First, the silk. Years and years ago, I took a class at Colonial Williamsburg with Rick Hill on Fly Fringe. All that was available at the time was twisted silk, and while the technique was taught, the end product was less than wonderful due to the product we were using. But I did get the general idea, which is all that matters.
Enter the Japanese Embroidery Center with rolls and rolls of flat silk, in every color of the rainbow.
This makes excellent flies. There is 60 meters per roll. Because of my fascination with flat silk, I have taken quite a few classes on Japanese embroidery and have learned to use the silk as a thread for embroidery. There are some tricks to working with it, not the least is getting it off the spool with out getting it tangled!
These hints are for working with any of the flat silk products. The most important trick is to treat your hands ahead of time. File your nails, lots of exfoliation and hand lotion ahead of time. No lotion when you are using the silk, but soft and smooth hands won't catch the silk strands.
Once a spool has been started, when not in use, I wrap it in plastic wrap, like Saran Wrap, so the thread will not get tangled up with other threads in the bin. Disaster!
At 8.00 a pop, it is not cheap. The biggest mistake people make when using this product is not using enough of it or buying enough of the colors they need. You need at least 8 lengths put together to make a good fan.
In order to strand the silks, a simple board (2x3) with two nails at either end works great. Tie one end to one nail and wrap around until you have half of the number of strands desired. Then use that strand doubled. My wrapping board is 5 feet long.
The nails are at a slight angle, and I sanded the board to prevent the silk catching on any rough spots. So for my 8 strands, I wrap around the board until there are 4 strands. Cut it off at the nail, thread a tapestry needle with the cut ends, and use it doubled. This makes the length of silk about 30 inches long, which is workable.
My preferred silk is vintage spools that I found at a local shop, they keep them for decoration, and I buy them for fly fringe. I have been hoarding them, but finally have enough that I can part with a few, so put them on the website for sale, limited colors, unless I can find more.
This is my favorite because not only does it brush up easily it also is easier to handle and much cheaper, each spool has a LOT of silk. I use 10- 12 strands, as my go to number. Each spool is different, so I test out the fans.
My other choice for fly fringe, is the Au ver a Soie brand- Soie Ovale. Lots of colors. 15 meters per spool, but unlike the JEC flat silk, only 4 strands are needed for a good looking fan, so in the end, the smaller spool price wise is less expensive.
The advantage for someone starting out making fringe, is the ease of handling of the strands of the Soie Ovale. They are less apt to pull and end up in a clustered mess. 4 strands are easier to work with than 8 or 10. It also comes off the spool easily. Sounds like a simple advantage, but if you have ever tangled up a spool of flat silk you will understand.
The creamy fly on the left was made with the vintage silk, the green fly with Soie Ovale.
What do you NEED to get started?
A wrapping board, flat silk, needles with big eyes, a good sharp pair of small embroidery scissors, and a ham. Not a Virginia Ham, or a Canned Ham, but an ironing ham. And just to make things interesting, a pump spray bottle of hairspray. I use White Rain.
That's it. If you don't have a ham, substitute a pincushion. Seems weird to have a craft that needs so little equipment, doesn't it? More on the technique soon.