Monday, January 23, 2012

Spinning Silk Caps

What the heck is a silk cap? I asked my friend and spinning teacher, Yvonne, when she offered to teach a seminar on Spinning Silk Caps at our Guild meeting. She said that she had been "gifted" some silk caps and would love to teach people how to use them in spinning. And we had a big group of people who were interested too - several visitors from guilds to the south even.

Quoting from The Silk Worker : "Silk caps are made from cultivated cocoons that have been degummed and stretched over a frame shaped like a bell. They consist of a number of extremely thin layers (maybe 10 or 12 layers) each layer is one cocoon." (There are also "Silk Hankies" where the silk has been stretched over a square frame instead - several people were working with those)

And they really are the size of a cap, in fact the one you are looking at here was a birthday present from our friend Nancy - and it really was big enough for me to put it over my head like a cap, but I digress...

Nancy had taken a silk cap and dyed it all these beautiful colors.

When I was in China in 1981, I remember going to a silk factory and watching the little ladies and probably young girls putting the cocoons on the thread machines - Each cocoon has about a MILE of silk strands on it - and these strands of silk are very strong -

The trick is to separate ONE layer from the cap and then you pull it out flat, sort of like you were shaping out a pizza dough - then, you pop a hole in the middle and take this "donut shape" and keep making it bigger, and bigger - one cap will stretch out so much that you can have a circle of "roving" that will go around your hands if you have your arms stretched out to each side (like wings)

Then you can, as The Silk Worker suggests - put the stretched out silk roving into a bowl and spin from that, or Yvonne suggested wrapping it around a TP roll or around your wrist. I couldn't get it to stay on the TP roll, so I opted for winding it around my wrist. That worked perfectly for me - as you can see, it perplexed Gracie - who was very interested in snoopervision of my efforts.

Have you ever worked with silk? The tiny fibers catch on ANY little rough place on your hands. I forgot to mention that one of the things that we had to do before we started working with the silk was to do a little "spa treatment" on our hands - use an emery board to smooth off any hang nails or chips on our fingernails then we did a scrub with sugar and oil, of all things - it really did get rid of most all the places that the fibers were catching.

Here is my silk roving ready to be spun. It is such strong fiber that you can actually knit directly from the roving.

One thing spinning silk requires though is a LOT of patience. This is the result of TWO HOURS of spinning! I have two caps to spin - One is the one pictured above and the other is just reds and golds. I decided that I will ply the two together for my silk thread and use it to crochet jewelery - necklaces, bracelets, etc - guess what everyone will get for Christmas NEXT year? Ha ha ha...

1 comment:

Kathy said...

You GO, girlfriend! I know you're going to really love silk once you get used to it...just have hand lotion around. That stuff sticks everywhere!