One of my favorite preparations of silk is mawata, or silk hankies. Mawata are made by stretching silk cocoons over a frame one at a time, layer by later, until you have a solid fiber preparation from which to spin, knit, or felt with.
You will need:
- silk cocoons
- a square frame
- a large pot
- 1 gallon water
- 4oz washing soda
- 4oz grated soap (like Dove)
For this fiber preparation, it does not matter if your cocoons have been cut open and the pupae removed or if you still have a critter inside. If the cocoons are whole, you’ll have to remove the pupae as you go along, which may or may not impact your “ick factor.”
Remove the Sericin
The first step is to remove the sericin, the protein which acts as a glue that holds the silk threads together. Disolve washing soda and grated soap in your water over medium heat. Add your cocoons and simmer for an hour.
Rinse Your Silk
Once the cocoons are soft, but haven’t fully lost their form, remove them from the heat and rinse with hot water to remove the remaining sericin, washing soda, and soap. Be careful, the cocoons will be hot and sometimes contain hot water that has seeped in.
Stretch Your Silk
At this point, if you used whole cocoons, gently stretch the cocoons open to remove the pupae. This is not always a pleasant part of the process, but necessary if you purchased whole cocoons. One at a time stretch your cocoons open, pulling gently from the edges. Continue to stretch the silk into a flat disk, then stretch it over your frame.
A frame with a nail in each corner works remarkably well, but I’ve also stretched mawata over the top of a 9×9″ cake pan in a pinch. It doesn’t even have to be a rectangular shape, as long as you can stretch and layer the silk and it stays in place.
Finish Your Mawata
Once you’ve done one cocoon, repeat with the rest. How many cocoons? As many as your frame will hold. Then allow your mawata to dry overnight. Once dry, you can remove your mawata and you’re ready to spin or dye!
Check out some of the mawata we have listed in the Etsy shop!