Promoting traditional textile crafts across Dorset
On a sunny day in the middle of June five intrepid members of the CoA group set off for deepest Dartmoor for a silk workshop with Jane Deane. Jane grows (rears?) a certain amount of her own silk, both wild or tussah and Bombyx (cultivated or mulberry).
When we arrived, following a very welcome cup of tea, Jane told us about the silk worms that she rears herself, and explained that all the silk that we are able to get our hands on to spin over here is waste from the main silk spinning and weaving industry, and where all the various forms of silk come from within the process, from tops to carrier rods.
Jane had a case containing an oak branch and feasting upon them, two huge silk moth caterpillars. We learned that “wild silk” is still cultivated but that the moths are different species and are often allowed to emerge, breaking the one thread spun by the caterpillar. The lovely creamy colour is a result of the tannins in the moths’ oak leaf diet. Jane also had cases containing mounted specimens of the various wild silk moths – I had no idea there were so many – with their cocoons showing the many and various types.
We learned about the spinning of the cocoon and the length (up to 1 km) and strength (stronger weight for weight than steel) of the silk fibre, and then Jane produced samples of various types of silk for us to try spinning. We started with hankies, and then broke for lunch and a trip around the farm where Jane has her workshop to see the “Glamping” tents and the Wensleydale sheep.
After lunch we progressed to other forms of silk including noil and cocoons, spinning the noil from carded rolags and the cocoons direct from the pulled off end of the silk.
We had a lovely day, we all learnt something, and the weather was perfect. What more could you ask?
Newsletter Editor’s note – we’ve raised Tussah Silk Moths – they eat an astonishing amount of hawthorn & oak leaves and end up about the same size as your thumb, with little freckly faces. Exactly like the Caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland…