Silk Fiber Can Be Used for More Than Making Silk Fabric
Most of you are not “just weavers” or “knitters”. You are artists. Your tool is your hands and heart. You love making anything with your hands. We do too.
At Muezart our office has two floors. Downstairs is an office. When we enter upstairs… that’s where our hands get busy. The Muezart Maker Studio is where a lot happens with our hands. It’s an innovative place. We recently created a solar dryer to dry our hand dyed yarn, roving, and cocoons. We experiment with being environmentally friendly, like improving our packaging or using a rocket stove to save fuel and burn wood economically. You would love visiting us.
Right now, we are excited about experimenting with all the things we can make and use Eri silk fiber and cocoons. These are some of the experiments on our list.
Follow us on Instagram to see them.
Get Inspired And Make With Silk Fiber
All of us know that Silk fiber is used to create silk fabric – a fabric that is admired for its softness, beauty and durability. But,
Did you know that silk cocoons are good for the skin? That they can arrest ageing related changes?
Did you know that silk fiber is a good source for your needle felting projects?
Have you tried making paper with silk – not something you can write on, but use for artwork or to embellish your clothing?
Here’s 2 New Ones You May Not Know:
Spin yarn directly from silk cocoon cakes.
- Spin yarn from and silk hankies without a spindle and use that for knitting or weaving. Want to know more?
We Have Curated 6 Uses of Silk Fiber and Cocoons That You May Want to Try Your Hand At.
How to make Silk Paper using silk fiber.
How to use silk cocoons as an anti-ageing scrub.
How to make silk yarn from silk hankies.
How to needle felt with silk fiber.
How to make silk yarn from cocoon hankies.
- How to spin yarn directly from a silk cocoon cakes.
Before we tell you more about the DIY projects with silk fiber, let us recap.
What is Silk Fiber?
Silk fiber is a natural fiber produced by silkworms when they reach a stage where they spin a cocoon around themselves to hibernate and metamorphose as moths.
The cocoon is the first stage of the silk fiber – the first look we get at something that will become silk fiber and silk yarn. The silk fiber is the material the cocoons are made up of.
Mulberry silk fiber is from a variety of silkworm called Bombyx Mori and forms 90% of all commercial silk. This silk is processed in large scale. In Mulberry silk production the silkworms are killed before they turn into a moths, by boiling the cocoons in water, with life inside it.
Eri silk fiber is from a variety of silkworm called Samia Ricini. The Eri silk fiber sold by Muezart is totally processed by hand, by village women who depend on this cottage industry for supplemental income. Eri silk fiber is much sought after by conscious, ‘slow fashion’ designers.
The cocoons are processed for silk after the moth flys out, or after the caterpillar is removed.
Where Does The Silk Fiber Come From?
Little yuck! Silk fiber is the saliva of the silkworm. It is a wonder of nature. The silkworms become caterpillars, which processes the food they eat (mulberry silkworms eat mulberry leaves and Eri silkworms eat castor leaves) and generate yards of uniform fiber that they exude from their mouths. They use this fiber to build a place for themselves to hibernate in, till they transform into moths. These special ‘houses’ are called cocoons.
Silkworm is the world’s best weaver! Using self-generated material, using the energy it has gained within its short life span, using a divine given skill, it weaves a beautiful cocoon.
What is The Chemical Composition of Silk Fiber?
Just as it is for wool and cotton fibers, silk fiber too consists of protein. Two proteins to be exact – fibroin (the central part of the fiber) and sericin (the sticky material which is the outer layer of the silk fiber). Fibroin is insoluble in hot water, while sericin is soluble. Fibroin forms 75% of the protein content.
Here are interesting 5 things you can do with silk fiber and silk cocoons.
Make Silk Paper
Silk is by nature a soft-feel fiber, which turns into a soft-feel fabric. Silk fiber can be used to make silk paper. In a way the silk paper will be more like a fabric than what you may consider paper. We have curated for you two ways of making silk paper.
Isobel Hall - how to make handmade paper with silk
This is a video uploaded on YouTube in 2012 by a British textile artist. She gives simple instructions on how to make silk paper using plain silk fiber. All you need is degummed, flattened silk cocoons, baking parchment paper, an iron, and a water sprayer. If the cocoon you buy has not been degummed then you can follow these simple instructions.
- Remove the short fibers clinging to the outside of the cocoons
- Remove any skin from the larva stage – these will be inside the cocoons.
- Boil water with a good amount of soap – use natural soap and not a detergent. Simmer the liquid with the cocoons for half an hour.
- Rinse in water to which a little vinegar is added
- Squeeze out and let it dry. Once it dries you should be able to pull the fibers out. If this is not happening, then you need to repeat the degumming process.
The plain vanilla silk paper made with silk fiber can be colored the way you want and used as the base for painting or made into a bag or as a cover for a book etc. Check it out for yourself.
Here is another way you can make silk paper. Follow the step by step instructions in Erica Spinks’ blog post. The artist uses silk tops. Remember you can start with any silk fiber – even plain Eri silk fiber and dye them using natural dye as we do in Muezart.
Or, you can use the plain Eri silk fiber, or cocoon too, and follow this method of making silk paper. You can then use good quality fabric paint to color the silk paper piece by mixing and matching colors. Eri silk fiber will absorb the colors very well.
When you use the cocoon remember to pull and stretch the fibre in the cocoon to create thin layers. BTW, our cocoons are pre-washed, ie. De-gummed.
This artist uses a few more material than what you see in the earlier method of making silk paper. You will see the artist, Erica, mentioning ‘Tulle’. It is nothing but a netting material like what you see in the image below.
Stretched cocoons that are pre-washed, ie. De-gummed.
Ways You Can Use Silk Paper:
There are innumerable ways in which you can use silk paper – for three-dimensional sculpture, jewellery, book covering, collage, quilting etc. You can even make a creative patch and tack it on to your favorite cushion cover, a stole or a dress.
2. Use Silk Cocoons for a Beauty Treatment – Rub on Your Face and Bring on a Glow
Frances shares with us her experiment using silk cocoons to improve the texture of her skin on her face and how it worked! In fact, a dermatologist and a cosmetic specialist confirm to her that sericin that gives cocoons their stickiness is a rich protein full of amino acids and has healing properties.
It looks like this beauty tip was known to the Chinese and Japanese for centuries. What made women make the connection between silk cocoons and youthful skin was when it was noticed that the hands of women extracting silk from cocoons were smoother, with fewer wrinkles.
Here Frances is holding up mulberry cocoons but the same effect can be got from eri silk cocoons too.
Read her blog to know more.
3. How to Make Yarn From Our Cocoon Silk Cakes?
Knitted swatch from our Eri silk fibers
No need for anything more.
The cocoon silk cakes are de-gummed, softened, Eri silk cocoons stretched in a square frame. Multiple cocoon sheets are then layered and dried as one unit and sold as cocoon cakes. These silky layers of fine fiber can be peeled off and you can hand spin a yarn from them that you can use to weave or knit with.
You can get any weight yarn directly from a de-gummed cocoon too. You can then dye the yarn to the color you like using natural dyeing method.
We got 1.60-1.80 yards (approx) yards of yarn from a single layer of silk cocoon sheets, which will be from one cocoon!
Length of the cocoon cake fibers
Eri silk fibers are strong fibers
Note how the hand spun yarn is being used directly to crochet. Silk yarn is very strong and smooth.
Here's a close up of our knitted swatches
4. How to Use Silk Fiber for Needle Felting
Needle felting is a fun art which can yield creative results. The popular fiber that is used for felting is wool. You can get the same result using silk fiber too. In fact other than wool, the best fiber for needle felting is silk.
Eri silk tops long roving fiber
First let us start with the basics:
If you are new to needle felting – not to worry. Read on as we walk you through the basics.
You will need:
- Felting needles
- Wool or Silk fiber or both and a fabric on which you will felt
- A foam pad to keep below the fabric or surface on which you will be felting – to create space for the needle to move in and out of the fabric and the fiber you would have placed on it, without breaking its tip.
- The fourth ingredient is your creativity! Bring dollops of it.
For embroidery you thread the fibre into a needle and work on a fabric. For needle felting you place the fibre on the fabric and stab along the fibre repeatedly with a special needle. This movement meshes the fibre and the fabric.
Try experimenting with the different silk fabric to needle felt on and try different fibres too. The results will amaze you. Here is an idea – Take a fabric cuff (that you wear around your wrist) and needle felt a design with silk fibre. It will be a fashion statement. Or you can needle felt a shape like a heart and tack it on to your dress.
Here are some resources on needle felting that we have curated for you:
- Needle Felting Gives Us All the Feels: Easy Tips and Tricks for Beginners
- Here is a video which shows you how to make some basic shapes like a heart. It also shows you what the needles look like. This video is a good needle felting 101 for beginners.
- Here is one more blog post which is informative. Needle Felting Without Wool
- If you have tried your hands at needle felting then you will find this inspiring. How an image can be transferred, and needle felted.
- How to make silk yarn from Cocoons using only your hands. Check this out: Silk Spinning for Lazy People
Quotes from this blog post says:
“The photos don't do it justice, but the rough spun yarn has lovely gloss to it and what's nice about this technique is that there's very little waste.”
“The Different silkworms will produce different amounts of silk. The cocoons of the samia ricini have produced yarns varying from a yard to three yards.”
You can create such pieces and stitch them together for a stole.
We hope some of these ideas inspired you to use Eri silk fiber or cocoons for an art project or as an embellishment for your apparel.
Do you have any questions or suggestions? Please contact us.
Maybe you are a silk fiber artist? If yes, do share a sample of your work and send a note on what inspired you to create it and we will post it on our blog.