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Tips, Tricks and Q&A for working with fiber


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As I did not want to hijack the thread about charting petitpoint, I thought it may be appropriate to begin a new topic...



>Catherine Ronan, on 28 Feb 2016 - 12:48 PM, said:
>Silk frays so badly. Stitching makes my fingers rough. So I have to use a pumice stone on them every time before I stitch. Just a bit of roughness can ruin a thread.



Catherine, some silks fray more then others and this is dependent upon whether it is stranded silk, like embroidery floss, spun silk or machine twist, and then the brand. 

Each of us have a different chemistry which affects our hands and dry skin.... and each of us have our own experiences with the fibers based upon our chemistry.  



If I may suggest, it is very important to pull your threads vertically; vs. against the edge of the silk gauze.  If you pull vertically or at a 90 degree angle from your piece you will have less abrasion, and therefore less fraying.  This is easier said then done initially.  And then not all brands are the same.  I think Elga was using Pipers Silks from England, and these silks fray, like crazy when I use them, they are fine and whispy... not my favorite silk.... and Annelle Ferguson's favorite silk is one that you cannot purchase anymore at retail, Ping Ling, that was distributed by Kreinik... also stranded, but untwists and frays on me...  but it is still a wonderful thread and separates easily for higher counts of silk gauze.


It is difficult to pull at a 90 degree angle from the gauze if you are stitching in hand without the silk mounted in a frame.   


I generally stitch anything that is large then the palm of my hand in a frame and a floor stand, and also one hand above and one hand below to control the silk to keep it from tangling.    This was Ginger's recommendation from our Petitpointers Yahoo Group.  She likes long lengths of thread, but I adjust my length of thread for the area that I'm stitching in a design, as I prefer to keep the silk fiber fresh and therefore use shorter lengths ...I found that pulling vertically results in less fraying of the silk.


If your thread is tangling because it is fraying, another option when your fiber is being difficult to manage is to load the needle from the opposite end that you cut off...  Most of us pull the thread and thead the fiber through the eye of the needle with the section at the beginning.  I suggest that you load the needle from the end that you just cut off, it it tangles on you.  Many times there is a slight twist in the fiber and this helps me not pull against the machine twist... and then I also look for silks on higher counts that could be used (60 count and above) that are single strands with a machine twist, like silk sewing thread.


I am interested in checking into the Sugar rubs that I saw on the Shark's Tele Show... I do not want to use anything on my hands that results in rougher skin.  I've tried a lot of different moisturizers, and use it 2-3 times per day every day.  Thank goodness that retailers sell samples of moisterizers... but the one that works for me, may not work for you, so this is part of a trial & error exercise.


I'm sure other Petitpointers will have other suggestions... and hope they will post.



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I do try to pull my threads at a 90 degree angle. When I stitched the carpet, I had the canvas mounted on a frame. You can't do that with the smaller gauge gauzes because they are usually just mounted on card stock.


The trouble for me is my skin becomes rough from using the needle. Little shards that catch a speck of the silk on a thread and ruin it. I do not use long threads on smaller canvas sizes. Usually just 12" on #40 count. On #56 I usually use ten inches or less.


I learned to use "Udderly Smooth" udder cream on my hands when I was doing a lot of surface hand embroidery. It doesn't leave anything on your work that stains or is destructive over time. All the hand embroidery friends I made in classes used it too. It is great!!!

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You can mount a smaller piece of silk gauze in any frame, by sewing your small piece of silk into a larger piece of fabric and stretching the fabric across your frame....and you are back to stitching in a frame and stand...  I use a sewing machine and zig zag my stitching... I also do this so when I am pulling the piece to be drum tight in the frame, I am pulling on fabric and hopefully not pulling on the gauze... this hopefully prevents the gauze from injury.  All of my larger petit point projects -- from a perspective of optimism, that means it will take me forever to stitch it... are generally sewn into ordinary light weight plan cotton fabric and mounted to the frame on cotton, not stretching the silk gauze.  That is unless a really big rug, then I just mount the silk as the frames get a little large if I sew it into fabric.


If you purchased kit(s) from Nicola Mascall, she has those tubes of beautiful mulberry silks... my experience is that they are also fussy silk fibers for me.... but I purchased a bunch of the kits,  too.  When I was stitching with the silks supplied by Nicola Mascall, that is when I learned to thread from end I was cutting, as I had less fraying...


The kits are wonderful, though as your color selection has already been made, and you don't have to go chase down the right colors for your project.


If the needle is affecting your skin, try a gold plated needle, or a different brand.  I found some wonderful needles from Japan recently at my local quilt store.  I am fond on John James (UK), & Bohin (France), but I've also purchased Richard Hemmings & Sons, Colonial and DMC needles.  I think DMC has gold plated needles.  I think John James has platinum needles too.

All of these brands are readily available from our retail stores; even though many are imported from abroad.  


I think needles are commonly made of steel, or nickel plated steel - I think Lisa S has more info on this, so she may be a better resource on the metals topic for you.


it could be a chemical reaction to your skin, your hand lotion and the metal...I suggest, a control, where you switch out different components to try and limit your skin's reactions to the needle... it could be all of these variables... but the mulberry silks are challenging fibers all by themselves for me to control.  Perhaps less expensive to change your needle then to try and replace the colors of silk from a kit.


I always seek the best color options, so I've probably tried every brand of silk fiber I can find...ultimately I prefer the brand that doesn't tangle for me.  Frances doesn't like the Kreinik silks... and I do not have any problem with them... but Splendor misbehaves for me... and she uses it frequently...so we have concluded it is all in our own personal chemistry.



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Where to start... Like Tamra, I like the John James needles. The only silks I've had problems with fraying is the Krenik. Frances gave me her supply and I didn't like it either. It was passed on to Pat Robertson who loves it. I have a lap frame and I can clamp a small item mounted in a matboard frame without having to sew it in fabric like Tamra mentioned. I find Splendor knots and tangles more than other silks. I probably have that trouble because I usually start with about a yard of thread because I don't like starting and stopping threads. The Yahoo Petitpointer Group had a discussion about threads knitting and tangling a while back and there was discussion about threading your needle in the direction of the thread. It was something I and others had never heard of but the way the thread comes off the spool or out from a skein is the correct way. If you slide the thread through your thumb and index finger, you can tell the difference. It's smoother when it's the right direction and a little rough if it's the wrong direction. I'm probably not saying this correctly but I have much fewer tangles and knots in my thread now that I pay attention.


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The Pipers silk floss that I use for 56, 60 and 75 count is a flat silk, that means it isn't twisted, and yes it does catch on everything and likes to get knotted up too, but I have learned not to let that bother me too much, being a flat silk you can just smooth it out again by sliding it between your fingers from where it comes out of the gauze to the end of the thread. A thread has to be really bad before I cut it off, for me the magic happens when I am done stitching the piece, you always get skin oils etc on your piece, so I always wash my finished pieces in cold water with a gentle soap...and that is when the magic starts happening, the gauze and threads seems to shrink slightly in the washing process. After the piece is dry I pin it to my ironing board and hover my steam iron over it not touching it but just letting the steam do it's work, the steam fluffs the thread out again and any flaws seem to just disappear into nothingness.

I am not sure if this works so well on the Pipers because it isn't twisted, Carolyn will bring me some different silk threads to test to Chicago because I don't want to invest until I find the brand that suits my stitching style, hopefully I will have time to test them before I visit The Attic thread shop in Mesa, Arizona that apparently stocks most of the well known brands that you all have mentioned before, the only brand that I can find in SA is Gutermann and then the shops carry only about a third of the available colors and it isn't a thread that I really like.

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