounding it. That's because it's fiber structure is triangular and prismatic, so it picks up colors from its environment.

And as it happened, I loved to spin it.  

"Strong, small hands," my teacher remarked.

Spinning silk feels like just moving energy.  It doesn't have much drag or puff.  It just moves.

And that's what it does in fine woven silks like the ones we use for DBD pieces, too. 

Our pieces are made in silk georgette, 12 mm crêpe de chine, silk twill, and silk charmeuse.

We choose silks according to the season and also match them to the image to render the finest product we can create.  Some pieces look best magical and filmy and sparkly in silk georgette.  Others are also spectacular afforded the depth and the different very slight surface textures and sheens offered by crêpe de chine or silk twill.  Occasionally, only the drape, creamy shine, and tonal range of silk charmeuse will do.

Which one will you choose?

That's up to you.

Travel well, you two.

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