The next step was to try making my own silk caps.
To get started I had to make a choice. I could either use the cocoons a la natural and remove the little dead wormies myself, or I could use the cut cocoons. I decided to use the cut cocoons.
First they had to be degummed. The recipe from Jane, the workshop’s tutor, called for 50% soap flakes and 25% washing soda per weight of silk. I couldn’t find soap flakes, so I substituted Ivory dishwashing liquid, as described in A Silk Worker's Notebook by Cheryl Kolander.
Looks yummy, doesn’t it? I let them simmer for over an hour and then rinsed them in cool water.
My inverted pyrex bowl is covered with plastic wrap. What looks like a soggy cotton ball is actually a wet cocoon. They are worked one at a time, stretching them over the bowl, which serves as a mold. (To see an enlarged version of any of these pix, simply click on them.)
It is an amazing process, actually. Some of the cocoons stretched into beautiful ethereal layers, pulling nicely over the surface of the bowl. Some wouldn’t cooperate at all! I had about a dozen cocoons which ended up torn to shreds.
Eventually I started to get the hang of it. I wasn’t able to get all of the cocoons stretched completely over the bowl, but most of them found their places as some semblance of a layer. I used about 60 cocoons in this cap.
After it dried I gently took it off the bowl. The plastic wrap made it easy to remove. All that’s left now is to spin it!
If you find all this of interest, then you might want to visit www.wormspit.com. It will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about silk moths, plus some things to do with silk and silk moth cocoons.
Silk Caps & What to do With Them