Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Silkies


About three months ago a friend gave me a margarine container with some tiny silk worms in it, little did I know what was in store for me. We have a mulberry tree in our back yard and that was fine for the first couple of weeks. After a while it was getting difficult to find enough leaves to keep the hoards satisfied. I started with them in a shoe box but it wasn't long before I had to split them up and in the end I had four boxes and was having to visit a local park where there was a giant mulberry tree hanging over the fence. I will continue the story in the photo captions.

Early days
Getting bigger
I tried some in our mulberry tree and they chewed their way through
lots of leaves and fed the local bird population.
Getting bigger and eating lots more.
I could hear them munching every time I went near the boxes.
The first cocoon being formed.
More cocoons.
Putting the silk worms to work. I received an email from a friend
who had seen that I had silk worms and reported that
Donna Koretsky had demonstrated silk worms spinning flat
instead of cocoons at the last Friends of Dard Hunter meeting.
I just had to try it!
A bit further progressed with the spinning.
This one is on some handmade paper made from bluebell flower stems,
the Yabbers got these for their Christmas cards.
Because I was collecting lots of mulberry I decided to make
some paper from the inner bark.
This shows me scraping the outer bark off the steamed stems.
The inner bark slips off easily then gets cooked in alkali, washed and hand beaten.
The stems left behind are beautiful!
I tied several stems together to make a boatish shape then
lined it with mulberry paper and had the
silk worms make their magic on it.
Collected cocoons
I made some thread from a bundle of cocoons,
it took me about four hours to get 20 metres of thread.
 I used instructions found on the web here.
It came out all uneven but I do love the colour.
The first moth emerges from a cocoon.
The moths lay their eggs, they make wonderful patterns with the eggs and
with the liquid that they spurt out.
As the eggs mature they turn grey if they have been fertilised.
There are two sheets of paper here the top one has eggs that are older
than in the bottom one, most of them will turn grey too.
Now for the projects.
My books for the Papermakers of Victoria Christmas book swap.
The internal pages are mulberry and they are sewn
with the silk thread that I made.

The text was corny - 'Have a very mulberry Christmas and a silky New Year.'
My boatish piece, it could almost be an insect lying on it's back.
The solid piece of silk was formed on some plastic mesh.

The insect uprighted!
A close up of the silk, it is rather lovely.
A Christmas tree, I dyed some of the cocoons using my paper dyes,
the chain is made from cross sections of cocoons
and the tree is stripped mulberry spray painted white.
A close look at the baubles and chain.
Closer.
I made some flowers from the dyed cocoons.
The flowers could have been better made.
Our Christmas tree, this years theme is gold so the cocoons fit in well and they
stick quite well to the plastic tree.

3 comments:

Velma Bolyard said...

gail, in being nurse to the worms you really had some fun! i love the flat spinning, and the cards! well done.

ronnie said...

ooooo this is so inspiring -- and rather serendipitous --- yesterday I was given a little clutch of silkworm eggs -- I'm waiting to see if they will hatch! oh what fun!

gail stiffe said...

Thanks Velma and Ronnie,
It was lots of fun although very time consuming, you should probably put the eggs in the fridge until spring Ronnie and I'd suggest a back-up mulberry tree!