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Quilting with Silk II: Testing materials

1. Prewash?

2. Underline with stabilizer?
3. Marking Choices?
4. Type of Batting?

When starting any new quilt, there are many choices to consider and decisions to make regarding materials, designs and techniques.

The above sample is testing background filler stitches.

Working with silk creates it's own unique challenges. Although many quilters are choosing to work with silk today, resource info was scattered and hard to find, both on-line and in books. One invaluable source has been the book "Silk Quilts" written by Hanne Vibeke de Konig. Published in 2000, the information is well researched and still relevant today.

1. Pre-wash?
Once the fabrics have been chosen, in my case it's a silk dupioni, the question of pre-washing must be resolved. Opinions in the quilting world vary on this, although my findings led me to believe most quilters choose not to prewash silk.  The draw back to this is that the quilt must then be dry cleaned if it ever gets soiled.

Because I'm working on two different silk quilts, two different dupionis had to be tested and the results were not the same. The coppery/gold dupioni below was used in a wall hanging.

This "coppery/gold" dupioni did not fare well with pre-washing.The fabric on the right has been prewashed and ironed while the fabric on the left was left unwashed. No amount of ironing was ever going to smooth those wrinkles. Because this fabric is for a wall hanging and won't get man-handled a great deal, after seeing the results, the decision not to pre-wash was not difficult to make.

The teal/blue silk below is going to be a 100" x 100" bed quilt used as a cover only.
Here the top fabric has been pre-washed. Pre-washing in this case has made the silk softer and more pliable, but still easy to iron to a nice, smooth finish. However, the lovely sheen is gone. Since I like the original sheen and crispness of silk dupioni, I have decided not to pre-wash this one either and make sure to get it dry cleaned if and when necessary.

2. Underlining with Stabilizer?
Next came the question of whether underlining with a stabilizer is necessary. Because heavy quilting can weaken the silk fibres, most quilters agree that it is the better way to go.

After trying a variety of lightweight iron on stabilizers, I was happiest with the results I got with "Quilters Select Fabric Prep" by Floriani.

I was concerned about how the additional layer of stabilizer would affect the loft.

The sampler on the left is unlined while the sampler on the right has been stabilized with "Quilters Select". The unlined side does have a little more relief,  but I decided that increasing the quilt's longevity is more important than a minimal increase of the loft.

3. Marking Choices?
The goal is to make the quilting lines as visible as possible yet easy to get rid of when the quilting is done.  That ruled out a fabric pencil (because it doesn't come out without washing). The Frixion pen, which would have worked very well on the gold silk, makes accurate, visible lines but gets a bad rap for sometimes coming back.  The options left were the blue wash out pen (which can usually be surgically erased with a well directed wet tip), and a variety of chalk markers.

The blue wash out pen bled quite badly into the silk and left a residue when I tried getting rid of it. It would have taken a complete soaking, which I wanted to avoid. So now I was left with only the chalk as an option.

All chalk is not created equal. The three chalk marking pencils on the left made the cleanest and strongest lines, so that's what I used. However, chalk being chalk, it does come off before the quilt is finished. As the lines became faint during the quilting process, I re-traced each area as I got to it using the air erasable pen. The process is somewhat tedious, but it was the best solution I could come up with. I'm open to suggestions. Please!

4. Battings?

The three options from left to right: Hobbs 80/20, 100% wool and Quilter's Dream Puff (a very high loft poly).

To achieve the loft I want, using a double layer of batting is necessary.  But which combination works best for a wall hanging? a bed quilt?

From left to right, the four options: Hobbs 80/20 + wool; 2 layers of 100% wool; Hobbs 80/20 + Quilter's dream Puff; 100% wool + Quilter's Dream Puff.

To stabilize the wall hanging and add some rigidity to help it hang better, I decided the base layer should be Hobbs 80/20.
Not sure how much loft I wanted, I tried 2 samples. One with Quilters Dream Puff (on the left) and the other with 100% wool (on the right). Both samples have the Hobbs 80/20 as the base and both samples have been stabilized.  The high loft poly (left) does give it excellent loft, but I found it difficult to work with. I didn't want to struggle with that amount of loft over a whole quilt. I can see it being a great choice for isolated use like trapunto work, or to use on it's own without any additional layer. I ended up choosing the 100% wool + 80/20 combo and am pleased with the results. As the teal bed quilt is not yet sandwiched, the decision of batting is still to come.

The wall hanging is now completed and I will post more about it at later date. The teal/blue bed quilt is a current work in progress. Much more to come about that.

A huge thanks to Cindy-Seitz Krug of Quintessential Quilting, who has been very generous in sharing her experience and expertise on the topic. If you're a machine quilter, check out her website for invaluable information. She also has excellent tutorials on You Tube .


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