I like silk. It’s pretty and comfortable. I don’t tend to treat it like it’s made of gold, however. Silk is tougher than we commonly give it credit for, in fact I like to use a silk-hemp blend for my utilitarian summer sun jackets. I wear my sun jackets daily for months on end, and the jacket gets washed once a week or so. In the washing machine. With my other clothes.
This is how I care for silk fabrics:
- Serge/overlock the raw edges of the length of silk fabric to be turned into a garment
- Put into washing machine. If desired, add a few other garments of similar weight and color. Make sure to zip up any zippers.
- Wash on a cool setting with a small amount of mild detergent. I make my own. DO NOT USE POWDER. In a pinch, use a capful of shampoo.
- I like to add a little bit of vinegar to the rinse water. Try 1/4 cup. It freshens the silk and removes any soap residue.
- If desired, use fabric softener. I think of it the same way as using conditioner on my hair.
- Remove from the washing machine immediately.
- If possible, drape it over a wash line, aligning the selvedges and smoothing the fabric gently. I do this for most fabrics, and since they dry smoothly I have to do minimal ironing during the prep stage. Or dry it flat. I can not recommend using the dryer as I do not do it myself.
- Remove from the line and fold neatly, ready for you to pick it up to sew.
I wash every piece of silk that comes into my possession. If I can’t wash something, I won’t wear it. I even pre-washed my wedding dress silk so I could stuff that frock in the washing machine after the wedding to remove cake stains. It worked.
Beware: When you wash silk, sometimes you change the texture. I find this is especially true with Dupioni and Shantung, which are quite crisp off the bolt. When washed, these fabrics become incredibly fluid and soft. (I find silk organza doesn’t lose its crisp.) If you want your silk to stay crisp, then make friends with your local dry-cleaner.
Silk will usually shrink somewhat in the wash. When in doubt, cut a 4″ or 10cm square piece of fabric, zig-zag or serge the edges, and put it through a wash cycle. This will give you an idea of how much it will shrink, and whether the texture changes with washing.
Once it is made into a garment, be careful about sweat. Very, very careful. Nothing ruins silk quite like sweat. That doesn’t stop me from making soft little summer shells from silk and wearing them on Mommy days, but I *always* at least rinse the silk immediately when I take it off. Otherwise the fabric will simply disappear.
I have washed many kinds of silk this way: dupioni, shantung, satin (though sometimes it goes dull), Silk-cotton chiffon, silk-cotton radiance, ahimsa silk, tussah, raw silk, silk twill, habatoi, organza and hemp-silk crepe back satin. If in doubt, test wash.
Tomorrow: Rehabilitating Silk Fabric (Or, How to Distress Silk at Home!)