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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Playing with J.L.Walsh Silk Perle

Whenever I travel, I seek out needlework shops (and what stitching addict wouldn't?). In visiting these shops, I keep an eye out for new (to me) threads. I'll buy some in colors I like so I can play with them and use them (eventually) in some future project.

A few skeins of J.L.Walsh Silk Perle made their way into my stash in a similar fashion. According to a previous blog post, my MIL picked them up from Beehive NeedleArts in Pittsburgh last fall.


Recently, a couple of these skeins were added to my pile of threads for Potpourri. These two colors seem to work with my palette.

During the class, I started stitching with this thread as it came off the skein, but it was a bit too thick for diagonal satin stitches. I quickly decided that I needed to play with it a bit more before using it too much.

Let's take a closer look.

Looking at the thread up close, it's a bit different than the typical perle thread. As it comes off the skein, it's a tiny bit thinner than a perle 5 weight. It also has a much looser twist, as a close-up picture shows.

Unlike typical silk or cotton perle threads, this is easily divisible in half, and each of those halves is made up of four strands the size of floss. (For lack of a better name, I'm using the term "full bundle" when referring to the thread as it comes off the skein, and "half bundle" for the thread when it's divided into two.)

Here's a look at each of these divisions side by side. I chose to run the smallest division (the floss strand size) over a damp sponge to straighten it before stitching. Without this step, it still has the waviness shown in the half-bundle.

Once it's straightened, this single strand is almost indistinguishable from cotton floss, except, of course, for silk's fantastic sheen. Here is one strand from the bundle of silk perle (top) alongside one strand of DMC cotton floss (bottom).

I did find that the color was not consistent throughout the thread. This cannot be seen easily with the full bundle, but once the thread is divided in half or more, it becomes more evident. I would expect this variation in depth of color to be even more obvious with darker colors, but it can be seen even in my pale lavender. The arrow in this photo shows one of lighter spots, but there are others in this photo, too.

I found that the slight variations of color actually add a bit of texture and interest to the thread. Again, this might be more objectionable with a darker thread, but I like it for this color, at least.

So what does it look like when it's stitched?

When stitching with the full (i.e. as it comes off the skein) or half bundles, I found I needed to keep adding twist to the thread to keep the bundle together. This is especially true of the half-bundle. Without consciously adding a twist to this thread, it just looks like poorly laid thread.
  • The full bundle covers very well on 18ct mono canvas for horizontal or vertical stitches, but is a bit too thick for diagonal stitches. 
  • Half of this bundle is perfect for diagonal stitches, but it too skimpy for vertical or horizontal stitches. 
  • By stripping the thread down to its individual strands, straightening them, and recombining to use four together in the needle, you'll get really nice coverage for any stitch direction, especially when carefully laying each stitch.
I notice that the thread doesn't look as dark once it has been divided. That's likely due to the variations in the color distribution.

The short story:
  • Regardless of whether you decide to use the thread as it comes off the skein, or divide it in half, or strip it down to its component strands, you'll get great sheen from this thread. 
  • You do need to keep an eye on the twist when stitching with the full bundle or half bundle. If you don't keep a fairly tight overtwist on the thread, it does start to get a rougher texture. But then again, that may be what you want!
  • I can't find the full color palette online, but this site shows several of the 118 colors. 
  • This thread is really nice if you want matching colors in various sizes of thread, since you can use it all three ways, though the full bundle does seem slightly darker.
 I hope this helps somebody stitching with J.L.Walsh Silk Perle. Does anybody have any other tips for using this thread?

3 comments:

Edy said...

What a font of information you are!
I think I will try some of this thread..you didn't mention if you think six strands would work well or not.
Heard from Kathy too.

Jeanne said...

Edy -
You certainly could use six strands, but I try to use the minimal number needed to cover. Since four strands covers well in both directions for me, that's what I'd use on 18 ct. I might even drop down to 3 strands on the diagonal.

Other stitchers with different tension or who want slightly heavier coverage may want to use more strands.

I often use 5 strands of cotton floss for vertical or horizontal stitches, but 4 seemed to work for this thread. (Plus there's an advantage in that there are 8 strands per bundle, so it divides evenly.)

Front Range Stitcher said...

Wonderful and informative. Thank you! I love this thread, it stitches like "butta'and the colors are beautiful.