If you’ve attended or followed Quilt Festival for any time, you probably know that we offer literally hundreds—over 500, in fact—of classes during our Houston show. What you might not realize, however, is that among the hundreds of quilting and sewing classes on the schedule is an entire block of classes devoted entirely to creating with silk.
The 18 Silk Experience classes are coordinated by artists and teachers Katrina Walker and Glennis Dolce, each of which have a passion for and history with this fantastic fabric.
Katrina WalkerGlennis Dolce
Walker’s “silk experience” began in the mid-1990s, when she sewed her first silk garment.
“I remember it was a long, oval hemmed (high in front, very low in back) blouse made from an absolutely gorgeous hand-printed Italian silk chiffon,” she says. “It was like sewing a spider web—so beautiful and the most expensive fabric I had ever bought and sewn. I'm happy to say it turned out beautifully—now my niece wears it all these years later!”
Dolce began working with silk as a dyer in 2006. “I was looking to transition from working with porcelain for over 30 years, and silk Shibori dyeing looked appealing and challenging,” she explains.
“The way silk fabric takes dye is exceptional, as well as straight-forward,” Dolce continues. “You can create deep rich colors, as well as subtle, tender hues. The fact that the shape of the silk molecule is triangular allows it to refract light, which intensifies the beauty.”
Walker—who grew up on a wheat farm raising livestock—attributes her love of silk to her affinity with animal fibers. “To me, they are very much alive—and their living nature gives them character that cannot be truly replicated,” she says. “That such a lovely fiber is created with nothing more than mulberry leaves and a humble silk caterpillar is nothing short of miraculous. To sew with silk is to experience one of nature’s finest masterpieces. I am always honored to work with such
What’s more, Dolce adds, is that silk is, by its very nature, an environmentally friendly fabric. It uses no pesticides (which are deadly to silkworms), and because silkworms only eat mulberry leaves, all byproducts (such as frass—the debris they produce) are recycled back into the land.
There are many types of silk fabric—satins, organza, noils, broadcloth, and plain weaves, as well as additional weights. As such, both Walker and Dolce say there is a type of silk suitable to virtually every kind of project, including embroidery, felting, dyeing, jewelry making, garment sewing, and—of course—quilting by both hand and machine, many of which are covered in The Silk Experience classes offered in Houston.
“The Silk Experience offers a wonderful variety of sewing classes—piecework, hand and machine embroidery,” Walker explains. “Dyeing and embellishment classes are a great way to become friendly with this special fiber. There is even a special kimono class if you’re looking for historical and cultural inspiration!”
If you—like many people—are intimidated by the idea of sewing with silk, Walker and Dolce recommend enrolling for Walker’s “Sewing with Silk” class, which teaches students to “sew silk with confidence.”
“The best way to overcome the fear of silk is to simply jump in and sew!” Walker adds. “Remember—it really is just ‘bug spit!’ Our ancestresses didn’t think twice about sewing it, using much more primitive equipment. You can do it!”
The Silk Experience classes offered at this year’s Quilt Festival in Houston are:
Mandala Magic on Silk (#114) with Glennis Dolce (Photo 01)
Sewing with Silk (#150 and #454) with Katrina Walker (Photo 02)
A Taste of Japanese Embroidery (#170) with Mary Alice Sinton (Photo 03)
Stitched Shibori and Indigo (#213) with Glennis Dolce
Vintage Kimono Silk Clutch (#222) with Cheryl Kuczek (Photo 04)
Surface Design on Silk (#313) with Jane Davila
Enjoy Silk Flakes Plus Paints (#353) with Noriko Endo (Photo 05)
Machine Embroidered Silk Infinity Scarf (#383) with Lisa Shaw (Photo 06)
Japonisme (#410) with Ginny Eckley
Silk Bird House (#483) with Jane Davila (Photo 07)
Stained Glass Butterfly (#532) with Katrina Walker
Sashiko Boro Kimono Silk Scarf (#548) with Becky Scellato
The Kimono Experience (#569) with June Colburn
Quick Trip Home Dec Pillow (#612) with Carmen Geddes (Photo 08)
Designing with Discharge—Accentuate the Negative! (#704) with June Colburn (Photo 09)
Silk Patchwork (#707) with Carmen Geddes
Sashiko Furoshiki (#732) with Becky Scellato (Photo 10)