Saturday, November 12, 2011

Silk Strings Tutorial

Handmade silk strings

In 2005 I got it in my head that I needed to make silk strings to go with some beads I was working on. The addiction got a bit out of hand and I made hundreds of them, I still have a nice selection of colors anytime I feel the need to use them in a jewelry design. When making jewelry I love to be able to say that I made EVERY part and piece used in the design.

I posted this tutorial on Lampwork etc but decided to update it and post the whole thing here for the rest of the world :)

These are very easy to make so here goes...


Serger a regular machine just wont work for this project.  If you choose you don't have to finish the edges but they will not wear as well.

Silk Yardage you will want this on the heavy side so it has some bounce back, Shantung Silk or Dupion Silk works great. A yard made about 50 of them to give you an idea of how much fabric to get.The silk I use does have some small slugs and thicker strings and it gives them a very interesting look when dyed. The slubs end up running across the ribbons when you cut the strings.

100% cotton thread 3 spools, I used the quilting thread on the cardboard tube from Hobby Lobby. You can use a color polly thread but then it won't dye.

Dye- You could use any type i like Tumble Dye from Hobby Lobby, it comes in a nice spray bottle.  I have also used koolaid, Easter egg dye, coffee and tea with wonderful results.  Any dye can be placed in a spray bottle and used for this process.

Rotary Cutter & Mat

Sandwich Ziplocs

Rubber gloves 

Plastic table cloth to protect your area I have gotten these at the dollar store.


If you get as carried away as I did this pant hanger works well to store them.


Cut strips 3/4 of an inch wide using a rotary cutter, I cut my salvage to salvage.

Set up your serger for a 3 thread rolled hem. You want the width of the bite to be at around a 5 (mine is adjustable but some aren't) if you don't have it set wide the silk wont roll enough and you will get fuzzy edges. It should also be a bit of a long stitch since you don't want the edge to bulky. Your serger book should guide you on how to set up your machine. (if you need more help with your serger than this I can help, I taught sewing for the Viking Sewing Machine Company for 14 years)

Stitch the edges of both sides trimming a bit off so you are sure there is enough fabric getting rolled in the hem. I serged the ends to a point but if you are going to knot the ends this isn’t important.

Don’t use any seam sealer on the ends of your edges until you are finished dying or that section won’t dye.  I don't ever use this but some folks may want to.

Put on your rubber gloves unless you love tie-dyed hands.

Now for the dye, like I said before the spray on dye worked great you can lay the ribbons out flat or wad them up for a more type-dyed look, spray the ribbons using all one color or several different colors making sure to not leave any dry spots unless that's the look you are going for.  

If you wet the strings before you apply the dye they will end up with a more pastel look. When you put the dye straight onto the dry ribbons they will have brighter bolder shades.

After applying the dye, place two or more strings into a ziploc and put them into the microwave for a minuet to steam set the dye then hang to dry.  

Iron them flat for a second heat set.

Run under warm water to see if any extra dye will rinse out. Most likely the dye will be set enough
that you won't see any extra dye escape but with some colors you will always have extra dye rinse away. It's always good to take this last step because no one wants a neck that matches their jewelry. 

If you want to make black strings I suggest just purchasing black fabric and thread.  It's so much easier.

Below are some photos of jewelry where I used the silk strings.
Silk string used on a resin bezel (sold)

Silk String used  with antique buttons (sold)

Silk Strings on Cluster Necklace $45.00


  1. Beautiful! Thanks for the tutorial!

  2. Love this I'm posting to my Facebook page! Thank You!

  3. I bet I never get around to making my own, but I could spend the day admiring those heaps of silk strings and the strings hanging. I bet you could sell the photos alone, make notecards, printed shirts, kaleidoscopes, paperweights, resin charms, whatever, and make money! (I always dream up these crazy ideas for everyone else, but not for myself! My cousin called me tonight with a good idea though. Glad someone's doing the thinking for me! Ha!) Anyway, point is, they are just beautiful, Tracy!

  4. I have been wanting to do this. I appreciate the tutorial. It seems so very easy to do. More fun stuff to go buy. I think I definitely need a studio space to store all my goodies.

  5. Thank you for the tutorial! Now I'm wishing I had a surger.

  6. These are quite easy and maybe you have a friend with a serger? I hope that you ask around because once a serger is threaded it is quite easy to use and the results are wonderful.

  7. Thank you so much for posting this! If I wanted to make a bunch of ribbons the same colours; is there a problem with dying the silk first, before cutting into ribbons?

  8. There isn't a problem dying it first but your thread won't match. The nice thing about dying them after you stitch is the stitching matching the depth of the dye at each section and I prefer this. I always purchase black fabric to make black strings and just serge with black but this is the only time that I stitch in anything but white or cream.

  9. Hi again!
    Thank you for responding to my inquiry. It is much appreciated.
    I have another question(s) that I hope you can help me with. In regards to the dye used; I am not familiar with the one you recommended( I am in Canada). Is this an acid dye? Must I use an acid dye or would any dye for a natural fabric such as Rit or IDye work?
    Also do you think Habotai Silk would work just as well?
    Thank you again! I look forward to your reply.
    Best regards,

  10. You can use any dye even kool-aid so they type of dye isn't important as long as you are getting the color results you want. I don't know if this is an acid dye.

    I have no idea what Habotai silk is I would just suggest getting some and trying it.

    Good luck.