Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Knitting with Silk

Silk is a true luxury fiber known for its fabulous luster, drape and intense colors when dyed.

A Bit of History

The cultivation of silk began in China before 1500 B.C.E. The legend, myth or story of its discovery starts with a Chinese “princess” (or Emperor’s wife) who was sipping tea in the garden. A cocoon dropped into her cup. Strands loosened from the cocoon suggesting the strands could be unwound from the cocoon and joined together to make thread. Silk production became a protected secret and silk fabric a much desired commodity. The Silk Road became the primary trade route all because of silk. This brought much wealth to China.

Bombyx Mori Moth 
Where Silk Comes From
Silk begins as a tiny moth egg that hatches into a tiny caterpillar. The caterpillar consumes mulberry leaves almost nonstop for 3-5 weeks, growing to 10,000 times its original weight. When the caterpillar decides the time is right it begins to spin a cocoon where it will transform into a moth and begin the cycle all over again.

Silk Cocoons
The cocoon can be literally unwound and reeled into thread without twisting. It is so fine it takes 7 strands together or more to make a thread. This is the finest and most expensive form of silk yarn.

Silk and wool blend yarn
Not all silk yarns are the same. Cocoons can be stretched or carded into different forms for spinning into yarn that are smooth and lustrous or thick and thin or other textured yarns.

Knitting with silk

Silk has body and yet is beautifully supple. It has minimal elasticity so it is often blended with wool to add memory to the yarn. Silk in a cotton or wool blend adds drape. Silk is warm to wear in cold weather and cool to wear in summer.
  • Pure silk yarn can be a bit slippery to knit through not as slippery as soy silk or bamboo yarns
  • Any knit structure will work in although stockinette will show off its luster and lace its drape.
  • Some silk yarns can be dense so cables should be knit sparingly in a silk yarn
  • Play with needle sizes – go up a size to increase the drape and down a size if you need more body in a garment.
Silk is an absolute delight to knit. We are so lucky to have so many beautiful yarns of and with silk to enjoy

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