On the last Guild meeting day for 2013 I wandered into the library intent on borrowing for the coming 2 months–including holiday time. One of my loans was A Silk Worker’s Notebook by Cheryl Kolander (Interweave Press, Colorado USA 1985). She describes spinning raw (softened in water but not degummed), degummed whole and cut and degummed cocoons. Choices, choices, choices!
She instructs the reader to soak the cocoons to soften them. I soaked them cold and nothing much happened.
I double checked and Cheryl Kolander says to soak in warm water. I did, and by bedtime, I had spun a very small number of cocoons over a considerable amount of time with great effort and decided soaking until the following evening would be necessary, since I do in fact have a job to go to…
Kolander’s instructions make gradually drawing out fibre from one end of the cocoon sound straightforward. Bless her heart, if she can do that, she has greater skills and/or strength than I do! I have never applied so much sheer force to draft anything. I found I had to snip the cocoon to make a start, enlarge the hole by pulling, remove the chrysalis and then tear or stretch the cocoon far enough that I could grab one half in one hand and the other half in my other hand and create a bridge of fibres I could attenuate and attempt to join to my thread. All while still wet.
Kolander promised a stiff thread and mine did not disappoint. Can you see the end of the thread heading off to the upper right in the next picture? No wind or special effects were applied to this image!
This was the smallest reel I could find. But I am delighted to have managed to spin a thread. I drew the line at plying and left it as a single. As always, experiments like these give some finger-and-muscle-understanding and not just a vague intellectual sense of the tremendous skill and sheer hard work and time commitment of people who create fine reeled silk and all manner of silk yarns and fabrics with the most basic of equipment. I won’t be giving up my day job anytime soon!