Shooting for shot silk

Every since visiting the workshop of Antico Setificio Fiorentino in Florence, Italy, I have wanted to weave my own shot silk.

Shot silk is a plain-weave in which the warp is one color and the weft another. The result is complex new tints and shades wherever the fabric gets folded or creased.

The yardage for this dress probably mingled yellow and brown threads.

This silk was probably a cross of yellow and brown warp and weft.

Shot silk was popular (for those who could afford it!) during the 16oos and 1700s.

I'm guessing white threads mingled with black (or charcoal)?

I’m guessing white threads mingled with black (or charcoal)?

It was certainly fabric for what we would now call “the 1%.” This kind of silk was not something that serving-girls or maids would wear.

Pale and dark blue combined? Or navy with white?

Deep blue and pale blue? Or navy with white?

So how hard will it be to weave shot silk? I have no idea, nor can I find any information online. My overall goal as a weaver is to weave elegant cloth of the proper weight and texture to make good garments. Not long ago I wove a silk sampler at 48 epi that would make a good blouse-weight, and I will use the same weight silk thread (60/2, from Webs), since I have a lot of it left over. Hopefully three yards of shot silk will be sufficient for a sleeveless blouse or tabard.

This soft rose/violet gown looks almost opalescent.

This soft rose/violet gown looks almost opalescent.

It’s a delicate job warping a loom to 48 epi across 35 inches. The silk thread is so delicate that it catches and snags on my rough hands. If I simply draw my hand along the chained warp, static immediately builds up and makes the ends of the threads rise up and hover in the air.

Even men occasionally wore shot silk.

Even men occasionally wore shot silk.

I’m using my Louet Spring loom, which is far better suited to fine fabrics than my old Schacht Mighty Wolf. The Wolf was a perfectly simple and easy-to-use loom, but its metal heddles were not friendly to fine threads. The Louet has TexSolv heddles, which are perfect.

Navy and white warp and weft?

Navy and white warp and weft?

I’m currently spreading the warp across the raddle preparatory to winding onto the back beam. I will post again when the project is complete. Wish me luck in this challenging endeavor! And if you have any experience with shot silk, please send me your tips.

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3 thoughts on “Shooting for shot silk

  1. Pingback: The shot silk progress report | Fiber Feast

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