Unwinding Skeins of Very Fine Threads

Introduction:
I bought a few skeins of fine silk in Japan a few years ago. I ran into all kinds of trouble. I finally asked the owner of Habu Textiles if she would unwind them on her machines. All but one skein she wound onto cones. The final skein she sent to Japan; it was so hard to undo. It came back on about 10-15 cones, each with small amounts wound on and some with threads flying about. Even they found it nearly impossible! I bought proper Japanese equipment but still decided it was worth it to pay to have them unwound. I’m unwinding a bunch of skeins now from Junco Sato Pollack and using my equipment. Many skeins come off beautifully. A few still gave me fits. It’s a joy to crank and wind a spool when all the threads come off easily. My advice is not to buy those skeins or to admire them and leave the threads in the skeins. I have cut a skein or two creating lengths of threads that I’ve laid into warps. Here are a few details.

Unwinding skeins of very, very fine threads can be an extremely tedious, and near impossible task. Special equipment can make a difference. The extra circumference of Japanese spools is important. Winding on small spools or cones can be impossible.


You also need a proper skein holder or skein maker. A common umbrella swift doesn’t hold the skein flat due to its X shape. If the skein isn’t held evenly the threads can fall down and tangle.


This is the winder that winds the Japanese spools. When a thread breaks, pat the skein from the inside and hopefully the broken end will fall out, and you can continue nicely. It’s imperative to open the skein properly. See below.


Here is the winder with an empty spool on it, ready to go. Notice the guide arm that guides the thread onto the spool. This is essential. I had an antique one, but the guider was gone. It was terrible trying to guide and crank. Another empty spool is shown alongside.


Open any skein CAREFULLY. You must find the precise place that is the center of the ring of threads in the skein. This is true for all skeins if you want them to unwind easily. Search for the ties that encircle the threads.


Look carefully for the ties that tie the skein so the exact center can be found.


You can’t check the ties too carefully. Really see that not a single thread is out of place. Often there are two ties that just tie the center of the skein and another one that does the same plus has the ends of the thread tied to it. Find which end unwinds easily and tuck the other end inside the skein holder. Also note that where the ties cross within the skein is not an exact place. It just keeps the ties from slipping.


My Own Fine Weaving

Introduction:
Now that life is getting busier, I’m planning to post less often. Maybe weekly or so. I want to get to my looms and experiment and do some fine weaving again. And I have a dye project I want to start. If you still need something to have breakfast with, try reading the posts I began a year ago when the pandemic began. I still love getting comments.

This is my 125 ends per inch silk weaving. I had big plans, but it was almost a “dog on the loom”. I wanted sheer fabric and I didn’t want to beat in the wefts too hard. I wove a double weave tube so there would be more resistance on the beater to prevent beating too hard and still be sheer. A tube meant only one shuttle, of course. I made so many threading errors, I thought I had lost my mind! It’s really not hard to thread so many ends when the cross is right there to guide you. Sometimes I crossed threads and sometimes it was in the heddles. I already had made several fine silk tubes before at 96 epi. This shouldn’t have been so difficult. I’ve got more  fine silk threads from Junco Sato Pollack so am eager to weave them up.


The weaving went terribly with a huge number of stops and starts to correct broken or mis-threaded ends. I properly repaired many threads and replaced many warp threads with colored sewing threads so I could see what I was doing. I had to throw away a lot but managed to get 40” woven as a tube.


After the 40” I decided to just weave off what I had left and not bother with corrections. I managed to get a hanging out of it. It hangs in front of an ikat hanging I got in Okinawa.


In the end, I gave up weaving the sheer cloth and decided to just weave off whatever I had left of the warp. Probably the warp was on the loom a few months before I made up my mind to get it off. I wove the layers separately.


I used the handspun cotton from Bhutan for the weft.


I couldn’t snug up the wefts at the selvedges so just let the wefts all hang out.


The handspun cotton on the fine silk. I think it looks OK. I do like where the cloth splits into the two layers and divides to hang on either side of the “single layer” the tube.


Cocoons: Part 3

Introduction:
The photos in this post came from my post when we were in Okinawa. You can search on my home page for: Japan Tour 2017. Then scroll to Day 5.

We visited the artist Michiko Uehara and her daughter in Naha Okinawa in May 2017. She has exhibited in New York as well as in Japan. Here her daughter is showing how light this cloth is. Michiko reels her silk threads and weaves very, very fine cloth.


This cloth was woven with both warp and weft threads from single cocoons. In her catalog there is a photo of a cloth with threads of 3 denier. That means 1,5000,000 yards per pound. I’m not sure if that is this cloth or not, but you get the idea. That’s 1.5 million yards per pound!


This piece is double woven in a tube!!!


Cocoon Scarf: Another Two-shaft Idea

Introduction:
This is my 834th post! I began them in November, 2010.  Before that on my original website I had posted over 100 weaving tips. They are still available and used today on this website. For the last year Bob, my tech guy and I have posted nearly every other day. I enjoy making the posts and still have ideas for more. I love getting comments! Any suggestions for posts are welcome, too.

I got this beautiful, fine silk scarf in Japan. We visited the silk grower who showed us his refrigerated storage shed for cocoons ready for making threads. Usually, silk threads are made up of several strands—that is from several cocoons. His breed of silkworms are not grown commercially and his processing is not done commercially. His weavers weave these scarves with threads of single cocoons. I treasure my scarf so here are several photos.


My scarf is generous in size: 18” x 72” not including the fringe. In a pile about the size of a dinner plate, it is gossamer.


I love the structure, too. There are two breads of silkworms used. I have a cocoon from each one. The thick threads are from a different breed from the thin ones.


Of course the selvedges are perfection. I’m inspired by the structure. Putting that little thicker thread in regularly makes it so you notice the fabric.  Another two-shaft idea which doesn’t have to use such fine threads, of course.


A close-up. I find it looks really great close and at a distance. And, amazingly enough, it doesn’t snag on my sort-of-rough hands!


Here’s how the fringe was handled. Again perfection!