Stitching With Silk
This topic covers both silk gauze and silk floss.
Cross-stitch designs done in silk have a beautiful quality all their own. Silk floss is very delicate, comes in skeins of 4 or 6 strands and needs to be sewn with high quality needles. As with all specialty threads, use a shorter length for silk, as it tangles very easily. You can use silk floss on just about any count of fabric, even silk gauze. To prepare your silk, strip each strand then put together however many strands you need. This will increase the sheen of your stitches, as will stitching with a laying tool to keep your stitches flat. Most silk can be rinsed prior to stitching for colourfastness. However, check the manufacturer's instructions to make sure it's not dry-clean only. Silk floss is often used in fly tying, so if you are missing any colours, check your fisherman husband's fly kit.
Silk is available in more than just floss. There is silk ribbon, available in a variety of widths, the smallest usually about 2mm. Silk ribbon is often hand painted or hand dyed, sometimes with a slight to pronounced variegated effect. Silk chenille is a fuzzy thread, but it cannot be stripped down. Chenille can be used on the lower to mid-range cloth counts with good effect. Silk pearl is similar to cotton pearl, but is shinier. Silk pearl is easiest to stitch with if you run it through a lightly dampened sponge first, as it tangles very easily. If your hands are dry or rough, the silk may cling to them. Use a stitch-friendly hand cream-one that is non-greasy and won't stain your floss or fabric.
Madeira, Rainbow Gallery, Au Ver A Soie, YLI Threads, and Weeks Dye Works have a wide selection of silk flosses, both in regular and overdyed shades.
Stitching a cross-stitch design on silk gauze is actually Petit Point, but almost any cross-stitch pattern can be converted to silk gauze. A suggested needle size for silk gauze is a size 28-tapestry needle. You need to use a needle with a small eye, and as you are stitching with one strand of floss this size works well. Do not carry any stitches over unstitched gauze, no matter what colour they are the floss will show through.
When choosing a design, keeps in mind that you will not be able to do quarter stitches, nor use embellishments such as beads or thick specialty threads. The typical gauge of silk gauze is in the 40-count range. When you purchase silk gauze, it will probably be in a type of frame. Leave the gauze in the frame until you are finished stitching. If it doesn't come in a cardboard frame, stitch some broadcloth around the edges before you stitch on it. Attach the fabric pieces to your scroll frame. Don't faint when you go to purchase silk gauze for a project…it is very expensive.
As nice as the silk gauze looks, it is very hard on your floss. Pull your floss through using the stab method, and gently pull your floss through perpendicular to the gauze. Count carefully-taking out stitches in silk gauze can fray your floss in 3 stitches. If you are having trouble seeing those tiny little squares, put a cloth or towel on your lap that contrasts in colour to the gauze you are using, or use a magnifier lens.
Heart's Content has several silk gauze kits for sale.