Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Friday, 2 September 2011

The Reel Thing: A Study in Silk

My friend Coleen invited me over to observe the silk reeling lesson she was giving for her Master Spinners' Certificate students yesterday.  Silk reeling is part of Level 6 of the programme and Coleen is becoming a master at the art.  She is a Master Spinner instructor and has travelled to the United States to study with Wormspit (aka Michael Cook) and to Asia in pursuit of perfect reeling techniques.

You can click to enlarge each photograph:

The rice ball is full of cocoons ready to be placed in hot water.

The cocoons catch onto the brush.  The first fibres are waste and are pulled off the cocoons.

The prepared cocoons are transferred to the warm water bath.

The metal device is a "croissure," used to thread the silk through to the reel.

Coleen threads the croissure.

You can see the filaments coming from the cocoons.  The cocoons sizzle and bob in the warm water as they're reeled.

Joanne reels from the cocoons.

A close up of the filaments on the reel: aren't they beautiful?

These are nearly spent cocoons.  The pupae are an excellent source of protein.

The reel is set on its side, then the filaments are threaded up into a jade ring.

The filaments must dry in the air or they will glue themselves together.

Joanne transfers the filaments to a smaller reel.

The silk is then wound onto a bobbin.

Leslie adds twist to a singles composed of filaments from 4 bobbins, approximately 120 filaments in all.  She is producing "tram silk," with about 10 twists per inch.

These are a few of Coleen's bobbins of reeled silk.


  1. Wow, that's an amazing process! Thanks for sharing!

    I know that silk producers in Asia eat the pupae. Is Coleen that brave too? I'm afraid that they would be trash at my house.

  2. No, she didn't offer to serve us any "silk salad." She doesn't throw out those cocoons. They go in the freezer and are reused to replace cocoons whose filaments break during reeling.

  3. Wow! No wonder silk is so expensive!

  4. That is just incredibly interesting! I can't help but think how horrible it would smell, though...

  5. There is a bit of a strange smell, although it's not too bad when you're working outside.

  6. The end product looks absolutely gorgeous. So even and fine. I am in awe of how well Colleen has mastered this process - something I never did. Thanks for sharing Deb.