which silks for art quilts?

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Linnet wrote
on 26 May 2009 9:56 PM

I hope Mixed Media is the right forum to ask this question.  I know next to nothing of silk fabric and would like to know the types of silk best for paintstick work.  My problem is ordering silk online, I don't know the names of the best types of silk or the different qualities or attributes, in other words, what do I look for?  I ordered a roll of Photo Fabric, paper backed silk and it printed out just fine, but is too thin and even the finest needle seems to damage or make "runs" in it almost like pantyhose!  I just need to know what to look for, what types of silk are named, since I have to shop on the internet, being so rural here.  I need something a little heavier than the photosilk, something I can paintstick, stitch, etc. without damaging it.  Hope this makes sense.  Thanks, Linnet.

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Pokey wrote
on 27 May 2009 3:26 AM


I had a really interesting conversation with Della Q at the most recent Quilt Market in Pittsburgh. She sells silk taffeta, and from my experience it's a good fabric to work with because it is strong, smooth, and there's no slub like you'd find with silk dupioni, thus making it a great surface for Paintstik work.

Since Della is an expert, my guess is she can better help you if you contact her through her website. I have provided a hyperlink below.

Della Q Website

Pokey Bolton

Founder of Quilting Arts Magazine

TV Host, Quilting Arts on PBS

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Posts 64
on 30 May 2009 10:32 AM

Linnet I work with silk a lot.  I buy mine from Dharmatrading.com and if you visit their site you'll find helpful descriptions of each type and weight of silk that they carry.  For paintstick work you can essentially use any type of silk you want but each will give a slightly different result.  It will depend on what you want to do with it afterwards.  A lighter weight silk can be backed with an interfacing to give it a bit more stability for painting or sewing with.  A heavier silk may not need to be.  I personally prefer working with the habotai silk (12mm) for most of my work but the silk charmeuse is a lovely silk to work with as well.    I've used the iridescent shiva oil sticks on black silk and they look fabulous.

Since the silk has a tendency to shift while you're working with it you may find it helpful to tape it to a surface using some painters tape to keep it from moving around on you while you're painting.  Just make sure that whatever surface your working on is absolutely flat with no ripples, ridges or bumps it it or you may end up getting some areas that look as if you've used a rubbing plate beneath them.  I find that a piece of flat matboard or foam core works well as a surface to work on.

Good luck!

Sue Bleiweiss


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Preah Pithu wrote
on 31 May 2009 3:26 PM

Dear Linnet. I live on Martha's Vineyard and also do not have ready access to silk - or any fabric really. I order online from Dharma Trading (CA) dharmatrading.com. They are quick and reliable and friendly and helpful.  You can buy samples of silk, cotton, linen etc in black and white and these will give you an idea of what to order.  The samples have brief dedcriptions for their use also.

I use black and white silk and cotton exclusively and dye or print to get the effect I want.  I have not used paintsticks but do print a lot of images from my photos etc. For this I use a Silk Habotai (45" wide) - the 5mm is  very fine and OK for some things as is the 8mm but the 16mm weight I use for printing (good clear images) and it really is the best priced fabric too. I also use silk organza for printing onto via printer and use for overlays etc.I tried a Silk Charmeuse which gave variable print results (after soaking in solution) and it was more costly than the plain silk habotai. Hope this is useful. Preah.

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Linnet wrote
on 31 May 2009 8:19 PM

Hi Preah, (what a beautiful name), thank you for the help about silk.  I am wondering now what solution you use for soaking before printing?  I have tried both cotton and silk PRE-packaged printer fabric.  The cotton printed beautifully but I can tell, it is a thick "film" that actually indents if I press on it with my fingernail.  The silk packaged prepared-for-printing also printed beautifully but was too thin and ran like pantihose when needled, so your information is helpful, as were all I heard from.  I looked at Dharma and was amazed at the many items they have to offer and also their information.  Thanks so much, Linnet.

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DinahT wrote
on 3 Jun 2009 12:36 PM

If you want to try a lot of different types of silk fabrics, you might want to try Thai Silk's Artist's Sample Sets http://www.thaisilks.com/product_info.php?cPath=35&products_id=680 

Silk can vary in weight and texture from canvas to chiffon, from raw silk to charmeuse. So much depends on what you want to do with it, that the best advice I can give you is to experiment until you find the right fabric for the project.


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Posts 54
Linnet wrote
on 3 Jun 2009 6:41 PM

Hi Dinah, thanks for the information.  I will look on that website tonight.  I got an e mail sales notice from Home E savers in May and they had on sale, a seven piece set of silk remnants for 3.95.  I ordered three.  The sizes ranged from half yards to 18' x 18", just perfect, and none were torn or damaged.  Only thing, I had no way to identify which was called what!  Regardless, I have already used some and I can see the wonderful differences.  They sent wonderful random colors, also, which was really a good buy.  I went back to their site right away, but their May sale was over!  I keep reading about Treenway Silks, are they in Canada, as are several other interesting websites? Does ordering from Canada pose any problems concerning money conversion or such?  Thanks again, Linnet.

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