Friday, 17 October 2008

One Thread Fits All

I’m often asked what threads we use for Japanese Embroidery. The short answer is (excluding the metallic threads) we only use one thread – Japanese Flat Silk.

The real answer is a bit more complicated. The silk comes on 60 meters tubes of flat silk. One strand of silk is made up of 12 suga (filaments). For optimum shine the silk is used flat, strands can be split for finer threads or combined if a thicker thread is required. The thread can also be twisted.

The above photo shows a tube of flat silk, a variety of threads, twisted and flat and (laying across the silk) a strand of DMC floss.

The first three threads from the left are all flat silk – half a strand, 1 strand and 2 strands. The next five threads are a regular twist – 1->2, 1->1, 2->1, 3->1 and 4->1 (the first number is the number of strands used to make a single twisted thread, e.g 4->1 is four strands twisted together to make one twisted thread). The final two threads are a 3->1 soft twist and (on the far right) a 1->1 S-twist.

The stitched samples above show the relative thickness of a different number of strands of flat silk and the coverage when used to stitch a foundation.

From left to right: 0.5 strands, 1 strand, 1.5 strands, 2 strands and 2.5 strands.

This sample shows the relative thickness of the twisted threads and the coverage when used to stitch a foundation.

From left to right: 1->1 twist, 2->1 twist, 3->1 twist, 4->1 twist and 3->1 soft twist.

Note that the 3->1 soft twist looks as full as the 4->1 regular twist and gives fuller coverage even though it uses fewer strands of silk. The tighter the twist the finer the finished thread.

I have not used the 1->2 twist in these samples. This very fine thread is usually used to couch other threads or for diagonal holding stitch. Nor have I used the thread on the far right, 1->1 S-twist, this thread is used for Japanese round knots or long-legged knots.

Happy Stitching


Michael said...

I've got a question. I don't have much experience with Japanese flat silk. I have handled a piece of JEC Flat Silk that Mary Corbet sent me, but that's it.

It appears that the sugas are very slightly twisted. I haven't actually sat down with a pin and a piece of tape and figured out how many twists per foot, but it looks like they've got just enough twist that it's easy to separate the sugas (i.e., you can pick half a thread, or a third of a thread, and it hangs together well.) Is this typical of the flat silks you're using? I can't really tell from looking at the photos; even with the macro, I can't tell if the sugas are distinct, or if I'm just imagining it.

I'm thinking that this would be part of their strategy for managing the silk "flat" - otherwise, it's a hairy beast to get it into and out of the dye kettle without massive tangles.

Mary Corbet said...

Oh... !!!! WOW. I love this post, Carol-Anne!! This is great. The twists look positively lovely - I love the heavier ones - and they stitch so beautifully!

Oh great. Now, you do realize what's going to happen here? I'm going to end up suffering from Thread Distraction until I play with this!

Thanks, CA, for this post!

Elisabeth Braun said...

Fascinating, thanks for that!=)

Jane said...

This is a great teaching post CA. Think you should mount this up to use in class.
Michael, as far as I can tell from looking at some of my JEC threads there is no twist at all. The sugas are completely distinct.

Anneg said...

Really great post, CarolAnne. FYI, you can twist for special effects including metal threads, splitting colors and making bumpy or smooth twists. We'll have to wait for Carol Anne to do that one! And, Michael, Jan is right. Each suga is one filament from one worm. No twist. One of the things we have to learn in JE is how to handls these beautiful but tricky threads. Anneg in NC