Silk Cocoons (white and colored)

Silk cocoons (click to enlarge)

Since I’ve been working with silk threads, people have asked about silk worms and silk cocoons. Here are some cocoons I brought from my studio. You can see one where the silkworm escaped leaving the cocoon so it can’t be unwound because it isn’t intact. The others are whole. The colored cocoons were dyed at a place I visited in Japan. We reeled the silk off of blue and yellow cocoons and the company knitted up the thread

Colored cocoons, green scarf

into the green scarf in the photo. In another post I’ll send pictures of mereeling green silk from blue and yellow cocoons. The gold  silk I previously unwound from a skein onto a Japanese spool is the natural color of the cocoon. A friend sent it to me from Cambodia. One fine strand of silk is made from unreeling many cocoons together at once. These fine threads are what I used in the pieces in the  gallery.

Preparations for a exhibition of my weavings

I’ve been preparing my long silk pieces and other hangings for a show in January. The work was already finished and ready to hang, or so I thought. The silk pieces needed to be significantly shorter for the space so I knew that job would take some time and consideration. Of course, I didn’t want to shorten them by cutting off anything! Most of them I sort of made them 1/2 as long by turning the bottom end to the back and attaching it to the top–sort of like a roller towel. One I rolled up as much as needed and had the roll at the top on the front of the piece. Since the pieces are sheer, it  took tiny stitches here and there and making sure the two layers were smooth against each other. I’ll have pictures of this when they are in the exhibition.

Other pieces needed their fringes combed and invisible hanging loops made. This has been a relaxing pleasure. I love handling them and looking at them up close again. You can see the original pieces in my gallery.

Joey played with my silk thread!

Joey investigating spool (click to enlarge)
Joey scratching his cheek

I have two cats–this morning  I heard scratching noises by my spools of silk thread. I have wound two more spools and each one has a thread sticking out from it. Joey was trying to get at one of the threads! Yikes, I said and covered them up. He kept hanging around, wondering where his precious thread-toy had gone!. After all my work, having a cat snarl the threads up again would have been awful. Molly is seen investigating the first spool on a previous post.

I’ve been winding more of these lovely Japanese spools from cones of fine silk. They are so nice to look at–“thread-sculptures”, really.

Silk spools are the thing!

Silk spool (click to enlarge)

I’ve been showing people the  spool of silk thread that I made from that skein which took a month to unwind. (See a previous post.) They love the full spool as it is–as a work of art. I’m beginning to love it, too. I’ve been worrying about what I can weave that will be as beautiful as the silk. Now my thinking is to weave something, but leave a lot on a spool because it’s beautiful that way. The silk came from Cambodia–the gold color is the color of the cocoons–the threads are c9omposed of 20 or more filaments (cocoons). The thread is slightly slubby and many were stuck together with the sericin from the silk worm.  This is what makes it so lovely, I think.

My weaving and teaching studios

My weaving studio (click to enlarge)

Here are what my studios look like today–after finishing a book and accomplishing a major move. The two rooms are adjoining. They are a mess, but workable for both teaching and weaving. Someday you’ll see them all cleaned up with everything put away. (Don’t hold your breath.)

My desk and weaving classroom

Good news! My silk skein is finished!

Skein almost finished (click to enloarge)

I finished the skein last week–that is, I stopped just short of finishing it. You can see that it’s almost completely unwound. I stopped unwinding so I could just cut the skein. Then I  have a hunk of this thread to use to lay in the sheds –similar to the silk pieces in my gallery.

Japanese winder

You can see the wound spool and I think it’s absolutely gorgeous. The “spool” is the style used in Japan for silk–a much larger circumference than “our” spools.

Molly and full spool

Option for a Skein Too Tangled to Unwind

Instead of giving up on a skein that is too tangled to unwind, I cut it which gave me a large hunk of yarn. Then I broke down that hunk into smaller hunks–some about the thickness of a pencil, some fatter, and some thinner.  I cut them to the sizes I wanted. Then I laid them into the sheds in various ways. This can be seen in my silk pieces in the gallery section of this blog.
I also used this idea when I cut off a warp that was a “dog on the loom”.  In that case, I just used the hunks of warp as thick wefts–didn’t cut them and have them extending outside the selvedges.

Read a review of Peggy’s book in Handwoven Magazine

Weaving for Beginners
WEAVING FOR BEGINNERS: AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE
Peggy Osterkamp
SAUSALITO, CALIFORNIA: LEASE STICKS PRESS, 2010. HARDBOUND SPIRAL, 406 PAGES, $49.95. ISBN 978-0-9768855-1-1

“Whether you are learning to weave or teaching weaving, this book offers everything you need to know. Based on Osterkamp’s years of weaving and teaching using time-honored Europeanweaving techniques, Weaving for Beginners opens by guiding the beginner through the basics of equipment
and back-to-front warping and then presents a sampler cleverly designed to introduce balanced, weftfaced,
and warp-faced weaves on the same warp. The first project is followed by an in-depth discussion of
the benefi ts of back-to-front and front-to-back warping, with a section written by Patricia Townsend on front-to-back warping that includes mixing warp colors at the loom and specifi c instructions for weaving
a chenille scarf. Later chapters suggest future projects for the beginning weaver, explore hand-manipulated weaves, and teach the basics of rigid-heddle weaving.

Advanced chapters include an in-depth discussion on how to read and write a draft and then progress to drafting for block weaves, such as overshot and summer and winter. One might wish that the later chapters on sett, selvedges, project planning, and troubleshooting were laminated, because they are so packed with useful reference information that they are likely to be worn out over the course of a weaving career. Worksheets and formulas
for determining sett using grist, diameter, and weave structure; tips for good selvedges and diagnostics for poor selvedges; and well-illustrated, step-by-step instructions for repairing a fixed thread or threading error, finding a lost cross, or fixing weaving mistakes—all are designed to get the beginning-to-intermediate weaver off to a smooth and confident start.

The chapter on computer software and the chapter on knots are especially innovative and informative. Written by experts among Osterkamp’s students and colleagues, the computer chapter explains the benefits of WIF files, tells how to choose a weaving software package, explores the design capabilities of weaving programs, and gives a sample assignment to get the
reader started. In the final chapter of the book, Osterkamp answers your questions about what knot to use when and relieves all knot anxiety: snitch knots, lark’s head and double half hitches are all revealed through excellent illustrations. After you finish reading the “rabbit hole story,” you will never forget the weaver’s knot again.

Weaving for Beginners is clearly a labor of love by an outstanding teacher and a community of enthusiastic and dedicated weavers. It will be a welcome addition to many a weaver’s bookshelf, beginning weaver or otherwise.”

—Anita Osterhaug
weavingtoday@interweave.com

Click this link for more info about the book:
“Weaving for Beginners: An Illustrated Guide”

Please share your thoughts about this post in the “reply” or “comments” section below. To ask Peggy a question please go to the “Q & A” page of this blog.