Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Preparing a Silk Cap for Spinning

Last night I got to work on the silk cap I bought at the Rare Breeds Show. So I thought I'd do a bit of a tutorial on preparing a silk cap for spinning.

The cap is made by soaking the silk cocoon in water and then teasing it out and stretching it over a bamboo hoop. The cap contains many layers. Usually they're white, but the ones I buy from P&M Woolcraft have been rainbow dyed.

Here is the silk cap in its entirety:


At the lower edge of the cap is a thicker crinkly edge which you can see forms the layers:


Start to work around the cap, separating a thin layer from the rest of the cap by peeling it away:


Not all layers come away cleanly, and they may look a bit holey, but this doesn't matter.

Once you've worked your way around the cap, you can pull the layer away:


Each layer will be very filmy. The thinner it is, the easier it will be to draft and less hard on your hands. Silk is tough stuff!


Keep peeling away the layers of the cap until you have a pile of shimmering jewel-like jellyfish. This cap yield was 32 layers.


Place your hands inside each cap layer, and at the crown, work a hole in it with your fingers:


With both hands begin to firmly pull and tease the silk filaments into a loop:


I prepare all of the cap layers this way initially:


It's then up to you how finely you want to draft the roving. I go quite fine, as I usually ply the silk with another fibre like merino. Firmly pull and tug the loop, holding about 6 inches of length between your hands at a time, until the roving is at the desired thickness. Work around the loop until it's nice and even.

NOTE: Watch your hands, as the silk can cut into your fingers if you get a particularly resistant bit. I find that if this happens and you move your hands further apart and tug a little, the fibres will release:


Snap the loop, so that you have one long length:


Through trial and error, I've found the best way to sort the roving is to make a butterfly, winding a figure-of-eight around your thumb and little finger. This minimises the silk's tendency to cling back together again:


And VOILA! A pile of roving ready to spin:





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1 comment:

sarahbird said...

Great tutorial, I've been wondering how to do this! Thanks!