Monday, January 23, 2012

Pre-washing Your Silk Fabric


Hello my dear readers!  I was really hoping that this post was going to be showing off my latest sewing project, unfortunately work has gotten much busier and I find myself with less and less time to sew each week.  Do not be too sad though, I am sure that I can get my project finished up in this coming week - so I will be able to share it with you quite soon.

In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy a post on pre-washing silk fabrics.  Since many of the patterns from my German Pattern Experiment involve lingerie, pajamas and robes - it only seams appropriate that silk is a first choice when it comes to sewing up these patterns.

Here is my current silk collection.
When I first started shopping for fabric at my local shop, I noticed a remnant bin with luxurious silks for as little as $5.00 a yard.  I quickly scooped up a yard of pastel blue charmeuse.  From time to time I would see other great deals like this, always taking advantage of prices that seemed to good to be true.  I soon amassed a small stash of silk fabric and found myself not choosing to sew with them because I was afraid to ruin the fabric.  Well, after much on-line research, I came across a method of pre washing silk that seemed very reasonable.  An now silk has become one of my favorite fabrics to work with.  It is my favorite lining fabric, it's perfect for lingerie and it makes an elegant blouse.

I realize that not everyone has easy access to silk, but if you do I encourage you to take advantage of it.  Should you find yourself with a bit of silk on hand, here is my process for pre washing it.  This can also work for the final garment if it is all silk.

On the right is a charmeuse and the light green is silk habutai.
Here is the excerpt from the website I found that convinced me to give this method a try: Did you know that just a few trips to the dry cleaners noticeably dulls your silk? Hand washed silk, on the other hand, can be counted upon to continue looking its best, typically becoming softer over time.  Umm, after reading this, is there really as question as to whether or not to hand wash you silk?  That was my conclusion, so here is my process:

Start by soaking your fabric in lukewarm water with a bit of mild soap.  I actually use shampoo (my sister would freak if she saw me using her salon shampoo to care for my fabric, but I am pretty low maintenance when it comes to my hair, so I would rather splurge for my sewing).

Here's some of my silk fabric with the shampoo I used to wash it.
Next I rinse the fabric to remove any soap residue.  Since I want to make sure that all of the soap has been removed, I follow up with a second rise in vinegar water.  (Use 1/4 cup of white vinegar per gallon).  Since no one likes the smell of vinegar, my fabric goes through one more rinse of clean water.

Here is my purple silk I used for lining my pencil skirt.
It just looks so pretty!
Do you like how I wash my silk in a cooler?  I didn't want to fill up my washing machine for such a small amount of fabric and the kitchen sink just seemed wrong, so I found our cooler and made sure it was squeaky clean before trusting it with my silk fabric.  Notice how the water is actually soaking up some of the purple dye - don't worry, this is normal.


After rinsing my fabric, I gently press the water out of the fabric, then lay it on top of towels.  I like to roll up the towels and silk and let it sit until the fabric is just damp.   Then I unroll the fabric bundle and iron the fabric on my silk setting.  I also like to use a bit of muslin between the iron and my fabric to prevent any damage.

Lay the fabric over some towels to help soak up excess water.
I like to roll up my fabric like a giant burrito :)
Once silk is ironed, it is ready to go.  Make something lovely!  Should you find yourself with more questions on the properties of silk fabric, I encourage you to visit the post where I found this information.  It is a very interesting read that I find myself referring back to when pulling out my silk fabric.

Have you worked with silk before, what have you made?  What are some of your favorite fabrics to work with?  If you had access to all-things fabric, what would be your ideal choice?

Live in this moment and love life!
Annabelle

15 comments:

  1. Thanks for this. I have a few pieces of silk in my stash and I've been wondering the best way to treat it!

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    1. Suzie, I am just delighted you you found this post to be helpful!

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  2. Thank you for this post it's really useful. Maybe I'll start to branch out from cotton and cotton mixes?!

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    1. Vicki, I am glad that I can help you out with something when I find so many of your posts to be helpful. Perhaps there will be another fabric swap in our future to get some silk into your hands?

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  3. This is a great post, thank you for the tips! I adore silk, and am definitely planning on working with it more this year, and since i have to pay a fair bit for it, as I'm ordering it online, it's good to know how to treat it properly :)

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    1. Symondezyn, I love that you adore silk too! It really is a wonderful fabric - and I can't wait to see what you will be making this year.

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  4. Hi Annabelle, great post. I still haven't made anything from silk, I guess I am concerned that the fabric will shift so much while sewing it. After reading that you love to work with it maybe I will get it a try. I found a few yards at our thrift store last year and haven't done anything with it. Your post on washing has been so helpful, I am going to get my shampoo ready and maybe get something made up soon.

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    1. Gina - I promise that working with silk is not as terrible as it may appear. Some extra precaution needs to be taken (I am very careful when cutting out my pattern pieces and sew them together extra slowly) but I have found that I can work with silk just as easily as any other fabric. I would love to see what you make from your thrift store fabric :)

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  5. I mostly sew with cottons and cotton blends because they are easy to find and relatively comfortable. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to sew with silk ... hubby grew up in Malaysia and his mom had silk clothing made to order there. I wish I could find somewhere to buy it ... maybe houston? But that is almost 100 miles away! I hope you will post lots of details when you do sew with it. I would love to make Tasia's Lonsdale dress in a floaty silk, ...

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    1. Oh, I love the idea of a Lonsdale in silk! I am super lucky to be able to buy silk so easily and at great prices. I may just have to host a silk giveaway for my readers to share the love.

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  6. Oh, I'm just so jealous! I've never sewn with silk, as I can't find any locally, but I've decided on silk charmeuse for two upcoming Sew Weekly challenges so, I'm finally taking the plunge! I have to order online and dye it myself so this will definitely come in handy in preparation for that. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Wow Jennifer - dying your silk! That is actually something that scares me a bit, as I have never worked with dye other than to tie-dye things at summer camp. I am really looking forward to what you will be creating for the Sew Weekly challenges.

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  7. Hi Annabelle, thanks for this. I am trying to experiment with more fabric this year other than cotton, so this will definitely come in handy.

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    1. Hi Dibs, I am delighted that you are appreciative of the this post. I've been forced to stray from cotton since my local shop carries mostly quilting cottons, which are not the best for apparel sewing. I hope to have some other fabric posts up this year as well.

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  8. This is really wonderful. Thanks guys!

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