More happy bobbins

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I found out that I can do this in the course of a (longish) evening:

That’s a bobbin full of four-strand tram.  I can do the tram much faster, because it’s twisted about five times per inch, instead of 20.  This is going to be a soft, shiny yarn for embroidery.

It’s cool that you can see the difference in twist just from the sheen… the shiny one on top is the tram, five twists per inch; the one on the bottom is three-strand singles for organzine, at 20 twists per inch.

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Happiness is a Full Bobbin

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That’s an ounce and a half of three-ply organzine singles… tightly twisted from three filaments, about 20 twists per inch.  I’m curious to see what I end up with, length-wise; mathematically, it ought to be about three thousand yards.  With the high speed wheel, it has only taken me a few evenings of twisting.

And then you sit and ply…

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and then you skein, and then degum… and then you get organzine!

Here’s a comparison of the 4×2 and the 2×2… they’re not all that different, until you start working them up in larger amounts – and then the weight of the fabric shows.

While I was degumming, I made up some new lace-weight – this is 15 filaments per ply, two-ply:

Silkworm Paper

If you set the caterpillars up on a surface where they can’t find a corner, they’ll make this stuff.  It doesn’t hurt them, although it probably frustrates their instincts.  After spinning out their silk, they turn into a healthy pupa.

This is the surface of the paper.  One of the things I learned from the first run – make sure the silkworms are DONE pooping, really, are you SURE you’re done, before you put them on the paper.  You can’t wash it out once it’s sandwiched between layers of silk.

This is how I set them up to spin the paper.  There has to be an overhang, so that they cannot crawl down without crawling upside-down, which they avoid.  Once they are done spinning, they turn into pupae, often right on top of the paper; then, I put them down in the bottom.  A few have managed to climb down there on their own.

Here, you can still see the plastic needlepoint canvas through the silk.  As they work on it more, the silk becomes more opaque, and you don’t see the canvas.

This one looks like he’s dancing, or doing Tai Chi.  Notice the little “hemmed” edge – the worms tend to pull the silk back from the edge of the canvas base and then silk over it more.  It really does look like a turned hem.

I washed and ironed the sheet, which made it shrink and wrinkle a little.  I think it looks like leather.

The finished sheet is about the stiffness of paper, although it does have a little bit of a more leathery drape.

If you pinch it, the folds are sharp; it holds a crease well after ironing.  I think it would be well-suited for certain origami applications. I know that some of the tribal women in Thailand use pieces of this stuff for applique on their skirts.  There is a company called LiveSilk that is working on making a commercial product similar to this.

Weaving organzine

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I borrowed a friend’s Lendrum wheel (Thanks, Christina!) and did some throwing.  The Lendrum’s high-speed head allowed me to get good fine twist, something that had been a problem previously.

All told, this is just over 400 yards of 40d4×2 organzine.

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At the Crow again – but this time, at NIGHT!

Originally published at WormSpit. You can comment here or there.

This Friday, February 20, I’m going to be at the Crow Collection of Asian Art.  I do a lot of demos there, but this one’s a little different – they’re doing a joint presentation with the Dallas Museum of Art’s Late Night program.  So people will be going back and forth to both museums, with hands-on kids projects, Lion Dances, oud music, belly dancing, coffee tastings, wine tastings… and me, reeling silk and talking about silkworms.

I’ll be there from six to ten PM.  Usually, they put me in the second-floor Jade Room… but some of the arranging is still up in the air.  When I was there two weeks ago, I spoke to most of a thousand people in the course of three hours.  For more information, click on either of the links above!  Admission at the Crow is free; admission at the DMA is $10.  If you want to see the King Tut exhibit, that’s extra.

This is the room they usually put me in, but without the benches in the middle.

Lantern Festival at the Crow

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My silk demo will be on display at the Crow Collection of Asian Art for their Lantern Festival.  The event runs from 10 AM to 2 PM; I’m going to be there from 11 to 1.  There will be lion dancers, lanterns to craft and take home… and of course my smiling face!  Sadly, it’s too early in the season for caterpillars.  Admission is free.

Because the bug IS the feature…

Originally published at WormSpit. You can comment here or there.

Every once in a while, I get this neat synchronicity on my journal reading list.  This time, one of my LiveJournal textiles buddies, Not Just a Girl wrote a post about dyeing with cochineal, and just a page down from it, I found Bug Girl’s extensive post on Cochineal, covering a lot of the uses in food, makeup, and other applications.  For anybody who’s ever been curious about what cochineal looks like on-the-hoof, check it out!

More about cochineal culture, and use in textiles, at

Throwing Thick

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I’ve been experimenting with making a THICK filament silk, appropriate for knitting.  This is a two-ply, using fifteen filaments (at about 40 – 45 denier per filament) per ply – so the finished yarn is something like 750 filaments thick.  The main thing that I learned from this experiment, is that I want more twist – the yarn looks decent now, but what I want is something with a distinct bead to it. This has appx 3.5 twists per inch, and I think I need more like six or seven.  It’s difficult to tell, looking at the raw yarns, how they will look degummed.