Friday, June 12, 2009

Silk. Lots and lots of beautiful silk!

A few weeks ago, I found out that an enthusiastic trader on Etsy had some skeins of silk laceweight yarn she was clearing out of her abundant yarn collection. Since I like silk, I’ve been curious about working with yarn, and I was wondering just how thin laceweight yarn is, I traded a keyring pen for a skein of blue silk yarn.
Since I like to experiment on new types of thread by making longer pieces of lace, I needed to make a new pricking. After a bit of debating with myself, I decided to draw it out at a scale that would give me 8 pins per inch along the straight sides. I had thought to make scalloped edges, similar to the edges on the variegated thread bookmark I made a few months ago, but decided to simplify it with straight edges. The center of the strip is a simple honeycomb ground. The triangles along the edges are half-stitch, and along each edge two pairs of passives are worked in whole stitch to give a sturdy woven edge.

After drawing out the design, I scanned it in to my computer and printed out two copies. I carefully cut and taped the strips to align the design. Cheating a little, I did not mount the printouts on a stiff backing, and I did not pre-prick the holes. The reason I made the pattern so long is that I wanted to try working it on a roller pillow I bought on ebay a few years ago. I pinned the paper strip to the center of the roller, then wound about a yard of yarn onto each of 32 bobbins (16 pair). I started the lace at a point, similar to the bookmarks I’ve made, and worked it as normal.
For the most part, working with the laceweight yarn was no different than with thread. However, it was not an even thickness, and the thicker slubs had to be worked with carefully. They tended to get stuck in the whole stitch edges. The lace was a little looser than usual, due to the large scale at which I drew the pattern.
When working on a roller pillow, you work an inch or so at a time, then turn the roller back a bit to expose the next section to work. You take the pins from the back to use in the lace at the front as it is being made. I found that I liked this, because it left me with not as many pins to take out and the end when I’ve finished! However, there are some thing I don’t like about this roller pillow. I can’t push the pins all the way down, like I do on my cookie pillow. The slope on the roller is a little too steep, and the apron—the part where the bobbins lay—is awfully thick, making it a little awkward to position when working. As this is the only roller pillow I’ve ever used, I don’t know whether this is normal. I plan to make a new roller pillow myself, so I’ll try to eliminate at least a couple of those issues.

I started to run out of yarn on a couple of bobbins before I quite reached the end of the 17 ½” long pattern, but what I had was long enough for what I wanted, so I finished off at a point similar to the beginning. Because the lace was fairly loose, as I mentioned earlier, I laid the strip out flat and treated it with spray starch. I didn’t iron the lace, but let it air dry. That worked wonders!
It wasn’t until I was partway through making the strip of lace that I finally decided what to do with it. I often wear my hair pulled back by a sash, since it’s too short to pull back in a ponytail. Since I have quite a bit of undyed silk chiffon left over from a rather nice dress I made a couple of years ago, I decided to make a silk hair sash on which to mount the silk lace.

Originally, I’d thought to make a long, skinny sash, barely wider than the lace. But the first piece I pulled out of my bag of leftover silk was a roughly rectangular piece the full 44” width of the fabric, with the barely noticeable selvages still present. That gave me a new idea. I sewed the long edges together in a French seam and pressed it in the middle of the long strip.

Folding it in quarters, I marked the center, then marked the center of the lace and sewed it in the middle of the sash. I decided to leave the ends open so that, when tied, it would give the effect of a regular scarf. When I was taking pictures of it, I played around with folding it in long thirds the width of the lace, and laying flat like a head scarf. I even tied the folded sash around the neck of my wig head for another variation!

The next time I use this yarn, and probably for any other laceweight yarn, I’ll still use the eight pins per inch scale, since that works well with the unevenness, but I’ll add extra twists as necessary to make the lace a little tighter. Even doing that, though, I’ll probably still need to starch the lace. Which reminds me, I need to get some more starch because I finished off my current can on this!