I taught a Little Black Dress class here in Brisbane a few years ago. On the first night we discussed topics such as fitting, alterations and fabrics. Most of my students chose to use black silk for their lined dresses and (I thought) listened carefully while I gave instructions on how to pre-wash silk. Just like yesterday’s post.
I sent everyone home that night with fabric and care instructions. Several days later I was working in the shop and received an interesting phone call from “Jane.”
Jane: “I’m so glad I got you on the phone. I washed the silk and I thought I’d ring you before I did anything.”
Me: “Ok, what is the problem?”
Jane: “Well, I put it in the washing machine today, like you said. It came out all hard and tough with gray streaks, so I put it through again but it’s the same. I thought I’d call you before I tried anything else.”
Me: (slightly alarmed): “How did you wash it?”
Jane: “Well, I put it in the wash with my son’s rubgy gear since it had to be washed anyway…”
Me: “…. pardon?”
Jane: “I washed it on the hottest setting to make sure it was clean, and it came out all weird.”
Jane: “Isn’t that what you said?”
My mind raced, wondering if there was any chance I had said such a thing. “Jane, did you read the care instructions?”
Jane: “I did, but I didn’t have any gentle soap so I dumped in a scoop of laundry powder.”
Me: “What?” Laundry powder is abrasive and the fillers leave a build-up on the fabric. It is not suitable for washing silk.
Jane: “And then the second wash I took out the rugby stuff and threw in two scoops of soap, I thought it would help get rid of the streaks.”
Me: (weakly) “Two scoops?”
Jane: “So I rang you to see what I should do because it doesn’t look right and I thought before I go making a mess I should ring you.”
Me: “Ok. Ok. I’ll look at it when you bring it in, we’ll see what can be done. Don’t worry!”
Jane is a very clever scientist, but a little prone to overlooking details in her sewing. When she brought in the poor piece of silk and dumped it in my arms it crackled like hair that had been washed a few times and then left to dry in a salty wind. It felt so nasty I dropped it on the floor.
But- I was intrigued so I bought a new length of the same silk and traded Jane. I figured I could do something with the silk, and I wanted to try to make it soft again. I gave Jane very careful washing instructions and her second length came through the wash fine. The severely distressed silk came home with me.
First I put it through a cool and gentle wash cycle with vinegar to remove the soap buildup. Then I soaked it in a solution of water and hair conditioner for a few hours, then rinsed and line-dried. I repeated that a few times until the silk became soft and fluid.
It kept some of the weird striation and the funny texture, but it softened up enough for me to turn it into a skirt UFO. I ran out of steam short of putting on a waistband and hemming- but I did find a way to rehabilitate that poor silk. I really should finish that skirt…
Tomorrow- The Blank Canvas Tee is back and improved…. And on Saturday, a guest post on types of lace while I work feverishly to finish my Megan Mod Dress!