I am so lucky…. I a REQUIRED to spin silk!

Bombyx cocoon

Silk. There is just so much to say about silk.  What I really want to know is why, oh why did it not ever occur to me to just spin 100% silk? I mean really???  I have used it in blends, and even blended it with merino myself.  Until now I had no idea, none!  Silk.  Hunh…  Spinning silk is almost a religious experience.  Before I continue my babble let me talk about types of silk and preparations of silk..  Why? Well because I can and because it is my newest favorite spinning fiber.  I kind of wonder what the point is if I can’t just spin silk all the time. It’s no wonder that this assignment comes right after cotton.  I think the powers that be figured out that people need something like this to come after cotton.

So silk, is the cocoon of a silk worm.  You can buy them.  When you shake them you can hear the dead worm on the inside.  Some people might find that disturbing.  There are two main kinds of silk (there are several more wild kinds, but since they are hard to get your spinning hands on, I will only talk about the two most common), Bombyx and Tussah.  Bombyx silk comes mainly from China and the worms are 100% domesticated and only eat mulberry leaves.  They can not live on their own.  They have been domesticated to the point that if the workers do not bring them their leaves, they will die.  The other type of silk Tussah.  Tussah is from India and the silk worms eat many kinds of food and so the silk has a more golden or brown color.


Bombyx sliver
Tussah Sliver

Silk comes in a variety of preparations.  The most common being the above sliver.  Another very common prep is called a silk hankie.  Which is not the kind of hankie you use to blow your nose.  Confusing,  I know!  Silk hankies are actually the cocoons that have been softened and stretched on a frame.  Several of the cocoons are stacked together so when you spin you need to peel the layers apart very carefully.  In our class for level 3 we made our own.  It was one of my favorite days.  The cocoons are boiled in a mixture of washing soda to soften them.  After they come out and cool you have to cut out the worm.

softened cocoons
silk worm
removing the worm





Then the cocoons are stretched onto frames.

the silk worm

Voila, a silk hankie!!!  I have spun from several different hankies now, the handmade, and two different commercial ones.  One was dyed.  I should have snapped photos before I spun it, but alas, I was in the moment.  Anyway, what I can say about hankies is that you get more noils, or flubs while spinning them than you do while spinning silk sliver.  However, I think because of the prep, you can spin it o so fine… like thread fine…. amazing!


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