What to do with silk cocoons 1: Spin the blaze!

One of my more knowledgeable friends (who loves working with silk) told me that the loose fluffy fibres around a silk cocoon–where the silkworm was just getting started on anchoring themselves in space and creating a scaffolding for the eventual cocoon–is called the ‘blaze’. She was planning to try spinning the blaze–and I decided to follow her example.  I had never seen this feature of a silk cocoon before growing my own.  I guess it is removed or destroyed when cocoons are dyed or prepared for sale.  But this puffy little cloud of fibre is rather lovely.

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I tried spinning it by just drafting it away from the cocoons.

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This sometimes meant several cocoons were caught up in my drafting, and occasionally one was dangling in mid-air, hanging from a filament so slender as to be invisible.

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Here are the cocoons, now without their blaze.

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And here is the resulting tiny three-ply skein with some cocoons for scale.

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It’s pretty but tiny!

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10 Comments

Filed under Fibre preparation, Spinning

10 responses to “What to do with silk cocoons 1: Spin the blaze!

  1. That is so cool. I love how the little cocoons look afterwards. Very decorative.

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  2. SubmarineBells

    That spun blaze looks lovely and fluffy. Not enough to do much with, I suppose; but an interesting experiment just the same. Such a pretty colour, isn’t it?

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    • Thanks for suggesting it! I look forward to seeing what you get. It is a pretty colour, and now that I’ve posted on spinning raw cocoons you’ll understand that I’m looking back on that fluffiness with fondness 🙂

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      • SubmarineBells

        That second batch of cocoons you sent me are still waiting for me to get to them. The amount of blaze on both batches might produce enough thread for me to tie a bow around my finger! But it’ll be fun to try. 🙂 Regarding the spinning-from-soggy-cocoons thing… when I read that post just now, I was thinking that the “needs a lot of strength to draft” thing reminds me of one of the problems I had when I was attempting to reel the silk directly off the first batch of cocoons. When things were going smoothly, it took no real effort to draw the fibre off the cocoons – they sat in the water with their waterlogged weight providing just enough tension, and easily unrolled for me as I drew the silk off onto the niddy-noddy. But when things went wrong – when they stopped unrolling smoothly but got tangled and stuck together – that’s when I had what I think might be the same problem you describe. It was *just* possible to draw the tangled, stuck-together silk out into a finer thread, but was very effortful.

        My guess (which I’m going to test with the second batch) is that if I’m more careful about getting the “correct” thread to reel, and a bit gentler with the cocoons in the earlier stages of the process, I may have fewer tangle problems early on. I guess I’ll see. But something I did that helped hugely with the reeling process was feeding the silk threads up through a hole in a large button suspended directly above the water pot, before coming back down to be reeled onto the niddy-noddy. It really did help reduce tangles and keep the process (somewhat) manageable. Is some version of that idea at all useful for you to try when spinning directly off the cocoon?

        And yeah, gotta keep the silk warm and wet or the gum hardens again. That way lies madness!

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      • I had some moments in the process of spinning these cocoons, and of degumming (more on that later), that made me think I might understand the way you described reeling. Some parts did go smoothly, and sometimes I clearly had at least one thread reeling off a cocoon as I went. I did keep them wet but I didn’t keep them warm, and that might be a big clue right there! Best to avoid the way madness lies 🙂

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      • PS Photos of the bow around your finger! Please?

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  3. SubmarineBells

    I’ll see what I can do. 🙂

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  4. They look like something that are created by and would require fairy-magic!

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