a deeper look at silk yarns

The history of silk culture goes back over 5,000 years and is a fascinating study of economics, politics, warfare, fashion and secrecy. The lustrous beauty and natural properties of silk have long made it a highly sought after fiber.

The visual beauty of this high luster yarn draws the eye. The soft, silky feel draws the hand to touch. Silk is naturally hypoallergenic and has properties that make it comfortable in both warm and cool weather. Relatively easy to care for, silk takes dye like fish take to water. Plus, silk is the strongest natural fiber. Who can resist?




Because of these wonderful properties, Ashland Bay has recently introduced two new 100% silk yarns, both are lace weight. They are conveniently packaged in 1 kg (2.2 lb) bags with 10 -100gm skeins per package. These yarns are Milan (2 ply- 4000 yds/lb) and Venice (4 ply- 2000 yds/lb).

One consideration of knitting with silk yarn is that silk knits will stretch. I found some great advice in the knitting notes appendix from A Silk Worker’s Notebook by Cheryl Kolander. The excerpt is from Joan Schrouder. She recommends knitting on smaller needles to avoid stretching. Another technique is to knit into the back of each knit stitch and purl into the back of each purl stitch. This twists the stitch, tightening it further. As one might assume, tight knitting stretches less than loose knitting. There is much more detailed information in her book! I recommend this book to be in any silk worker’s library!

One technique that I use for yarns with little elasticity is to use rib patterns, cables, and seed stitch in my knitting. Now that I know about the knitting and purling into the back of the stitches, I will use that also.

Like most knitters, I have a stack of patterns in my ‘someday I hope to get to this pattern’ folder.  In my folder I found the perfect shawl/scarf pattern just begging to be knit with the Milan Silk yarn. It has a lacy look, so I am not concerned about stretching.  I dyed the yarn a beautiful soft silver grey and with the luster and shine of the silk, it really comes to life.