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Topic: Tutorial - How To Process Silk  (Read 2419 times)
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pixel_dust
« on: December 17, 2004 03:14:38 AM »

Well I wasn't sure quite where to put this but I figured here is as good of place as any so here goes...

Tutorial - How To Process Silk

To begin with, here are the items you need:
- Silk Cocoons
- Pot big enough to hold cocoons
- Dishsoap (I used homemade castile of course :lol: )
- Water
- Fluffy Towel

Here is a bag of silk cocoons my mom brought back from Thailand. Thailand is a huge producer of silk worldwide. Cocoons can range in colour from off-white to pale yellow to mustard. These are the bombaxy mori variety - they only eat mulberry leaves and the cocoons are VERY dense. They range in colour from golden to almost a mustard colour.

http://www.digital-paradigm.net/images/cr11.jpg

Unlike Tussah (or wild) silk, the Thai's silk is for production so the moth is killed in the cocoon before it has a chance to emerge (so sad). From what I can tell they kill the moths by dry heat. Traditionally, they soak the cocoons and start to reel the silk from the water so all that is left is dead moth soup. I wasn't too keen on that idea so I cut the tops off to take the moth out before it got all gunked up in the water. Since we're not reeling, cutting the silk fibers is okay.

http://www.digital-paradigm.net/images/cr10.jpg

Now it's time to take your cocoons into the kitchen. Fill a pot with enough water to cover the cocoons and a bit extra just to be safe.  Put a couple squirts of dish soap in the water. The cocoons will float at first but begin to saturate with water.

http://www.digital-paradigm.net/images/cr07.jpg

Heat the cocoons to a slow boil for about 20 minutes. Avoiding letting it get to a running boil or you'll matte the silk too much. Here is a picture about halfway through the heating process. You can see the water is quite yellow from the sericin. Sericin is the gum that the silkworm excretes that binds the cocoon together. You can see the water getting darker and the cocoons getting lighter.

http://www.digital-paradigm.net/images/cr06.jpg

Here you can see the silk beginning to unravel while still on the stove. I noticed the more you stir, the more matted the stray fibers become - so don't stir too much!

http://www.digital-paradigm.net/images/cr04.jpg

Once the cocoons become fully saturated and take on a slight translucent look, remove them from heat and drain them in a colander. Once you think they are clean, rinse again. And then again. I rinsed for a long time but still there was a bit of soap left when I went to dry them. The cocoons are now a nice light golden color but are still wet. They will lighten further upon drying.

http://www.digital-paradigm.net/images/cr03.jpg

Take your cocoons and place them on a big, fluffy towel and start to gently pat dry. Once they are part-way dry you can take your finger and pinch a cocoon. A bunch of very fine silk threads will come off.

http://www.digital-paradigm.net/images/cr01.jpg

Keep pinching and pulling until you can't pinch anymore threads from the casing. Congratulations!!! The fine threads you've pulled off are premium silk threads. The casings are what silk noile is made from. These can also be used for soapmaking.

http://www.digital-paradigm.net/images/cr02.jpg

Now pat yourself on the back - you've just processed your very own silk!

Addendum: Once painstakingly pulling threads off of half the batch (the silk threads get everywhere and the cat sure was interested in them!) I had a eureka moment and realized that there really was no need to pull the fine threads off since I would be using both the threads and the noile in soap. Of course, if you were spinning or reeling you'd just want the threads, and in that case you wouldn't want to cut the cocoon to get the moth out - you'd just boil it.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2010 12:11:54 PM by jungrrl - Reason: changed non-working images to links. » THIS ROCKS   Logged
jadey_mcshadey
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« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2004 03:58:36 AM »

It's sad that they kill the moths. I had silk worms when I was a kid, then they turned into moths and flew away.

I'm surprised that they let your mum bring dead moths into the States, that would be VERY MUCH frowned upon in Australia.

Nice tutorial, I can't wait to see the soaps you make out of it. I don't think I've heard of soap with silk fibres in.
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pixel_dust
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2004 04:09:29 AM »

I'm in canada but I imagine it would be frowned upon here as well. She was under the assumption they were mothless when she got them. Luckily customs didn't hassle her at all and she breezed right through.
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Mojo
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2004 04:31:56 AM »

Fascinating... and sort of icky too.  Thanks for the education!
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jadey_mcshadey
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« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2004 01:19:08 AM »

Oops! Sorry, I hate when people assume that I'm American and I shouldn't have done it to you.

haha, your mum is a smuggler! Wink
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midnightsky1686
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« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2004 04:23:55 PM »

some companys (well more like cottage industries) are actually selling cocoons and silk fibers/fabirc/etc from *peace silk*- which is silk where the mots have been allowed to leave the cocoon before you soak them and reel them off/whatever.  THis is sometimes also handgathered, and is generally considered to be vegetarian and environementally friendly, as well as that it supports local people, not corporations.  The downside to the silk it of course its has breaks in it, so you get a more textured yarn.  I would imagine it would be prett good for soap making etc though (but it is very very $$ per ounce)

Hey how  would recycled silk work in soaps (like if you were to "shred" a silk shirt so you have short fibers? I think that would look pretty cool.

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pixel_dust
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2004 03:35:22 AM »

Yeah, aurorasilk sells "peace" silk but I haven't purchased any from them. I was contemplating buying some silkworm eggs from them though for next spring, I just have to find a good supplier of mulberry leaves first!

Recycled silk works fine in soaps. You can go to the nearest sally ann and find cheap silk shirts etc to shred up but I'd only use that in soap for family members and friends and not to sell. You never know what type of chemicals have been in contact with it and if it's been drycleaned - yikes! they used heavy-duty detergents so I'd be a little leary of that myself. However you could go to a fabric store and buy silk remnants to shred. I'd try to find the most unrefined silk fabric you could - unbleached, undyed etc.
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jennhi
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2004 09:39:05 AM »

aurorasilk.com also sells cocoons, either gummed so you can do the degumming, or degummed at a slightly higher price. They also sell the fibers (dyed or undyed) -- I think I might go for that and try my hand at spinning silk yarn (ooooh, comfy!).
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« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2009 03:26:46 PM »

Yeah, aurorasilk sells "peace" silk but I haven't purchased any from them. I was contemplating buying some silkworm eggs from them though for next spring, I just have to find a good supplier of mulberry leaves first!

Recycled silk works fine in soaps. You can go to the nearest sally ann and find cheap silk shirts etc to shred up but I'd only use that in soap for family members and friends and not to sell. You never know what type of chemicals have been in contact with it and if it's been drycleaned - yikes! they used heavy-duty detergents so I'd be a little leary of that myself. However you could go to a fabric store and buy silk remnants to shred. I'd try to find the most unrefined silk fabric you could - unbleached, undyed etc.

How much of the silk fibers do you use in a batch of soap? I remember on other forums people were talking about using a tiny piece of the silk shirt, like literally a couple of millimeters square or less in their lye water. I love using liquid silk in my soap and it's kinda spendy, but I don't want to change if I can't get the same effect!
« Last Edit: February 27, 2009 03:27:14 PM by MareMare » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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