Saturday, 30 July 2011

Working with Silk

Sample of stitched silk.  You can see how much it is fraying.
French seam.  You can see where I unpicked some stitching. 
It has been such a long time since I have written this page!  Argh!  Too much work.  Working two very demanding jobs and trying to do a PhD is hard (not to mention  3 children, 1 of which is a teenage girl!)  Actually, being a mother of a teenage girl is full time job in itself.  Man oh man, it's hard.  If I like it she hates it and the cost.  Grrrr.

My poor, lovely PhD has suffered,  of course.  However, in September all will change and I will only be working for Bella Freud, whose AW11 range (I'm getting all the lingo now), which is a small capsule collection of really lovely jumpers and knitted dresses will be in the shops very soon.

My PhD registered.  Great.  Did the final end of year presentation and felt pleased.  I am now on my first practise based project - a dress.  I am making it from printed silk, very gorgeous  (bought at Classic - that is my favourite fabric shop on the Goldhawk, incidentally bloody Hammersmith council are trying to knock that block down so support Classic's campaign to save it).  Where was I?  Oh, yeah.  Gorgeous Liberty print silk and wonderfully soft but it is so hard to work with.  Every machine stitch I do has to be sewn backed with tissue paper.  And of course, the tension on the machine has to absolutely right.

This is my first experimentation to really look at silk as being a viable fabric to work with as part of my design practise and one thing I have found out is that this particular silk frays and frays and frays.  Although, very beautiful, on a practical level unless one is a skilled seamstress, it is a fabric that I think for 'construction, unpick, re-fashion'  is a fabric to possibly avoid.  Well, as we know the silks unpicked in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries were of a much higher quality and the twists were much more densely woven on the loom.  It's to be thought about anyway.

My gorgeous dress is being lined in the loveliest cream silk so will be worn by me this winter as I know it will be very warm.  Silk is my favourite fabric ever.  I have been reading 'What Clothes Reveal' by Linda Baumgarten.  It is such a fabulous book.  Of course, out of print and extremely expensive.  I have had my copy on loan from the London College of Fashion for about a year.  There is a photograph (fig 49) of a British formal court gown from circa 1780-1790.  The beautiful silk, crisp silk is dotted with metallic silver threads woven from selvage to selvage and is known as silver tissue.  You just know how beautiful that textile must be and the quality of that silk (probably woven in Spitalfields) will be amazing.   But of course it was very expensive to make and the purchaser paid a lot for it.

I know it's at an angle but here is an engraving of 18th century draw loom.
Such loom would have woven all that wonderful silk.
Silk bill.  You can see how expensive silk tissue was.

How can we get people to value their textiles again?