How to Degum Reeled Silk

25% sericin filament SilkFibrecrafts Reeled Silk is the finest quality filament silk, containing 25% sericin and suitable for silk papermaking or couching. After degumming, the silk fibre can be dyed and spun to a lustrous yarn.

The Silk Throwsters Waste, Carded Cocoon Strippings, Silk Carrier Rods and Cocoons all contain the naturally occuring sericin which is the glue (gum) that maintains the structure of the cocoon.

The gum can be left on the fibre which spins to a hairy, coarser yarn. It is then better protected from abrasion during weaving. The woven fabric is degummed to reveal the high sheen and soft handle.

If you prefer to spin the silk fibre ‘degummed’, here’s how:

  1. Simmer (do NOT Boil) the complete hank of silk in soap flakes solution (e.g. Lux) for up to 90 minutes at a ratio of about 8gm per litre of water. A little washing soda may be added but the pH must be kept below 10. This is because strong alkalinity damages the silk, use a test paper if in doubt.
  2. The 10-denier filature silk can contain up to 25% of sericin and therefore needs a lot of washing. Ideally, a very large vessel is needed to give plenty of volume of water to dissolve the gum and provide free circulation.
  3. Unwind the hank and place about 4 very loose ties round the hank and suspend it in the liquor from sticks across the pan. Lift the hank on the sticks every few minutes and “dunk” it a few times to rinse off the gum. When you change the liquor, move the ties to new positions as the area round the ties gets less circulation. We found that it was worth letting the bath cool until you can handle the hank and then running the hank between two fingers to scrape off the softened gum as a jelly.
  4. After the second simmer, lift out the hank on the sticks and allow it to cool naturally (the shock of sudden quenching in cool water may shrink the silk); rinse several times in large quantities of water until the hank no longer feels sticky. Hang up to dry.

If you want to use the silk in cut lengths, tie round the hank tightly with fine string at whatever intervals you want and cut with good scissors beside the ties.

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