Yesterday I went on a silk spinning workshop run by my local spinning guild. I have tried spinning silk in the past, but found it very hard to control, so was looking forward to finding out more from experts. It was a fabulous day. Jenny gave us lots of sample of different silk fibres to experiment with. I found it much easier this time round. Partly I think because I have been spinning so much recently.
We started off by washing our hands with a hand scrub and then using hand cream to moisturise. Silk fibres catch on anything rough. Then it was on with the spinning!
The first silk I tried was Tussah silk tops. This has a light brownish colour which comes from the oak leaves that the moths feed on. I loosened my tension so that the yarn wasn't being pulled into the wheel too fast, giving me more control. I spun two singles and then plied them together. With the little bit that was left over, I did some N-plying. You can see the silk fibre below, followed by the 2 ply skein and the little bit of N-plied yarn.
After that, I tried bombyx silk. This is, I believe, the top notch of all silks. The fibres are incredibly soft and................... er, silky!! The moths that produce this feed on the leaves of the white mulberry tree. Again, I spun two singles and plied them together, N-plying the remainder. You can see the results below.
After that, I moved on to some dyed silk cap. I think that silk cap is made from misformed cocoons, which having been degummed, are stretched over a bell shaped frame. Each cap consists of several layers - each one is a separate cocoon. You have to open out the cap and pull off one thin layer. Make a hole in the middle and then draft it out until it's thin enough to spin. This produced a slubby yarn, I liked the texture on it. I made a 2ply yarn and left the remainder as a single as I wanted to try other silk samples.
Waste silk was next on the agenda. This is a mix of fibres that are discarded when the silk is being spun. The fibres are a mixed length, so sometimes you can draft them out for spinning. Also you can cut them up and card them with wool tops. I tried both. You can see in the photo below the waste silk fibres at the top. Then comes a skein made by carding some cut up silk with some merino tops. (My carding technique left a lot to be desired! I need to work on that!) Then there's a N-plied skein of the silk waste - you can see how 'textured' it is, and a little bit of single at the bottom.
The last silk fibre I tried was silk noil. This has really short fibres which I found impossible to spin as they were! They can be carded and spun, or mixed with another fibre. I chose to do the latter and made some rolags using some BFL. I really like the rolags, the flecks of silk reminded me of cherry blossom. I actually took a photo of one of the rolags before spinning, it was the only one I took during the day!!
I really liked the effect on the spun yarn, it reminded me of tweedy yarn with nepps. The silk noil reminds me of 'upmarket' cotton wool!!
I certainly feel a lot more confident about spinning silk now. I have a couple of little sample packs to play around with before I let myself loose on the gorgeous purple silk brick that I bought at Fibre East. I decided to join the guild too, and hope to become actively involved with them. They meet weekly, so I shall go along next week. I'll keep you posted with the progress on my silk spinning! xxx