Cocoon to Scarf
Last year at the 2011 Shepherd’s Harvest Festival I picked up some silk cocoons to see how I felt about processing them. I actually kind of enjoyed it, and mentioned what I was doing to a relative, who asked me to make a scarf, starting with the cocoons. I did not document the entire process terribly well, but here is what I have!
I got cocoons with the stifled “worm” inside, and just barely simmered in a solution of water, Orvus paste, and washing soda to remove the “gum”, or sericin, that holds it together. Cocoons in the pot, you can see darker brown showing through, that’s the pupae inside:
Then I rinsed them. You can see more “bug” now.
Doing it this way makes a bit more of a mess than taking each cocoon out of the pot and spreading open before rinsing, but this made it easier for me to handle. In the picture above you can see cocoons in various states of falling apart (it’s also easier if you take the cocoons out before that point, but I’m early in the learning curve). Pupa:
With spread cocoon:
It was interesting to see the different stages they were at, some were just “blobs” of various sizes others had little nubs left of (or developing into) legs. To get really nice mawata, or hankies, a frame is used. I just spread them out by hand, stacking one on top of another, then letting dry.
When ready to spin, I then pulled off a single cocoon and pulled it out further, then spun, mixing in shredded mylar film in silver for the accent to this yarn. Two bobbins of singles were spun, then they were plied together.
I then wound off the plies into a ball for knitting!
The above was a test knit, the finished scarf was somewhat narrower. I did a second batch to get some more length, too. The sparkly stuff gets everywhere. I mean everywhere. Not crazy about using it again! The scarf needed to tie in with a silk coat, which had stripes of silver in it, and so doing this was easier than trying to dye the silk to match, especially match something I did not have in front of me. I got better at the method of spreading them out as time went on and probably eventually I’ll get or make a frame. I did have some pictures of the finished scarf, but I was even more unsatisfied with them than the above photo so I didn’t include one. I’ll include one later!