I have recently spend a great couple of days with Alison Dakin spinning silk. We have played with every preparation we could find ready for Inspired Spinning.
Preparations of Silk
These two are essentially the same and give a characterful lumpy yarn. Layers of de-gummed cocoons are stretched over either a bowl shaped object (cap) or a square of pegs (hankie). This produces layers of tangled gossamer threads with a slightly thicker rim.
There seem to be a huge variation in the fibre sold as noil. Some is lovely, clean, soft, with discernible silky fibres and free of ‘bits’, others have short fibre that is stuck in clumps and full of remnants of the pupae. Be careful when buying. Some noil can be spun into yarn but it is better carded with other fibres to add character to the yarn
Tussah and mulberry silk tops
Tussah has a lovely creamy colour from tannins in oak, Mulberry silk is highest quality lustrous and from picky mulberry silkworms who only eat mulberry leaves. Tops are often only a few centimetres wide and are a little slippery but once you adjust to this are fairly easy to spin.
These are so called because they used to be packed like bricks. They are a much wider prep than tops so often need teasing apart to a more manageable size. Spin like top or you can spin across the brick. They can be of tussah or mulberry silk
They can be bought like this or see below to make your own. I love de-gummed cocoons, they seem to pull out nicely and give a lovely textured yarn a little like hankies but more so.
This is the waste from spinning and consists of various silk threads. This is of very variable quality. Some easily drafts and spins into beautiful textured yarn. Other is a matted mess that needs pre drafting or even carding to open up the fibres and return to a spin-able form
This is layers of silk used for making duvets. Again it various in quality from soft sheets of even fibre, lovely for spinning to some that is hard, short and horrible. As it comes in large sheets, it is worth teasing into more manageable pieces, I try to get lengths a few centimetres wide.
This is made from old silk saris which have been shredded (or waste from manufacture) then formed into batts or roving. It can be spun as it is to give a textured yarn but is often difficult to spin fine. It is great added to other fibres to give interest in texture and colour
These can be used as embellishment in their own right but for spinning need to be de-gummed (info on degumming soon)
Carrier rods When silk is spun commercially the fibre becomes wrapped around the rods whilst being spun, intermittently these fibres need to be cut off and are sold to crafters, not great for spinning.
More on preparing and spinning silk later