Silk "hankies" (also known as silk mawata) are made up of many layers of de-gummed silk cocoons from the Bombyx Mori silkworm. To de-gum silk cocoons they are simmered with soap and soda (washing soda in factories, baking soda is better to use at home). It takes about an hour to de-gum cocoons. Once the cocoon has been de-gummed it can be stretched into a square that resembles a "hankie". Many, many silk cocoons are layered upon each other to form silk "hankies". If you are making your own silk "hankies" at home you can layer as many as you like, or even dry them individually. My supplier gets these silk "hankies" from China in a 1.1 pound (1/2 kilo) paper wrapped package.
I break down the 1.1 pound of silk "hankies" into 1/2 ounce packets. I do this because silk is very dense, and the 1/2 ounce thickness is easier to dye through. I've found that thicker than 1/2 ounce can be difficult to dye throughly. I call each 1/2 ounce piece a silk "hankie" for simplicity.
Fitch Mtn. Frost
Valley of the Moon
Luther Burbank Rose Garden
How to Make Un-Spun Yarn from a Silk “Hankie”
1. Peel off a very thin layer of silk “hankie”. Place the remaining hankie in a safe place (I recommend a plastic zip type bag), and a bit away so it will not be caught up in your new un-spun yarn.
2. Hold the thin layer of silk by two opposite edges.
3. Next simply yank your hands apart and watch the silk transform into a cloud of soft silk.
4. Going to one of the ends, hold the end between thumb and forefinger while drafting (pulling) the loosened silk in the opposite direction. The silk fibers are extremely long and if you find you can’t stretch the silk simply move your hands farther apart.
5. Keep drafting the silk out to your desired size from one end to the other. You should wind your new yarn into a loose ball.
6. The first of your new un-spun yarn is ready to use. Place the un-spun silk yarn ball into the bag with the remaining silk “hankie” and get ready to transform another silk layer into un-spun yarn. When you are running out of the un-spun yarn of one ball you can easily join a new one on by thinning both ends and overlapping them. Now continue on with your work and the join will disappear completely.
© 2009, All Rights Reserved Karen Emrey/Royale Hare
Pt. Reyes Reflections
Diamond Point Lace Collar
There are many ways to use your silk "hankies". You can use the unspun yarn as is in knitting, crochet, weaving, needle felting, and more. Weave squares on the Zoom Loom with the unspun yarn. You can also simply roll the pulled out "hankie" with your hands, or actually spin the pulled out "hankie" on your drop spindle or spinning wheel. Find these free patterns on our free pattern page.
* Diamond Point Lace Collar
* Old Shale Scarf
* Silky Socks
* Crocheted Cowl
* Knit Cowl
Silk "Hankies" - natural $8.00
Silk "Hankies" - dyed $10.00
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