Silk reeling was my hands down favorite part of SOAR. It provided the much needed stretch in skills that I've been looking for in my spinning practice. Let's get down to business with some visuals.
The title of the class was Spinning Six Slick Silks with Michael Cook aka Wormspit.
The first yarn we made was created using the Laotian method of reeling. In this method, we take a few handfuls of cocoons and place them into a kettle of simmering water. In order to start reeling, we need to rough up the outside of the cocoon with a scrubby brush and grab the filaments coming off the cocoons.
In the above photo, if you look in the left hand corner you can see a copper pipe thingy - this is called a croissure. We wind the filaments through the croissure in order to start reeling. The croissure helps us keep the filaments organized and also allows to squeeze extra water out of the newly reeled thread. Just learning how to wind the filaments through the croisure was a test in itself.
During the Laotian method, the silk is pulled through the croissure and carefully laid in an organized pattern on a towel. Then, it is wound by hand onto a silk bobbin. The next 5 yarns we created, we used the Japanese method of reeling. This method, like every in craft in Japan, was much more detail oriented and precise. In this method, we used 18 cocoons instead of the large handful above. Also, we went from using 1 pot of boiling water to 3 pots of water, all running at different temps. As difficult as it was, it was fun to have challenge my level of ambidexterity. Often times, the right hand needed to be doing something very different than my left hand. From here on, the photos will refer to the Japanese form of reeling.
Once the filament has been wound through the croissure, the reeling can begin, we attach the end of the yarn to reeler and start to give it a go - being very careful, steady, and watchful that the filament does not break. If you have ever lost an end while spinning wool, imagine losing an end of this. Mind you th filament we are reeling is 100,000 yards per pound. To give you a point of reference, the finest yarn AVFKW carries (Wishing, 100% Alpaca) is 7000 yards per pound.
Even though the first reeling is complete, from here the silk must be re-reeled 3-4 times so that we can get as much water out of the silk as possible. If the silk is allowed to dry too fast, the filaments can become stuck together, this making it impossible to use the filament. Then, you get to cut your silk off the bobbin, and toss it in the shhhh...trash. Also, it is very important that you reel your silk in a criss cross reason for the same reason.
Once the silk has been re-reeled, I added twist to the filaments using my spinning wheel, thus, making them into yarn. The first yarn I made is called Tram which means that it is a low twist single, often times used for embroidery. Then, I made a 3/2, 10 twists per inch. 3 refers to the amount of filaments in the yarn, 2 refers to the ply. Each filament was made of 18 cocoons. The next group of yarns I made were a high twist (20 twist per ince) 2 ply and a high twist 3-ply. These are definitely the shiniest of the bunch - like little tiny, sparkling pearls. Finally, I made my thickest yarn, laughably about 9000 yards per pound - somewhat resembles AVFKW Shimmering Lace - 10/2 - so, 10 filaments, 18 cocoons each, 2-plied.
After adding twist, and marking each sample with contractor's ribbon, it was time to remove the waxy, stiff seracin from the yarn. My yarn felt more like flax than silk.
Ah! That's more like it, soft, shiny, silk.
I hope to demonstrate this process at the studio - but want to practice a bit first. It was an amazing albeit insanely detail orientated experience. Michael Cook was a fantastic teacher. I highly recommend taking a class from him if you have the opportunity - you will learn to understand silk in a whole new way.