Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stuck in silk

This is some of my tahkli-spun silk drying. I emphasize that it is only 'some', a small portion of my spun silk stash. And that stash gets bigger by the week. I can't seem to stop spinning silk. I know this may seem weird, or weak, perhaps perverse to the silk uninitiated, and they may think I just need more resolve, more backbone. But I have good excuses.
First, it is silk. SILK! Silk, as in lustrous, rich, shimmering, smooth silk!  
Then there is the awe factor. On the one hand it evokes the luxurious image, on the other hand, you are spinning worm spit. Really. Insect fibres. A protein used to cocoon a silk worm until it metamorphs into a silk moth. Just think about that! Amazing. If you want blow-by-blow instructions on how to raise your own silk moths and harvest the silk, go here.
[PhotoBombyx, or cultivated silk.
SEM Photo by Dave Lewis
Then there is the colour. Silk has vibrant colour. Even without dye, silk has rich depth in colour. Even white, cultivated silk, has more white, if that is possible, more absence of colour. The silk made from wild moths, such as Muga or Tussah have either a golden or honey colour. It shimmers, with or without colour. And that shimmering is due to the structure of the silk. One long continuous fibre, which means less fuzzy ends to break up the light reflection and the structure of the fibre itself has reflective properties. The Scanning Electron Microscope image to the right shows the structure. Compare the smooth silk fibrewith a Dorset sheep fibre which has layer upon layer of cells which make up the 2-3" long fibre.
[PhotoDorset sheep.
SEM Photo byDave Lewis ] 
And lastly, I have been spinning on my small Tahkli spindle.  It is perfect for silk because each flick of the fingers, has that spindle spinning so fast and for so long, that it gives a high twist to the silk.  And the Tahkli spindle fits into a purse or backpack.  In other words, I carry it with me all the time, ready to pull it out of the bag at a moments notice and start spinning at airports, in cars, on ferries, at work, while camping, where ever I am.  As a famous anthropologist Ed Franquemont, pointed out, when asked what is faster, a spindle or a spinning wheel?:
[PhotoMy Tahkli spinning kit]
" A wheel is faster by the hour, and a spindle faster by the week."
And so, with Tahkli spindle in my bag, I am fated to keep spinning silk.

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