Stitching on Silk Gauze - an Overview
Stitching on silk gauze might at first seem a bit daunting but it is really quite easy! And you get such a lovely finished result – with crisp details and intense colors that are more difficult to achieve with traditional cross stitching.
The points noted here cover most of the questions I get asked about stitching on silk gauze. The remaining silk gauze tutorials cover specific details in more depth.
Try it - you will love it!
What is silk gauze?
Silk gauze is a woven mesh of silk threads – much like a very fine needlepoint canvas. It is different from what you might be used to for counted cross stitch designs, but because it is woven so evenly, we can stitch on it the same way. The type of weave is a "leno" weave where the threads are interlocked for additional stability so the weave doesn't shift around.
Another important difference is the size of the threads in the mesh. In traditional cross stitch fabrics, the threads woven together are thick enough to create a solid ground fabric to stitch on. Especially with the finer count linens, this means the holes between those threads where we insert our needle are quite small.
The beauty of stitching on silk gauze is the threads are so fine that it leaves more space for the holes, making them appear much larger. Compare a 40 count piece of linen next to 40 count silk gauze and the difference is obvious! The holes are much easier to see.
But I can't see to stitch that small...
For most of us, this isn’t really true. The key is your lighting and whatever magnification you might need. Perhaps that’s a good pair of readers or a magnifying device of some kind – plus the best light you have shining on your work. We all have our stitching corner where everything is set ‘just so’ – right? Once you find the best combination of light and magnification, it will truly make all the difference in easily stitching these lovely treasures.
Before you start...
It is also important that you stitch on the gauze with something dark in your lap. That might be your dark jeans or a separate cloth. The fine threads of the gauze will stand out on the dark background, making it easier to see (versus a something light where they mostly disappear). Experiment with whatever works best for your setting.
Choosing your first project
Light colors of thread (whites, pale yellows, etc.) are the hardest to see when stitching on the silk gauze mesh. I encourage you to select a design with strong colors and simple design motifs for your first project. I’ve listed a skill level on most of the design pages on this website as a guide, and this is usually why I mark something as beginner versus experienced.
The example shown here is Beware! - a fun Halloween design using just two strong colors.
Silk Gauze Primer is also a great option for a beginning project - sweet and simple designs stitched on 35 count (vs. 40 count) gauze!
Do I have to learn a new stitching technique?
Not really. There isn’t room on the 40 count gauze to fill in with full cross stitches – you are using half stitches instead. Specifically, continental and basketweave stitches. How easy is that! Stitch diagrams for these basic stitches are included in each chartpak, and you can find other diagrams elsewhere online.
What about other stitches?
You are still working on an evenweave fabric, and you are still counting to create the design – this allows us to add specialty stitches. I often include smyrna crosses, rhodes stitches and tiny lazy daisy stitches, among others – even though they are tiny, these other stitches add texture and detail just as they do on your other projects.
The example here is Winter Messenger - see the added stitches in the white background?
What kind of needle do I use?
I use a size 28 tapestry needle on the 40 count gauze.
A few designs are stitched on 30 or 35 count silk gauze and a size 26 needle works nicely.
What about the backgrounds?
My designs generally have the background filled in, and I use the basketweave stitch almost exclusively for this. Because this stitch is worked across the background spaces at a diagonal, you avoid a distracting striped texture. Particularly with the hand dyed threads we have, this diagonal movement can provide pretty dimension and movement in the background.
I typically stitch the design elements first then fill in the background last, and I just work my way around the various motifs. This eliminates counting because you are simply filling in. Yes, it might be a bit tedious – but it’s fun to watch the design come to life, and it’s a great task for your stitch group where you are busy chatting and don't want to count!
It will take me forever to stitch something like this!
Not so much – these are very doable in less time than you think. Remember, you’re only doing one half of the standard cross stitch and once you get to the background, you no longer need to count. The background is the most time-consuming, but it’s also rather relaxing because it’s more repetitive.
Do I stitch the gauze 'in hand'?
No - the cut of gauze is too small; it is awkward and may become distorted. It also won’t fit into a traditional hoop or frame, and you need to support it while stitching.
My preference is to mount the gauze on a larger piece of scrap fabric and place that in your hoop or frame. Instructions for this are included with each chartpak and reviewed in detail in my Preparing Silk Gauze for Stitching tutorial. It’s also helpful to keep it taut, although it doesn’t need to be drum-tight.
Others like to attach the gauze to a piece of mat board cut to provide an opening for your stitching. Ask your retailer or frame shop to help you with this.
Do I have to stitch the design on silk gauze?
Not at all. The gauze is included in your Petites chartpak, but the chart itself is still a counted cross stitch chart. You will use it in exactly the same way you would another cross stitch design. In fact, these designs often translate nicely to your favorite fabrics, although you may need to make some adjustments here and there. Simply select a fabric background which compliments the design and you are ready to go!
The example here is Random Threads - so pretty either way!
How do I finish designs stitched on silk gauze?
Much the same way as your other stitched pieces, just on a smaller scale. There are lots of framing options, including some little ready-made frames. Other finishing options include pin cushions, needle books and other smalls – and of course strawberries, as seen in my Silk Berry Collection.
A final word...
Please enjoy yourself, take your time when you get started – I always ask that you try it at least once. You will be surprised how quickly you can be stitching away!
Stitching on Silk Gauze - an Overview, Copyright 2020. Original counted thread designs by Linda Stolz for Erica Michaels Designs.