“Cobalt is divine, carmine is warm like wine and emerald green… ” Vincent van Gogh

Two spinners messaged me today wanting to know about the hues of my sari silk slivers. That was a tough call because these recycled, carded silk threads seldom present as one solid block of colour, so I usually identify the colour family and then try to describe the multicolours of the secondary hue. For example, I started off calling this ‘Blue’, then ‘Royal Blue’, then ‘Blue/Red mix’ – but nothing adequately covered it.

Would you agree that blue is the primary colour of this sari silk sliver, or just the most stunning? It has strong carmine red hues, flecks of emerald green and gold, too.

The camera does lie! Trying to take good photographs of shimmering silk fibres on a dull winter’s day flatters nothing. Neither does harsh artificial light with its cast shadows and bleach out spots.

Notice the shadows cast by artificial light.
Even a close-up of the fibres does not always give an accurate picture, as the ‘warm’ red carmine colours come forward and predominate. Yet, for me the stand-out colour of this sari silk sliver is the Blue.

You could simply label these silk fibres as ‘multi-coloured‘ but that doesn’t help a spinner decide if these threads would blend with their chosen wool yarns to create a harmonious art batt or yarn. You can grab a colour glossary and meticulously describe every other colour strand by strand to give an honest account – but this does not capture the overall effect of how the colours make you feel. Simple terms like red and blue and green can’t convey the texture, tone and mood.

Van Gogh called them carmine, Cobalt and emerald in a letter to his brother Theo.

Turquoise and teal sari silk sliver

I dubbed this ‘Ocean mix’ because it reminds me of the turquoise and azures of Cornwall’s coast. I’m not even sure what that secondary colour is as it changes according to the time of day. I called it teal, but it could be light blue or even silver-grey. Oh heck!

Vincent van Gogh on colour

Emerald or Green mix?

This silk fibre has a gorgeous green shimmer running through it, but a close up shows the mixture of background fibres to be mainly red. I placed it next to one of my handmade ceramic tiles containing rich red tulip, green stem and Cobalt blue edge. The red threads in the silk come forward to match the red of the tulip. Luckily the green shines out strong like an emerald.

Close up shows complexity of background spun threads, yet from a distance you’d call this a Green silk sliver.

I look at this… and I see Red! But, what do you see? How would you describe it accurately to someone elsewhere? I can see the blues, the greens, the golds – yet all I can feel is the lustrous vibrant red.

I made some silk paper using this gorgeous red mix. It shows up all the different flecks of colour whilst retaining its essential red quality. It’s important that textile artists see how the colour of fibres react in different settings, as well as different lighting.
This sliver evokes smokey autumn leaves for me, but some people find it too dull, dark and drab. The vibrant reds, greens and blues are lurking in this coil.
So, I unfurled each skein of this Autumn mix and looped it across closely on the kitchen table. It really looked on fire!
To me, this is a vibrant textile piece just as it is, unfurled. I love the blue.
I unrolled another ball of these silk fibres to find a very different balayage effect – more earthy, less fiery. All from the same 100 gram skein. Amazing.!
I liked the effect of laying it down in loops because it shows you just what you are getting and it means I can preselect preferred colours for people. This particular client wanted natural colours – not the brash Jade Green.
Here, I display it atop the hand made silk paper made with the fibres inset with honesty seeds from the garden.

Fiesta is my favourite silk fibre!

I still recall it was a bright sunny September when I opened this huge sliver of Fiesta just arrived from India. Wow!

I think this is pretty much perfect. I named it Fiesta. To call it a mixture of pink, blue, yellow and green didn’t cut it. I borrowed from the lexicon of gems with topaz, amber, blue sapphire, pink tourmaline, garnet red, lapis lazuli and rose quartz. I dipped into the spice box and found pink peppercorn, turmeric, nutmeg, saffron and green chili. It was all too much! It’s up to you. I’m going for a little lie down in a darkened room.

Fiesta silk fibres embellish merino fibres in this wet felted tea cosy.

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