Posted by Ginny on February 27, 2015
I spun up one of my silk hankies, and it was a lovely project. Below you see the hankie, and the resulting yarn:
Just one oz/28 g, and I got 295 yds chain plied! It took about 5 evenings of spinning to spin the whole oz of singles, and then two sessions to ply it all (mostly due to my attention span). People tend to avoid silk hankies as they like to stick to your hands, especially dry, winter hands. As a dyer, I have very dry, rough hands, as water ALWAYS gets in my gloves when dyeing. I have avoided hankies for the past several years for this reason, and also because I remembered my earlier attempts as very hard to draft.
Things were very different this time, and I think it was for two reasons. One, because I used the grabbiness of the silk to my advantage. The roughness of my hands made it very easy to flick a very thin layer off the hankies, just one or two cocoon layers, at a time. When you have such an ethereal layer in your hand, it is very easy to draft- just use a backwards long draft, holding the fiber lightly with your back hand, and holding the leading edge firmly with your front hand. The second reason is because I have been practicing spinning long draw for the last two years, and the backwards long draw was a comfortable, familiar motion for me.
One of the lovely characteristics of silk hankies is the overall very long staple. This works to your advantage when drafting this way, as you can pull slowing and steadily quite far back with no breakage. It just gets thinner and thinner! I still have a lot of trouble spinning wool so thinly, but the silk was easy-peasy. Another characteristic of silk hankies is that there are some bits of shorter fibers here and there- often the caterpillar chews on the inside of the cocoon, and the way the hankies are made does not allow for the removal of those inner short bits. These I would stop and draft out if I felt they needed it, but the smaller or more resistant slubs I allowed into the yarn.
I enjoyed spinning these hankies so very much! My next goal is to spin some more hankies into thicker singles.
Note- the silk bricks are a combed type of preparation, and behave very differently in the spinning. More on that in another post!
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