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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Silk weaving - Part 1

In the small town of Graskop, there is a place where they weave raw silk into all kinds of beautiful items and during Gaelyn's visit here, I asked the people there if I might take pictures of the process to share with you and they agreed. They can be contacted at:
http://www.africasilks.com/

For more information on the silk trade and silkworms, go to:
You will never guess what happened to me today and Silkworm update

Now we have a 'chicken and the eggs' story which came first? Okay, lets start with the eggs which are layed by the moth....

Out of the thousands of eggs laid, the worms breed out. They feed mostly on Mulberry or lettuce leaves.

In a few months, they begin to spin silk cocoons around themselves and there are stunning pictures of it in "Silworm update". There they remain through the winter.......
...... and the moths hatch from that.

Depending on what they are fed, the silk is either yellow or white. The silk shop has their own farm where they breed the worms and gather cocoons by the thousands.
Now here the story splits and I will give you the explination as given to me by Africa Silks...
Fine silk: "With this method a single thread is reeled off the cocoon, which was boiled with the pupae inside, because once the moth exits, the thread will be broken. Using a good quality cocoon this continuous thread can be up to 1,3 km (about half a mile) long. This is the method used for producing the fine silk associated with eastern countries." The method used is all done with expensive machines not available in smaller countried like SA.
Raw/rough silk: "In this method the cocoons are boiled after the moths exit to remove the gum-like substance called Serosin. After drying them off, the silk threads are loose and ready to be spun into threads or stretched into squares for use." This process and its weaveing is done manually or with manual looms. In the picture below, the lady is busy washing the cocoons.
Once washed, they are stretched apart as far as they will go an attached to this aquare wooden frame.
Once enough have been attached to the frame, it is removed and look like this. As you can see, it is kind of lumpy and not the smooth silk one thinks it should be.
Mopani worms are also used and woven by Africa SIlks, the processing of the silk being more labor intensive than the silkworm. The wild Mopani worm does not feed in captivity, therefore the cocoons are harvested from nature. Their cocoons are very hard and nut-like and involve a long process to be washed, brushed and spun into threads, ready for weaving.

Below, a lady takes the sqares of rough silk and spins them into thread.

36 comments:

Kirsty said...

Fascinating! Amazing to see the whole process - so rare in today's mass manufactured world

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

You are right about that Kristy. In the next part I have some pictures of the finished articles. It was very interesting to go and see all this.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Joan: Interesting story and certainly a wonder to behold.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

I used to always have my shoe box of silk worms in the old Rhodesian days when I was at school. Also a couple of large mulberry trees in the garden. The birds loved the latter but what a mess they make! I did not know about Mopani worms making a silk though so that was new to me. Thanks for a great post. Diane. P.S I am having internet problems so if I should disappear for a few days......

Mary said...

This was very interesting. I would love to feel what the fiber and cacoons feel like.

Gaelyn said...

This was such a great place to visit with you and they were very informative. I truly love my silk blouses. Thanks for the BD present.

Sciarada said...

Hi Joan, Elettra is rigth, your site is very interesting, the story of worm's eggs is involving, many compliments

Krista said...

This is so cool Joan! I love that you showed us all the steps. It's like "How It's Made" on the Discovery Channel! lol

re: my blog... I can't seem to find the bug. I am still looking though! I haven't been able to find anybody else who is having a problem. :o( I'm sad that it's giving you grief! Let me know if you want me to add you to my daily newsletter so you can at least still see my pictures. If I hear anything or fix anything I will let you know right away!

JM said...

This is so interesting! I've watched all the process in one of these places in Turkey where they make the silk rugs.

blog with no name said...

I always wondered how silk was made... and now I know! Sweet!
Great shots Joan, your posts I think just keep getting better and better.

Anna said...

Joan, you know to me it is not just work, but art. It is amazing how we can extract from nature. Never really liked silky clothes, but I can appreciate the work. Thanks for sharing, excellent informative post. Anna :)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Tom. It was an interesting couple of hours photographing all of this.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

I had some too Diane and used to do a good trade with them. I think I sold them at about 10 for a penny and that penny bought 4 Wilson toffies or niggerballs. :) I was fascinating to be shown this whole process and the lady was so kind and informative about things. Gaelyn and I had a wonderful time.

I hope your internet problems get sorted out quickly and will miss your friendly comments and posts.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

I think you with your skills, would have loved that shop Mary. The cacoons are pretty hard at this stage and not soft at all due to the saliva of the moths when spinning it.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

You are right Gaelyn, I did find it a most informative couple of house. You are welcome for the BD present, I hope you wore it for that someone special in your life. :)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting Sciarada. I do try to put a lot of interesting things on it so there is something for everyone. :)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

LOL!! Well I doubt that Discovery would hire me but I can always hope so. :) There is more to come on this weaving.

Did you see my message on what I think the problem is? I hope we can sort it out as I love your blog but it damages the computer to be switched off like that everytime as you know. :(

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

How interesting too Jose. I had a Turkish carpet which was so different from the rest in a pale apple green and beigh. One of those they knot. When I went back to the bush I gave it away to someone unfortunately.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks for your kind words Mike. I am pleased to know you are finding some of my posts interesting. The problem is I am interested in so many things and like to share it all.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Anna, you are right, it is an art and these ladies are so skilled. Unfortunately it was a holiday so the weavers themselves were off. I LOVE my silk PJ's. :) It feels so good on the skin.

Jo said...

Amazing, Joan. Thanks for this interesting post. We've been through and in Graskop when we rode our Harley in Mpumulanga and never knew about this industry!

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Jo. It is right in the middle of the town in the side street opposite the hotel so check it out when you are next there.

Rambling Woods said...

I had no idea...I enjoyed this post....Michelle

Vagabonde said...

This is a very interesting post and I learned a lot. I love silk but in our humid and warm climate it can only be worn in winter. I also like that beautiful rose – is it Double Delight? and the explanation about Mother’s Day. We were flying back to Atlanta on Mother’s Day, so it was not so great. Thanks for visiting my blog.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

I am glad you did Michelle. It was all very interesting for me to see as well.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Vagabonde. Silk is not very popular here either because of our heat. Yes it is Double Delight and one of my favorites. I am surprised that you know t so well? :)

Firefly said...

I remember the silkworms we had when I was in primary school. I would live to have a couple of show my kids, but I don't have a mulberry bush. I still have a silk heart as a bookmark in my bible that a friend created with shapes in the box. I can't imagine what a silkworm silk item must cost. $$$$$!!!!

Becky and Gary said...

Oh my, this is a wonderful story. I never knew anything about Silkworms. Have a you ever thought about becoming a teacher. You have so much knowledge!
B.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

They also eat lettuce leaves Jonker and I am sure there must be a tree somewhere with leaves hanging over a fence. Your little boy would especially love some I am sure. Silk is pretty expensive as most of the stuff is imported and you know what we end up paying then.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thank you Becky. I would probably end up in jail as I am not very fond of unruly kids. LOL!! No, it is all part of my natural gift as a guide, I love passing on what little knowledge I have. :) Just yesterday someone was telling me I should write a book. :) Me?? LOL!!

Becky said...

Great story! That is really time consuming work!

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Becky. It is time consuming but believe me they do charge hefty prices for it. :)

Max-e said...

This post brings back many memories of rearing silk worms as a kid. And of course the good old mopani worm. The first time I found one on a farm my folks had just bought in Zimbabwe (it was still Rhodesia back then) I showed it to one one the labourers to try and identify it. Before I could blink and eye, he snatched it from my had, ripped its head off and put it in his pocket and then proceeded to thank me most profusely for the "delicacy". I felt quite cheated.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

LOL!! A lovely story Max and so typical of Africa. :) I cannot remember a time as a child when I did not have silkworms and as any worm was the only thng my mother was terrified of, I had to hide them away from her. :) She did not mind the snakes and baboon spiders which came into the house but many a head of lettuce went flying across the kitchen if she found a worm in it. LOL!! Good old days and lots of wonderful memories.

A human kind of human said...

Aaaw! This post takes me back many years. As a child we all had a shoebox somewhere with silkworms. Once the worms started producing their silk, we would put them on paper cutouts and they would cover the cutout with their silk... it made beautiful bookmarks. I also rember feeding them on beetroot leaves to give the silk a pinkish tinge but I cannot remember if the silk actually did come out pink... to long ago to remember. I would however love to see this place you describe here. It is now on my list of want-to-see places.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

These were good old days hey Anne? We did not have a worry or a care in the world. I remember feeding them beetroot and lettuce leaves. I remember the lettuce let them spin white but for the love of me I cannot remember what colour the beetroot leaves were. :) Much too long ago!! :)