Mulberry silk laps: how-to guide

from Charity van der Meer - 16 May 2016

It was fun to work with the Mulberry silk laps, and I am very happy with the result. With my work, I have tried to answer a question: why should one use the Mulberry silk laps for a piece? So here are my thoughts and suggestions. I hope you’ll find them useful!

In the picture, you can see both the shawl that I made for this post and a dress. This is the demonstration that with the Mulberry silk laps the possibilities are endless.

Mulberry Silk

Mulberry silk laps: what they are and how to work with them

For those of you who have never seen it, I must say that the Mulberry silk laps are an incredible sheet of silk fibers, usually about a metre and half wide. Each sheet is made up of multiple layers of fibers, which can be peeled quite easily, thus allowing one to get even very thin layers with which to work.

Mulberry Silk

These featherlight silk sheets are then spread out and stretched to create a kind of spiderweb, which contributes to create some beautiful effects, thanks to the very long fibers that run all the way across it. Also, keep in mind that silk is a very strong fiber, and it can be stretched up to over 4 times it’s original size.

In addition to being a very strong fiber, Mulberry silk felts extremely quickly, so much so that basically making this piece took me half the time than what it would have taken if I had made it by felting wool or silk fabrics.

Why use the Mulberry silk laps?

The advantages:

  • Even though at first sight the Mulberry silk laps may look like a very expensive item, if you consider the really small quantity you need for an article of clothing,  it actually isn’t costly at all
  • It is perfect to use together with prefelt
  • If you use it as a base instead of silk fabric, it felts more quickly
  • If you spread it out on top of a layer of decorations, it will hold them in place during the felting process
  • It creates unique reflections

If you have a bit of time and you want to find out more about this extraordinary product, try to realize the project that I have thought up for you.

Making a shawl using the Mulberry silk laps as a base.

Materials
Mulberry silk laps (2 layers)
50 gr Piuma yarn
30 gr extra fine merino wool tops / Mulberry silk tops (optional)
Olive oil soap

Prefelt (to cut out some decorations)
Wool buttons

Preparation
Before you get started, think about the size of your project and choose a suitable table, because when you work on large pieces, the surface on which we are working can make a huge difference. I recommend you should find a work surface of 90×180 cm, minimum.

Prepare a bowl with warm water and soap (I recommend you should use olive oil soap because it is a mild kind, and is certainly better for you hands). Cover the work surface with bubblewrap, with the bubbles facing up. Then, put a very thin sheet of plastic on top of it (this is going to be useful should you need to flip the piece around).

Spreading out the fibers
If you intend to work with a pattern, lay it out on the table and spread out the silk laps, leaving a clear margin of about 6-7 cm. Otherwise, just spread out the Mulberry silk laps directly onto the table.

Mulberry Silk

Wet the laps with soapy water, just enough to make sure that it won’t move in the next steps of the process. At this point, you can lay out the wool in a very thin layer (you can use either pure wool or a silk/wool blend — I prefer the latter as it makes the piece stronger). Spread it out on all sides, leaving at least 6 cm of extra material around each edge of the pattern. Once you are finished, wet the wool again.

At this point, start decorating the piece. For my piece, I used wool buttons, crochet flowers and prefelt cutouts. There are no fixed rules: what matters is that you are satisfied with the final result.  Once you are done with this part of the process, wet the surface once again.

Mulberry Silk

Mulberry Silk

Finally, lay down one last light layer of Mulberry silk laps. As I said before, this will help you hold the decorations in place during the following steps of the felting process, and will also give the whole surface a shiny touch.

Felting
Generously wet the surface with soapy water, cover with a think plastic sheet, and gently rub in a circular motion.

Roll the piece around a pool needle. Roll it back and forth for 15 minutes. Then, unroll it, wet it and roll it back and forth in the opposite direction for another 20 minutes. Repeat 2-3 times. Once the piece is slightly, but not completely, felted, you may remove the pool noodle and the pattern sheet.

Fulling
The piece is now ready to be fulled. Knead it like bread, using warm water to accelerate the process. Be careful not to over-felt it!

Once you are done fulling, rinse in warm running water and then remove excess water. Dry and steam the piece. This will make the felt softer and will give the piece a more professional look. 

Mulberry Silk

Done!!! Happy?

Enjoy the Mulberry silk laps, Charity 😉

If you liked this article maybe you would also enjoy Mulberry silk laps: Caroline’s experiments.

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15 Comments for Mulberry silk laps: how-to guide

  1. I really enjoyed your tutorial I will be making felt as part of my skills project on my University course for costume and then using it as part of a jacket regards Patricia

    Thank you look forward to seeing more of your tutorials

  2. Gaia Gualtieri

    We are glad you found it useful. Please send us picture of your project! 🙂

  3. janet

    Could you tell me the approximate shrinkage of the silk laps together with merino that you used for this project.

    Than you, your work is wonderful.

  4. janet

    Could you tell me the approximate shrinkage of the silk laps together with merino that you used for this project.

    Thank you, your work is wonderful.

  5. Gaia Gualtieri

    Hi Janet,
    nice to hear you liked the project with the silk laps and the merino. The shrinkage in this project was 40/50% using two layers of the silk lap below and above.
    Keep felting and have fun!

  6. Tracey Banks

    Hi, your work is stunning! Can you give me an idea of the weight of the silk laps? Everywhere seems to sell by weight and I’m struggling to work out how much I’d need for the shawl. Many thanks 😊

  7. Edoardo Del Lucchese

    Hi Tracey,
    thanks for your enthusiasm. One sheet of Mulberry Silk laps, like Charity used, is more about 600/700 gr and you can find this product here: https://www.dhgshop.it/item-fibers-effect-fibres-silk-laps_0_0_1_3_152.php
    In the tutorial she used two layers of the sheet of mulberry silk laps. Hope I helped you.
    Edoardo

  8. Mary de Lange

    Hi Charity,
    thanks for that; you explained and showed very well. I have never used this beautiful silk before, but shall certainly give it a try; thoroughly enjoyed your tutorial.
    Thanks!

  9. Carla Davenport

    Hello, I have enjoyed working with you laps and use them most of the time in my felt clothing. Can you dye custom dyeing, for instance in soild colors, likek black and cobalt blue? If so how much time should I allow? Thank you!

  10. Gaia Gualtieri

    Hi Carla! Actually we have never tried to dye it but I suppose we could do that without problems. I will ask our production dept. and let you know asap. I will write you an e-mail with quotes and timing.

  11. Inge Monticello

    Thank you for a well organized and thoughtful tutorial. Beautiful work!

  12. Annalisa Chelli

    We are so glad to know you enjoyed it.

  13. Sarah Tremaine

    Amount of silk laps required for this project is 60 gms, not 600 gms. I took charity’s class earlier this year. She is a wonderful teacher- highest recommendation. Base is 2 layers silk lap, create your own design and top with one layer of silk lap. Brilliant! Figuring out what is. One or 2 layers is a matter of practice & experimentation. My experience is about 30% shrinkage. Have fun!

  14. Edoardo Del Lucchese

    Hi Sarah, every work is different from another and the quantity of materials depends on dimension and how you work it. By the way thanks for your comment.

  15. Charity vdmeer

    Hi Sara thank you for the comment and it was really great meeting you and felt together using the similar technique. But like Edoardo mentioned every project is different so the amount of silk lap will depend on that. The 600g mentioned in the comment is a guide line for when ordering the silk laps. The shrinkage depends on the maker too. In this project the shirinkage was 40% for shawl and 50% for the dress. Enjoying felting..

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