Today we made our first attempt to unravel some silk from our silkworm cocoons.
It looked a bit complicated on all of the websites I browsed for information so I decided that we’d just give it a go as best as we could and see how it went.
We selected 3 cocoons – rather than the ten that I read that it requires to make one usable strand of silk.
Before dumping them into boiling water I decided to have an ounce of compassion for them and ‘put them to sleep’ in the freezer first…at least I hope it worked that way. If not..well it was the thought that counted.
While we waited for their humane death we gathered our ‘tools’ – the kettle, a bowl that we would be easily able to see the silk against, a reel to wind the silk onto that would spin easily and a toothbrush to help gently find the end of the silk (thanks for the donation Hubby…hehehe).
Once the pupas were hopefully ‘out to it’, we dropped them into the boiling water to dissolve the ‘glue’ that holds the silk cocoon together.
We let the cocoons sit for a while to do their thing…yes there is a faint aroma of dead wet bugs but we lived through it.
We popped a lid over our cocoons to more effectively hold them under the water.
The trickiest part of the operation was finding the proper end of the silk thread. I pulled away some of the fuzz around the cocoons and then used the toothbrush to delicately brush the cocoons looking for strands to gently tug on.
We had many false starts. We’d get them to unravel a short way and then they would snag or we’d find several pieces and not know which to try. We were looking for the strand that, when you held it with the cocoon dangling, the cocoon would start to unravel.
Eventually we found strands that worked and started winding them onto our reel.
We found we also had to replace our cooled water with more boiling water to help the cocoons unravel nicely for us.
Ordinarily you’d wind all the threads together in one strand but for our purposes we were just happy to get the cocoons unravelling and silk on our reel.
Now I should warn you. Silk thread has been measured at 1.7 km long. Doesn’t sound like all that much UNTIL you are the person left unwinding the cocoons. I had a captive audience for the beginning but was then deserted once the real work began. I stood and unravelled, I relocated and sat and unravelled, and I got a passerby to turn on a homeschool audio for me and I listened to it ALL while unravelling.
Finally an end was in sight and none too soon let me tell you!
Then a cocoon broke apart and a molted skin appeared and a pupa slipped out of the end of its cocoon.
Just a little more winding and all three cocoons were unravelled. Phew!
After ALL of that work here is the fruits of our…I mean MY labour…beautiful silky silk made right here at home.
Look how much there is. Pretty isn’t it.
What will we do with it?
Oh nothing. We’re happy just admiring it.
Now to await the arrival of our moths.