Friday, January 7, 2011

Silk Charmeuse: Prepping

So far, I've learned that the first challenge to working with silk charmeuse is deciding how to care for it.


I think it's important to get real with yourself before you invest in projects like this. Many people will tell you that silk is dry-clean only, but for me - that's never going to happen. I don't dry clean, as a general rule. I find it to be too expensive, too much effort, and I worry about the effect the chemicals have on my health and the environment. Also, I highly doubt there has ever been a girl more likely than me to spill water on herself, or to have her boyfriend unknowingly toss a silk blouse in the washing machine!

When I buy silk charmeuse or chiffon in ready-to-wear, I generally hand wash, hang-dry and steam the garments. I wasn't sure if there would be some sort of consequence in going this route when preparing the fabric. I was warned ahead of time that I might notice a difference in colour, sheen, drape and hand. But on the bright side, it would pre-shrink the fabric and eliminate any future worries about water-spotting. I decided to do a swatch and see.

First, I cut a 6" x 6" swatch:


Then, I washed it in tepid water with Soak:


Finally, I hung it to dry and then steamed it like crazy under a silk organza press cloth:



The result? The piece shrunk about 1/4" lengthwise and 1/8" widthwise, and any changes to the colour/drape/sheen/hand were barely noticeable to me. If anything, it's slightly darker and slightly sturdier, which I actually prefer.


(I had the piece oriented the wrong way in the photo above, so you'll have to trust me on the lengthwise/widthwise thing!)


The moral of this story? Don't always believe "dry clean only." After all, silk and wool were around for quite some time before the invention of dry-cleaning. (But definitely always do a swatch test first, to be sure.)

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