I love using silk fabric for my embroidery, and if using ribbons, stitching with silk on silk looks lovely. Silk dupion is my frequent choice as it is available in many shop and it comes in lots of colours. It has lovely sheen, very pleasant to use, and not too delicate to have textured embroidery on it. It is one of those fabrics that is relatively easy to handle, and I would recommend it to those who would like to use silk for the first time.
Is silk fabric too thin for ribbon embroidery?
Silk dupion is thin fabric, and stitches with ribbons are bulky. The ribbon bulkiness looks pretty on the front of the fabric where we want texture and volume, and it is not so great if you think about the back of your embroidery. Quite often it looks messy with ribbons travelling from one stitch to another, crossing, overlapping and twisting with each other. If fabric is too thin, ribbons on the backside will be pushing the fabric from the back creating bumps and lumps on the front. So thin fabric does not conceal what happens on the reverse of the embroidery, and it does quite opposite – it reveals it. There is an option how to deal with this, and it is using a supporting piece of fabric for your embroidery.
Use two layers of fabric when stitching on silk
You can use two layers of fabric for your embroidery which makes it thicker to hold all bulky stitches that are made with ribbon. It means that if you use silk fabric for your embroidery you can put another piece of fabric underneath your silk to give that extra support. Normally, cheap cotton fabric is used as a second layer. Medium weight calico fabric is an excellent choice (could be called cotton muslin in some countries). You can buy either bleached or unbleached calico (pictured on the right). When unbleached calico works well for coloured silk dupion, you might need bleached calico for white silk fabric.
when using two layers of fabric, your embroidery pattern is transferred on the top layer of fabric which is silk. Then the silk layer is placed over a calico piece, and this ‘sandwich’ is put in your embroidery hoop or frame. All stitching is worked thought two layers of fabric.
How to put two layers of fabric in your embroidery hoop
Iron silk and calico fabrics before stitching, then transfer your embroidery pattern onto the silk fabric. Matching centres of these two fabrics, place the silk over the calico. Then place both fabrics into your embroidery hoop and tighten until the fabrics are drum-tight. Check that the embroidery design is still in the centre of the hoop.
I always use two layers of fabric when embroidering on silk dupion with ribbons. Ribbons don’t show through on the front when stitching like that. Another advantage is that it is much easier to end stitches or secure ribbon tails on the back. And one more thing, choosing a correct needle size is essential here as well. Stitching trough two two layers can be tough on ribbons.
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