Silk Drying


My handpainted silks are finally dry! As you can see from comparison to the photos from the other post, some of the colours, particularly ones I’ve mixed myself, aren’t as intense as they were when the silk was still wet. However, some sections, particularly the red and green/yellow silks have come out with exactly the kind of colour saturation and intensity I was looking for. Lots of dye and aggressive mashing of the fibres seems to be the trick with handpainting. Thinning down the top beforehand did help but made it more difficult to handle, so I’m not sure it was worth it on reflection.

In general, I didn’t lose too much dye in the rising process but the turquoise sections took significantly more rinsing than any other colour. It’s remained a nice, saturated colour but I’m not sure if there’s something about that particular dye that meant it didn’t fix as well or maybe needed more vinegar in those areas.


The one disappointment I did have was with some of the black areas. Although it probably works better in conjunction with the other colours, what should have been solid areas of black on this green/black top look a little faded. I think this was simply a case of not applying enough dye in those areas to get the colour saturation that I wanted. Black can be a bit deceptive as the silk looks like it has taken up a lot more dye than it has.

I love the accidental orange section on this one – definitely one to try to recreate in the future

The red also takes a lot of work to get a very intense shade but I did manage to get there in the end. The yellow sections on this one are just Kemtex yellow and yes, it is highlighter yellow bright. I don’t normally use yellows or oranges much while I’m dyeing, I instinctively go for greens/blues but the yellow seems to have saturated relatively easily and I like some of the mixed colours that have come out on this top as well.

Lurid is probably the best word to describe the yellows and greens


Initially, this was my least favourite of the four lots. The colours aren’t as saturated as I wanted (except for that fantastic pink patch near the front of the photograph) and the green came out a strange yellow-olive colour as well.


However, if you get a little closer and open up the fibres there’s some subtle, but lovely mixing of the blue and magenta. The colour scheme isn’t something I normally would have tried but I think it’s going to work really well when I spin it up and I actually think this bit of top and the green/black one are going to look much better as finished products than the other too. Unless I can find a way to tone down that yellow!

It is possible to make highly variegated yarns just by blending in different colours in the spinning process but I much prefer trying to achieve this in the dyeing process. Mostly because more complex painting is a lot of fun and I enjoy the unexpected effects you can get by allowing the colours to run and mix together. When I spin, it also means I don’t have to really think about which section of the top I’m drafting, I can just focus on trying to keep an even thickness and twist on the yarn.

As I ended up splitting the 75 g of silk into four for each different colourway, even if I spin it laceweight, there won’t be a sensible length of fibre for a project. Something I’ve wanted to do for a while is having a go at spinning my own embroidery threads.

However, I’ve not found much in the way of good resources on spinning embroidery thread. Spinning Daily do have a free guide on spinning silk for various purposes, including  a little on embroidery, which you can find here.

I generally make 2-ply yarns (unless I’m plying in something like strung beads as well) and getting more comfortable and consistent making laceweight yarns, but these are still a bit thicker than anything I’d realistically like to sew with. However, as I’m not sure I’ll be able to easily manage spinning each ply thin enough to make a reasonably sized thread, this might be a good chance for me to learn to spin singles. I’d love to be able to create something like Kyo thread, a high-twist Cupra thread, most commonly used for making temaris, which has an absolutely fantastic sheen. Some experimentation is in order.

Temari stitched in Kyo thread

Whilst adventuring on the internet for some useful resources, I did come across something to add to the ‘must make that’ list. Mary Corbet’s website (a wonderful treasure trove of all things hand embroidery) has some gorgeous photos of a kind of thread called silk gimp. Silk gimp is a tightly twisted silk thread on a silk core that you couch down onto a design, in a similar way to the metal threads used in goldwork. It looks incredibly effective for geometric designs and would be a good chance to practice some core spinning as well.

For my next patch of dyeing, I’m going to make a conscious effort to try and do some graduated colours and work on making some good purples, a colour I love but seems to come out questionable shades of brown when I’m dyeing. I am itching to get spinning this batch of silk as well…

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