The Silk Road to Birmingham from China

March 2018

We were delighted to welcome Teresinha Roberts from Wildfibres who delivered one of her new talks in the morning and tutored a workshop in the afternoon.

Teresinha explained the uniqueness of silk in the fibre world with its prismatic shape reflecting light and the structure (lacking cells) lending itself to the drape of the finished fabric.  We enjoyed some fascinating diversions into the different types of  silk from spiders which, with the aid of genetic engineering is now being extracted from the milk of goats.  Spider silk is among the strongest substances in existence (bio-steel) and its medical uses are being explored.

You can read much more about silk on Teresinha’s website wildfibres.co.uk but the most memorable image was probably the graphic re-enactment (by Teresinha) of a silk worm shedding its skin which it does five times before entering the pupal stage.  It is at this point that the worm establishes anchor points in a suitable crevice then spins the cocoon from which the silk will later be reeled.

The pupae are killed in the reeling process but the remains form a source of protein (sold in tins in China) which may prove invaluable in future years as agricultural land becomes more and more scarce.  Recipes available (Google!) but not recommended!

silkworm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the afternoon workshop participants learned how to draft silk hankies and mawata caps to spin and or knit/crochet directly from them.  The hankies and caps are made by stretching a cocoon over a frame or a bell shaped mould.

silk1

silk2

 

The silk shown being skeined has been plyed but ‘thickish’ singles can be knitted if the fibre is lightly felted, this should prevent the bias associated with working with single fibre.  To make the most of a silk mixture the fibre needs to be 30% silk and to really demonstrate the lustre of the silk the proportion needs to be 50%.

 

silk3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

knitted directly from drafted fibre

 

Silk in a variety of forms (cocoons, throwsters waste, carrier rods, hankies, tops etc.) is available from Wildfibres website.