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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Needlework Nibbles: Silk Purl

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I enjoy trying out new threads and new (to me) needlework techniques.  However, I fully admit that I often will buy a new thread and never actually do anything with it.  Because of this, I was thrilled when Tricia Wilson-Nguyen of Thistle Threads started designing her "Needlework Nibbles."

In Tricia's words:

Needlework Nibbles are small projects designed to let you try a new material that is hard to find or new technique. The new materials are usually one that I have imported or had made to my specifications to allow us to do a type of needlework not practiced very much anymore. Often, these materials may be in short supply or packaged such that they are expensive. The 'Nibble' allows the stitcher to try the material/technique out before committing to a larger investment.
I purchased both kits for the July Nibbles, which made use of silk-wrapped purl, a thread that originally was used in the 17th century, but has only recently been recreated.  If you're familiar with the purl threads used in goldwork, you know that they're coils of wire that are typically couched down or added like beads.  (Actually, I featured purls in one of my very first blog posts.)  The silk-wrapped purl is exactly what it sounds like:  metal purl "threads" wrapped with silk.  I'm not going to go into detail about it, since Mary of Needle 'N Thread already has a fantastic post about the thread.  (Thanks, Mary!)

I can, however, report a bit about stitching with this thread, and about the Needlework Nibbles kits.

The kits contained everything needed to complete the stitching of the project, including needles, and also contained backing fabric to finish the piece as a scissors fob or ornament.  At right is the kit for the Pink Silk Purl Bug, and the kit for the Rainbow Silk Purl Bug is shown below.

Each kit included plenty of the silk purl to complete the design.

I found that the silk purl was slightly tricker to use than regular pearl purl. I used my serrated-edge scissors designed for metallic threads, and while these cut through the metal, the silk sometimes wasn't cut all the way through. I had to keep a close eye on the thread when cutting to ensure both metal and silk were cut before letting the two pieces separate, or the silk would start to unwind from the metal.

Actually, the unwinding of the silk is the biggest downfall of using this thread. In some spots on my finished bugs, the ends of the threads have plain metal showing, and in other cases, the silk is slightly frizzy. In the closeup of the pink bug, you can see both of these: frizzy light pink silk at the point of the right wing, and a tiny bit of exposed metal at the second row in at the bottom of the body.

I'm glad I worked the pink bug, where all of the purl was couched, before trying the rainbow bug. The rainbow bug used couched purl for the head, but all of the rest was cut and threaded like beads.

A very big thank you to Tricia Wilson-Nguyen for making these kits available.  I don't know when I'll use silk purl again, but I'm sure I'll find that it's the perfect thread for something.  By trying it, I now know its properties.  I think it might be interesting to try to use this on canvas, perhaps on a painted canvas, for just the right effect.

Oh - one additional note:  I did not use the linen that came in the kits, choosing instead to use linen twill left over from a stumpwork project.  I've got some ideas about using several of these Nibbles (if they're of similar sizes) in a project together.  Speaking of size, the pictures above are a bit misleading.  These bugs are pretty small.  I worked both of these on one piece of linen in a 5" hoop.  Below is a better picture with a standard US quarter for reference.

Has anybody else tried the silk purl? Can you come up with interesting ways to use this thread? Please share your ideas!


Kathy A. said...

Those are just the sweetest little bugs. I love the way they stitched up.

Cyn said...

Hi Jeanne,

These are very cute!

How are you going to finish them?

Windy Meadow

Deb said...

I've never used this thread, but your bugs are just the cutest things!

~ Stitchin Sweet Sue ~ said...

Your handwork never ceases to

Am off to gather some crushed walnut shells for a quiet night of filling/finishing a pinkeep.

Enjoy your evening.

Sweet Stitchin...

NCPat said...

Thanks for sharing these! How cute!!

Elmsley Rose said...

I've just bought over $100 of the stuff, so watch my blog to see it in use - I hope to use it in various projects over the upcoming years (since historical stumpwork is my thing).

If you go to Mary's post and look at the comments, I've included a link to an entire piece done in the purl.

Thankyou so much for the tips in this blog.

Front Range Stitcher said...

Hi Jeanne,
WoW! I hadn't even heard of these purl threads let alone use them. Thanks so much for sharing these with us and demonstrating their use. Love your bugs too!

Mary Corbet said...

Hi, Jeanne!

Wow - NICE results! I've tried the silk purl, but just for playing, not in any specific application. I like it a lot and plan to eventually invest in lengths of a few different colors. The sample pack on Thistle Threads is great for playing with! And I love the little "nibbles" - your finished projects are Really Nice!!