Silk is bewildering. Have a good look at a cocoon and try to imagine extracting the fibre … to get 1000 metres of silk from a single cocoon! A challenging thought for today’s world, but imagine the Chinese artisans doing this over 4000 years ago, extracting and spinning the silk to create fabric for the Chinese Emperor!
Once trade routes along the Silk Road were established from Europe to Asia, this magnificent fibre became an important trade item. Among others in the west, the Egyptians coveted silk as a luxury item as did the Ancient Romans.
Felters, spinners and weavers all find silk a versatile and amazing fibre. From raw silk, to sari silk fibre and pulled sari silk, silk laps, silk noil, throwster, hankies, cocoons and more, there’s so much variety. Sharon’s current favourite is our Pulled
Sari Silk, a ‘lighter than air’ fibre created from recycled silk saris that are finely shredded before being carded to a fine mass of fibre that is easy to use. Try blending some with Merino wool or some Suri Alpaca to add some shimmering highlights in your yarn or felting project!
Mulberry silk, produced by the Bombyx Mori moth, is the most precious and popular of the silks. Over the millennia, this moth has become completely reliant on humans for its survival and is found only in silk production facilities, not in the wild. Mulberry silk has long fibres and is wonderfully smooth and lustrous compared to Tussah silk, which has shorter fibres, and it is more textured so it does not give off that silky sheen as does Mulberry silk.
Other insect larvae, such as the large Tussah moth of China, produce their own brand of magic. There are several species of silkworm larvae from the genus Antheraea that are part of the Tussah silk family. These cocoons are all collected from plantations or from forests where the larvae feed on many kinds of leaves. The natural, deep golden colour of Tussah silk contrasts with the sparkling white of Mulberry, but it’s a very appealing characteristic of this fibre. Colouring for cocoons varies depending on the species of larvae and on the leaves they eat, but it is not permanent as the colour is due to the sericin which is washed out during processing.
We carry many silk products, some directly from our suppliers in India. If you love playing with different textures and colour effects, silk will make your felting projects gleam, your spinning and knitting projects dazzle and your heart soar!
Here are some of the silk products we offer on our online store.
Pulled Sari Silk is a refined and luscious fibre rendered from recycled saris. The variety is fabulous with over 20 colours, ranging from shimmering Lime to regal looking Mauve and deep and mysterious Jasper. This fibre is so light and airy it is unlike anything we have seen before – and the very reason for it being Sharon’s favourite fibre! Spin it, use it as sparkling embellishments in felt making. We expect you will love it.
Mulberry Silk comes in a variety of forms for use by feltmakers and spinners. And, this is such a spectacular fibre! Our Mulberry Sliver, like Pulled Sari Silk, takes dyes beautifully so the range of colours is impressive and it spins beautifully.
Tussah Top Silk has been prized by the Chinese for 2000 years. India’s trade in this fibre is also long-standing to the extent that one city is said to employ 30 000 handloom weavers using Tussah silk alone. As mentioned above, Tussah comes from larvae that devour a variety of leaves so the colouring varies and the fibres are shorter than Mulberry with greater texturing. But, this IS a beautiful fibre. We offer Tussah Top in Bleached and Dyed. Lovely!
Sari Silk Fibre comes from mill end cuttings of sari production as well as from recycled saris that have been cut and shredded. It looks like a jumble, but the rough and tumble characteristics and wildly ranging colours make it an exciting fibre for spinning, felting embellishments and even paper-making.
Silk Noil is a great textural element for blending with other fibres. Noil is 100% silk but lacks the almost luminous sheen of pulled silk or top. The grainy texture is due to the combing action as silk is processed and these shorter fibres are extracted as waste. Noil take dyes very easily and add wonderful variation in felting projects.
The job of a silk ‘throwster’ is one of preparing the raw silk for weaving by throwing or reeling individual fibres and untangling the bits that are not as refined. This leaves a pile of leftover material that cannot be used called Silk Throwster. This is 100% silk, easily dyed and lovely to blend with other fibres or spun on its own for a rougher textured silk. In the early days of silk production this material would have been waste as the tangle of fibres, the gummy residue of sericin and bits of cocoon and other foreign material made it hard to process and less desirable. Not today! You may find some small bits of cocoon in our throwster but the fibre has been cleaned of the sericin and grit, leaving it ready to use.
Our Silk Hankies are used by feltmakers, spinners and knitters just as they come or blended into their projects with other material. These are amazingly thin, 25cm square, 100% silk and straight from the cocoon. Hankies are made by soaking and softening cocoons and stretching them over drying racks to create the transparently thin sheets. Beautiful effects can be created with dyeing these or hand painting with splashes of colour.
Silk Cocoons can be seen as a treat and educational tool to show how silk fibre comes from a natural source using virtually the same amazing process the Chinese have used for 5000 years. Try using cocoons as embellishments for a felting project. Ambitious? Try soaking and pulling fibres to use in spinning some blended yarn. For a more esoteric use, soaked cocoons are used to improve skin tone and reduce the effects of aging!
Mulberry Silk Lap should be included in spinner’s and felter’s stash of very special fibres. Spin it on its own, blend it with other fibres, or use it as an embellishment for feltmaking. Pull a corner of the lap and stretch it out to reveal long, spectacular colour and great texture.
Interested in trivia about silk? Have a look at a few we’ve collected!