Recycled sari silk

I thought I would share with you my experiences of recylcled sari silk.  I had looked at it at shows, and online, but didn’t buy it for a while because I  try not to buy anything for which I have no immediate plans.  I am always trying to reduce my stash, but I also like to try new things.  First I bought some sari silk thread.  Strands of threads were twisted together to form a cordlike thread. It was exactly as shown in the photograph when I bought it, but I was now at a loss to know what to do with it, so it was put away for a quite a while.

At the end of 2015 I went to the Knitting and Stitching show at Harrogate.  I went to a workshop about printing on fabric, as this is something I have been curious about.  I also had a list of what I wanted to look at on the stalls, and a small budget.  I found small bundle of sari silk ribbon, and chose my colour.  It was mostly purple with a little green.

The first thing I did with is was to separate the individual pieces, and then I washed and ironed them.  A lot of dye came out, and what I was left with was strips of different widths, different fabrics, and different shades of purple.  There was very little green on the fabric and only in blotches, and  a little gold coloured thread.  It looked as the colour had been removed from the fabrics, some of which had been patterned, and they were then dyed.  Some of the colour was very uneven, as the fabrics had obviously been dyed in a bundle.  I think I would have preferred to have fabrics that were still their original colour and design.

Then I decided to select some of the longer strips, to make a striped cushion cover, with the threads couched over the joins.

Two of the strips had a line design which was barely visible, so I drew over the design with a silver gel pen, and stitched over the lines.  The end result was really pleasing.

Then I began to couch the thread down.  This was not easy.  The result was not good, and I wished I had fastened the strips to the backing fabric more securely.  As I usually do when something is not working I put it away, to think about it.

Then at an Embroiderers’ Guild meeting we had a talk about unblocking our creativity.  As a result of this I got the piece out again and thought about it in a different light.  What could I salvage?   Two pieces were stitched through the backing fabric, so I would either have to leave them, or cut away both layers of fabric.  I decided to stay with them.  It was a pity that I had not decided to start again before I trimmed the length of the fabric strips and the threads, because I now have a lot of short pieces.

This time I made a much better job of securing the strips to the backing fabric, with either hand or machine stitching.  I found strips of lace and ribbon to add, and did some more stitching.

Then I just happened on instructions for making fabric flowers on  They were just what I needed to make the piece a bit different, and they were so easy to make with some of the finer pieces of silk fabric.  These were stitched on firmly, and some buttons added.  I bought a piece of fabric to make the back of the cushion and an inner, and as I was pushing the last bit of inner into the cushion cover, the silk split!

So the inner came out, and the cushion cover was partly deconstructed, so that I could replace the damaged strips.  I looked carefully at the strip of fabric and decided that it must have been on the outside of the bundle when is was being treated and re-dyed and got some wear.

Here is the finished cushion.

Sari silk cushion

And here is a close-up

Cushion close-up

Cushion close-up

Now you can see the stitching over the original design which was done with a silver metallic thread, and with a shiny rayon variegated thread. You can also see the frayed edges which were left as a feature, and the flowers.

Unfortunately I have now noticed another tiny split in the silk, but not in a noticeable area.  So the finished cushion is delicate, and not really fit for purpose.

Clearly durability is an issue, so anything else I make with this silk will be for decorative purposes only.


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone.


December 23, 2016. Embroidery.

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