After a 7 hour drive I realised I had forgotten my silk bandanna on a trip to the Main Range in summer. 5 days of high UV lay ahead so it was not an option I could dispense with. Do not underestimate the utility of a bandanna out in the bush. A quick stop in Jindy and 3 shops later a cotton bandana turned up but covered in gauche skull motifs and costing more than I would like. When I got home I decided to make some silk bandannas to have as spares to take on future trips.
Silk dries quickly and has a smooth texture. Its low conductivity keeps warm air close to the skin during cold weather. A bandanna protects the neck from sunburn or the face against flying grit or sleet, and you can use it as a large handkerchief, towel, mop, bandage or a water filter.
Dupion is a thicker silk fabric with some irregularities in the weave. A Shantung silk is thinner and less irregular and may be even better for this project. I would try to find Shantung if I was making a sleeping sheet.
The silk square needs to be big enough to be able to be tied about the neck as a triangle. A 56cm square works well for me but others may need or want slightly bigger (61cm = 24" is the standard), and the bolts of off-white Silk Dupion that I found are 112cm (44") wide. A typical handkerchief is 40cm square and is too small to wear around the neck. Some claim 120cm square is a good size, but this seems a bit big.
If you buy a 112cm length of silk you can cut out 4 X 56cm squares with no waste. The cost was under $40. If you want just 2 larger bandanas then a 134.4cm length of this 112cm wide cloth can make 2 large bandanas 67.2cm square and 3 generous handkerchiefs 44.8 cm square with no waste.
A square shape is not mandatory, and a slightly rectangular shape may have advantages.
Purchase matching polyester thread. You can fold the silk and it will keep a crease, so you don't need to mark it for cutting.
You could also try making bandannas out of a failed silk sleeping sheet which will contain a few meters of lightweight silk. These use a much lighter weight fabric and since this project takes several hours you need to make sure the recycled fabric you have selected is going to last the distance for the effort involved.
This is a handcrafted project. It may take several hours to produce each item, at least until you become proficient. I understand a sewing machine can be used for this task, but a special "foot" is used.
The hemming I use is a rolled edge and this requires dampening the fingers and edge of the silk and rolling it.
When threading the needle get the twists out of the thread formed as it comes off the reel. Put just enough thread on the needle to do one edge of the bandana as too long gets tangled and knotted. That is about 80 or 90 cm doubled.
After cutting the square, trim any loose threads from the first edge. Get a tight roll along an inch or two at a time and sew 4 to 6 stitches per inch. You wouldn't want to use less than 4 stitches per inch. The rolled edge will have about 1 1/2 to 2 turns of fabric. Enter the stitches just under the roll, in the roll's niche, as stitching through the roll requires force. Then get a tight roll on the next inch or two of edge and stitch.
Periodically remove the twisting induced in the thread by the process of making the spiral stitching.
I always stitched the selvage edge last. This could be left unstitched except the result looks a bit uneven. The selvage is a bit harder to roll tight.
When finished, handwash the bandanna, dry and iron.
Cost is about $10 each, which compares to about $50 I was quoted in a retailer. Finished weight: 27g
Handwash the silk bandannas on their own as they may take colour from other items. If this happens you could try dying them navy blue.
You will feel a sense of achievement having crafted a fantastic product. I take 2 or 3 of these on each trip - one as a neck scarf, one in my pocket and maybe a spare. I have used these many times now and they are lasting very well.
If you have a suitable machine, and have some cottage industry flair, there is probably a market out there for this simple manufactured product.
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