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Silk Fibres for Spinning, Dyeing, Needle Felting and Silk Paper Making

Hand-dyed Silk TopsThese luxurious Fibrecrafts fibres are available in a variety of forms and each is the result of different stages in the silk production. The silk fibres can be dyed to vibrant colours using Acid dyes and the reflective light qualities of the fibre add further dimensions. These silk tops have been hand-dyed and are available in 8 colour ways.

The following silk fibres are available as undyed or hand-dyed and can all be used effectively in spinning, feltmaking, silk papermaking and embroidery techniques.

Sericin

The Silk Throwsters Waste, Carded Cocoon Strippings, Silk Carrier Rods and Cocoons all contain the naturally occurring sericin which is the ‘glue’ that maintains the structure of the cocoon. The ‘glue’ can be activated by spreading the fibres onto baking parchment, spraying with water, covering with another sheet of parchment and then ironing on a medium setting until the fibre is dry to make a highly textured silk paper.

Needle felted teddy by Jean RodgersFeltmaking with Silk Fibres

As silk fibres do not have the characteristic barb along their length, it is not possible to felt them together using the traditional technique of making felt.  However, they can be used trapped in the surface after being sandwiched between thin layers of wool or they can be felted effectively with the help of a felting needle.  This charming bear was needle felted by Jane Rodgers from Italian Silk Waste.

Spinning with Silk Fibres

The silk fibres (see our selection of undyed silk fibres) are very fine and will snag on broken finger nails and rough skin.  It is therefore a good idea to file your nails and moisturise your hands before you begin.  The long, continuous fibre of a silk hanky is ideal for learning how to spin with silk, our page on Spinning a Hanky may help with the process.  Tussah noil needs to be carded to remove the larger, harder pieces of cocoon and to make into a light and airy rolag.  As the fibres are very short, it is best to use the long draw spinning technique.

Silk CocoonsCocoons

The domesticated silk worm, used for the finest silk, is cared for and fed throughout its life in open trays. As it readies to change first into a chrysalis and then the silk moth, it is placed in open boxes rather like egg cartons. There it builds a protective support of silk fibres within which to spin the cocoon.

The unreeled white and cream coloured tussah silk cocoons contain sericin glue, this binds them into shape and is unique to this fibre. In the wild, the silk worm prepares to form a chrysalis by folding a leaf around itself, pulling the leaf into shape with the first silk fibres it creates.

Silk fibre is taken from the cocoons by unreeling them in hot soapy water, catching the fibre of spun silk and then pulling off as much filament silk as possible. Each strand of silk is joined with 10-15 more cocoon strands to form the glossy reeled fibre. Papers can be made from the gummy reeled silk, which comes in hanks. The hanks can be cut up and the fibres used to create a well organised fabric.

You can learn how to unreel a cocoon by visiting www.wormspit.com. The web page will open in a separate window.

Carded Cocoon StrippingsCarded Cocoon Strippings

Cocoon strippings are the silk fibres that hold the cocoon in place as it changes into the silk moth and they contain the most sericin.  The fibres are soft and fluffy with a matt finish and can be sprayed with water, placed between two sheets of baking parchment and ironed to make silk paper.


Throwster's WasteSilk Throwsters Waste

Throwsters is a by-product of unravelling the cocoon such as when the fibres get tangled in the machinery. It is a high quality silk fibre which retains the sericin making the fibres feel coarse to the touch.


Silk Carrier RodsSilk Carrier Rods

Silk Carrier RodsThese 10cm (approx.) silk carrier rods resemble long split tubes and are wonderful for textured embroidery and paper fibre work. They are a ‘woven waste’ product of the silk winding process, contain sericin and have a high sheen. The image shows how the rod has been pulled apart to separate the fibres.


Reeled Silk, still containing sericin gumGummy Reeled Silk

This is finest quality filament silk, containing 25% sericin and suitable for silk papermaking or couching. After degumming, the fibre can be dyed and spun to a lustrous yarn, learn more about how to degum reeled silk from our degumming recipe.


White and Tussah Noil fibresTussah Noil and White Noil Silk

The characteristics of this short silk fibre are very similar to those of cotton. The image shows white noil (top) and Tussah Noil (bottom). The short and broken noil fibre is gathered from the inner part of the cocoon and can add interest to papers, felt and spun yarn. It is necessary to add a lot of twist while spinning to ensure strength in the yarn and it can be combined with other fibres to help the spinning process.


Silk HankySilk Hanky

A hanky is created by piercing a hole in the cocoon, opening it out from the hole and then stretching it out over a frame. This creates a square shaped ‘cobweb’ of fibre with a denser frilly edge of fibres.

The squares can be easily pulled and teased out from the centre to create a roving ready for spinning (see how). They can also be used to add interest in silk papermaking and embroidery.


Mawata CapsMawata Caps

These are created by pulling out the cocoons over a former creating a silken web pocket. It is possible to knit straight from the prepared cop, giving a slight twist to the fibres as you stitch. As the fibres have not been broken from piercing the cocoon, as in the hanky, it is possible to wind a continuous fine thread from the Mawata Cap. You can learn how to make a Mawata Cap by visiting www.wormspit.com. The web page will open in a separate window.


Italian Silk WasteItalian Silk Waste

This fibre is the textured version of silk tops. It is soft, degummed, curly and has a high sheen. The name does nothing for its reputation, it is a truly sumptuous fibre and once carded spins to an interesting textured yarn.


Silk BrickSilk Tops/Brick

Soft and lustrous, A1 quality mulberry silk fibre. The brick is a hand wide length of sliver and the top a more manageable width for spinning. The carded, long fibre lengths make this an excellent fibre for spinning as well as for use in silk papermaking.


Tussah Silk TopsTussah Silk Tops

Still providing a high sheen with less slip than the Mulberry silk, this high quality sliver is a pale golden colour which can be dyed using Acid dyes.

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