Fiber Friday - Silk Noil
I'm prepping today for two sets of public demonstrations at the Bellevue Art Fair. I'm really looking forward to it; it's a lot of fun to demonstrate textile arts techniques to the public. Most people are so far removed from textiles and especially the textile arts that they are astonished that people 'still do that sort of thing.' The fact that someone, somewhere (in reality, a whole lot of people in various locations) produced the fiber, wove/knit the fabric, dyed it (somewhere along the line - it varies). created the design, made the pattern, checked the fit, and sewed it into a garment that they purchased doesn't seem to enter their head. It's as if "poof!" it just appeared in the store.
But I digress. I'm going to talk about silk noil today. Silk noil is often mistakenly referred to as 'raw silk'. Raw silk actually refers to silk filament that has been reeled but not yet otherwise processed. But somehow that label has come to be used to talk about the fabrics that are made from the waste silk produced from making spun filament silk.
Silk noil is very user-friendly. It is easy to care for, in fact it improves with washing. I throw mine in the washer and dryer prior to cutting, as it will shrink. It is tolerant of pressing temperatures and lends itself well to garments with some drape and ease. It does not have a great deal of body and can be prone to fraying, so use appropriate interfacings and seam finishes. Overall, it is as easy to sew with as most cotton fabrics and a good 'starter' fabric to work with if you are uneasy about working with silk.
Silk noil can be dyed. It generally accepts dye readily but due to the nature of the waste silk, the evenness of the color and even the degree of color accepted may vary from yardage to yardage. I have a silk noil vest that has been dyed and overdyed several times. It did not exhibit good dye uptake, hence all the overdyeing. However, this had its own advantages as the dye layers have given the fabric extra dimension. It has been stenciled with Lumiere prior to the last couple of dips in dye, and is often (at a small distance) mistaken for suede rather than cloth.
Probably the biggest complaint about undyed noil is the potential smell. It can carry a slight scent to it that is difficult to remove. I wash mine in hot water with Synthrapol (an excellent idea if you're planning on dyeing it, especially - Dharma Trading carries it), which helps. Synthrapol helps to remove the sericin (silk gum) remaining in the fabric, which I suspect has something to do with the scent. I've read that rinsing it with baking soda in water when washing it will also help. Dyed silk noil rarely retains the scent; I notice it much more in undyed fabric.