Tuesday, April 11, 2006

For the Love of Silk

In which Laura reviews Debbie Bliss's Pure Silk and seems to dislike it, but in reality, she loves it.

I'm prettier than that cat!I love silk. Of all the fibers out there, silk is my favorite. I love it more than angora and more than cashmere. Silk was the first luxury fiber that I ever owned. When I was a small child, my parents bought me a jacket similar to this one. Similar in that it was silk, quilted, had a mandarin collar, and had a similar "spotty" design. Otherwise, it was red, had fancier frog closures, and was sized for a little girl. I loved that jacket, but was allowed only to wear it for special occasions. Around that time, I was also given a silk fan, which I still have. (I was given a choice between this fan and a fan that had a duck on it. No surprises on which one I picked, huh?)

Ever since I started knitting again I have been dreaming of knitting with 100% silk. But 100% silk is expensive! I couldn't justify buying any silk yarn. I was reduced to petting and gazing longingly at silk yarn in the yarn store. If only, if only....*sigh*

Who can resist such shine?So when Ms. Amylovie gave me the opportunity to knit with Debbie Bliss's new Pure Silk yarn I jumped at the chance. I love this yarn. I may not love everything about the yarn, but I can forgive all its flaws because it is so heavenly to touch.

The yarn is amazingly shiny, soft, and slippery. (I am trying to resist saying that the silk is silky but that does seem like an appropriate word.) I think the silk is reeled silk, but I am not sure. Whatever it is, it more closely matches my image of silk than Reynold's Mandalay does. However, the yarn has a halo (click for photo) that is very obvious. Normally I don't mind a halo on yarn, but the halo on this yarn mutes the shininess of the yarn. The halo becomes more pronounced with washing, which makes me wonder how I will care for the sweater once it is finished. Quite frankly, I was horrified when I saw how much fuzz developed when I washed my swatch. Happily, the fuzz was much less noticeable once the swatch dried.

I'm feeling loopyThe yarn comes in 125 m hanks (that's 136.7 yards to you nonmetric types) and after winding one ball, I immediately began wishing that it came already balled. Did I mention that the yarn is slippery? The yarn did not always want to stay where the ball winder placed it. Some of the yarn always slips off the ball resulting in not so pretty balls with loops of yarn sticking out of the bottom. That's not the inside end of the ball--that's yarn from the middle that didn't wind properly. But I was still able to wind the yarn into usable balls, but I do pull the yarn from the outside instead of from the inside. I'm afraid that, if I use the yarn from the center, the ball will explode into a mess of tangles.

Knitting with the yarn is a dream and a nightmare. It's a single ply, loosely spun, and it slips quickly and easily through my hands and over the needles. Pure indulgence for me. However, silk fibers are extremely thin and lack the grabbiness of wool. You know what that means, right? The yarn is splitty. So splitty that I don't take my eyes of my knitting. I have to watch every stitch to make sure that I haven't separated a few tiny strands from the rest. But hey! I love to watch the yarn and I am savoring every minute that I work with it, so looking at it all the time is not so much of a hardship.

Also, the yarn has occasional "slubs." I'm not sure what these slubs are. A group of fibers improperly spun in a short segment? At first I thought the slubs were fuzz stuck to the yarn, but they are attached and pulling on them doesn't work. So I have been carefully knitting through the slubs and then using a crochet hook to pull most of the fuzz to the wrong side of the work.

The knitted fabric is very drape-y and has a nice shine. I wish it had more shine, but the halo gets in the way of that. It doesn't not have very much stretch lengthwise, which I hope means that the fabric won't "grow" like cotton fabric does. My swatch survived a bath in cold water with mild detergent and mild agitation though, as noted before, more of a halo appeared after washing. The yarn is marked machine wash, but I would be hesitant to put it in a washing machine because I wouldn't want too much friction on the surface of the fabric.

Can you find the cable? I swear there is one!The yarn looks good in stockinette and in lace, but not so good in cables. The cables are very flat and rather uninteresting. I'm highly surprised that the patterns published for this yarn include three heavily cabled garments. I was suspicious of using silk for cables and I'm sad to see that I was right to be wary. This silk does not have the body needed to make cables pop. When I look at the cables I made, I don't even think they look like cables. They look more like a texture than a structure. (Also note that the Pure Silk book has a few ribbed patterns. I am not sure how successful ribs would be in this yarn either. I suspect that silk ribs will behave like cotton ribs--not ribby)

One other thing: the first ball that I used had THREE knots in it. I think it was an anomaly though. I've wound five other hanks and did not find any knots.


Michael said...

Just a note - this is a spun silk, not a reeled silk. Reeled silk doesn't halo. Occasionally if it is loosely twisted, it will get individual long snags, but they're very different.

Thanks for the thorough documentation!

shetha said...

Do you feel like the cables and ribs don't "pop" so much because of the inelasticity of the fiber? I have knit one project in 100% silk (not the shiny kind - forget what it's called) and I kinda grew to hate the fabric sadly :( I mean for the garment I was making it had too much drape. I still have 7 balls of the same yarn sitting in my stash now...

Rachel said...

Hmm. I don't mind the textury, unpoppy look of the cables, but since I know you really relish poppy cables, I can see why you wouldn't be a big fan of this. (I get paid for every word I make up, by the way.)

Since you claim you actually do like the yarn, what sort of project do you envision using it for? Something pretty plain, so as to show of the drape and sheen?

amylovie said...

Thank you for the comments on the yarn. I'll be sure to pass your info along to our customers.

I've set aside an extra hank for you, just in case.


Jennifer said...

Hmmm, sounds like a mixed bag. The color is just lovely though. I see what you mean about the cables though.

Terby said...

Thanks for the review. I hope you do more of these in the future.

The cables may not pop, but the texture is quite striking. I was reading about using cables in cotton to prevent stretch and growth once the garment is being worn. I've also seen a lot of comments about silk's tendency to grow, so I'm curious as to how the end result will behave.

Kristi aka Fiber Fool said...

Thanks for the thorough review of the yarn!

~drew emborsky~ said...

Thanks for the review. I've been eyeing that stuff for a week or two and I'm glad to hear all about it. I have a few hanks of Artyarns silk that looks to be the same weight. I should wind it and see how it works up too.

Cordelia said...

I love silk too. I've never found a pure silk yarn that I like enough to take home with me, though.
That jacket is great. :-)

smokey said...

Great review, nimrodel, thanks! I had noticed the halo on your first photo of the beginning of the sweater and wondered about that. Based on wormspit's feedback, sounds like it's reeled silk one needs to look for, huh?

I was also struck by how the patterns in the DB book are largely for cabled or other stitch (not color) intensive work. Many of the sweaters were knit in the lighter colors of Pure Silk--I wonder if the issue of showing off the stitch work was why?

My LYSO chose not to buy the PS but is carrying the pattern book, which has some sweaters I really like. I'm thinking I may do one of them in Svale or Cathay instead of the PS.

Caroline said...

Hi there

I would just like to add your review of debbie bliss' pure silk is spot on. I have knit the scarf (pressie for someone at easter) and found the yarn very slippy, bamboo needles are definately a must! I do love the feel of the silk though - and have now been requested to make another scarf (for my sister). In total I have wound 3 balls and found the first to contain 2 knots and 1 severely frayed patch. Not the sort of thing I expect for such an expensive material.