Saturday, 24 November 2012

Silk Fibres

Who can resist silk? It is the ultimate in luxury fibres, even cashmere pales against the beauty of silk and as can be seen from todays post photo, silk comes in a range of texture and colours.

Silk Fibres
This photo shows some silk fibres in natural colours. Towards the front of the photo is Throwsters Waste. The name does not do the fibre justice as it has a beautiful sheen and is fun to spin, resulting in a yarn full of interesting texture. The lovely golden colour silk in the middle of the photo is Tussah Silk fibre. At the back of the photo is Bombyx Silk fibre or Mulberry Leaf or Cultivated Silk.

Bombyx Silk
This fibre is commercially reared and harvested from the cocoon fibres of the Bombyx Mori Moth who in the Larvae stage are fed only on mulberry leaves. It's nearly always the whitest of available silk fibres and has the highest lustre. The fibres are very fine and a bit slippery making it the most difficult silk to spin. This is the most luxurious of the range of silk fibres available and also the most expensive.

Tussah Silk
This fibre is from several species of moth and the larvae may have eaten other leaves besides Mulberry, which causes the colour to vary. The colour can range from a cream off white to a deep honey which is lovely. It's not as shiny in appearance as Bombyx and has a softer, woolly texture. This makes it easier to spin and the lustre shows up more after it has been spun.

Wild Silk
 As the name suggests this is not cultivated silk. Like the Tussah fibre, Wild Silk fibre has a range of colours from honey through to dark brown. It has a shorter fibre due to the cocoons being harvested post hatching. The result of this is that the quality of this fibre may vary widely.

Throwster's Waste
This is the fibres left over from the silk reeling process. Made up from all sorts, reeled silk, the inside of cocoons and degummed cocoons. Even on occasion bits of the moth chrysalis (bet you didn't want to know that!). This is primarily used in feltmaking and papermaking to add texture but I like the result in a hand spun yarn which is extremely textured and pleasing to the eye.

Silk Noil
Mostly these short fibres are used mixed with other fibres to give texture and sheen. It is very difficult to spin on it's own. My view is why spin something that is not a relaxing or a fun experience. I spin to relax, there's plenty of other stressful things going on in life without adding another!

Mawatta Silk ( I have never been entirely sure of the correct spelling of this)
A collective term for silk fibres from degummed cocoons which have been opened and layered onto a block shaped like a bell and this produces Silk Caps or laid flat in layers to make Silk Hankies. Next to Bombyx Silk this is my favourite silk fibre to spin, After dying I peel the layers and stretch the layer out into a long roving in preparation for spinning. This process can be exhausting and will certainly build muscles and cause bruises and you need to have really smooth skin to touch it so hand cream and a manicure is essential, but the resulting spun yarn is stunning. I like to leave the natural slubs and narls in all my hand spun silk yarns as they add interesting texture but none more so than in a Mawatta Silk yarn. You can see an example above in my Earth Moods heading. It's the left hand green yarn and I called it 'Spring Greens'.

Why Silk?
I started to spin when my children were small, but soon had to find an alternative to sheeps fleece as two of my children were asthmatic and I found even the smallest amount of raw fleece brought into the house could aggravate the condition. I tried using commercially cleaned fleece, as well as sneaking fleece in to spin after they had gone to bed so they had no idea it was in the house, all to no avail and so began my quest to find a fibre that I could use to continue my newly aquired skill of spinning. I tried many different fibres and came to silk last of all, having been put of trying it as other spinners and spinning books had all agreed that handspinning silk was a very difficult task. I found silk caused no reactions in my children's Asthma symptoms.

I have been smitten with silk fibres from the moment I sat at the wheel and peddled, managing to spin an acceptable length of silk yarn that first time. I have tried to go back to spinning other fibres as my children have grown but never feel comfortable with the results, as to me, wool yarns lack the lustre and beauty of spun silk and I also find I dislike the feel of wool and most other fibres. So I have had to admit that for me no other fibre will do.

I have am setting up a shop on the Etsy site to sell my hand dyed, hand spun, silk yarns and once ready to open I will place a link on the Earth Moods blog. In the meantime until my next post, outside it's raining, I've just lit a fire in the hearth which my faithful spinning companion has curled up in front of (and who will have many a mention on here but here is a photo to be going on with, he's big, grey and hairy as well as adorable) and my wheel beckons.

                                                 " Is it time for tea and one of those delicious
                                                  scones that just came out of the oven?"

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

My spinning story begins........

Well hello,
Thanks for dropping by to find out about my collection of silk yarns, handspun by me, at home.
I have called my yarns "Earth Moods" because I find the colours of nature inspirational. Above is a photo of my beautiful spinning wheel. It is a Louet 'Victoria' in an oak finish. Victoria is a lovely wheel who, when not in use, packs flat and fits into her own rucksack carrier. I can then pop the rucksack into my bicycle basket and cycle off to spin with friends in my village or attend a spinners guild meeting in the next village. In front of Victoria is a bobbin of single yarn Tussah silk that I am spinning a second bobbin of at the moment to make a 2ply yarn. Just behind the bobbin is a glimpse of a completed 2ply silk yarn that I have wound onto a Niddy Noddy to produce a skein of yarn. Over the next few posts I will talk more about the joy of hand spinning and the equipement and the process from silk fibres to finished yarn.