Tips For Spinning Mawata

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I’ve been spinning now for several years and this summer I decided that I was finally up to the challenge of spinning silk. I picked up a few different colors of mawata (silk hankies) and decided to give it a go.

I’ve spun silk in blend loads of times but never by itself and boy-oh-boy was I ever NOT prepared for what silk had in store for me. Silk is unlike anything I have ever worked with before. Normally I’m a cool-as-a-cucumber spinner and fiber doesn’t faze me much. I occasionally come across a fiber that might make me work a little harder to make a consistent yarn but even then it is no big shake … until I met silk. I have never met a fiber which has frustrated and infuriated me so!

Like so many other spinners, I did my research before starting and when spin time came, I felt I had a nice handful of tips and tricks to work with and that I was prepared. Not so! I made such a mess of my first and second mawata that I ended up tossing them on the campfire. ON THE FREAKING CAMPFIRE! The third, I had a bit more success with but that was very minimal. So I decided to put mawata on the back burner for a while and to focus on other things.

Then one night I had a dream about spinning mawata. In the dream I did it easily and effortlessly but I didn’t follow the advice that I had read about. When I woke, I thought, “What do I have to lose?” and tried to copy how it was spun in my dream … and it WORKED! It was still a bit of a struggle but it worked!

  • Peel off the thinnest layer possible from the mawata.  If you have any rough spots on your nails or hands beware!  The silk will catch.
  • I set my wheel on my biggest whorl with a very minimal amount of intake so as to give myself plenty of time to draft.
  • Treadle slower than your usual pace.  This will also allow for more drafting time.
  • I like to start from the inside of one of the corners and I tease out a small amount of fiber.  Attach fiber to fiber.  Silk is far too slippery to attach otherwise.
  • If you are a worsted spinner, you will want to keep your hands quite a bit farther apart than you are used to otherwise it will be a real struggle to draft out the fiber.
  • I like to hold the fibers in a big messy bunch quite loosely in my drafting hand.  This also makes the fiber easier to draft.
  • Spin thin … like, really thin.  I’m sure that you will amaze yourself at just how finely you can spin.
  • Neps happen, especially with mawata.  Normally, I pick every single little bump out of my spinning as I go.  With mawata when I try to remove a nep I almost always make a bigger mess of the strand and/or break it.  It is much easier to ignore the nep and move on .  It will add character to your yarn!
  • Optional, but highly recommended, is listening t o soothing music and/or having a nice glass of wine to relax.  Relaxing makes a huge difference in my ability to spin silk.

If you’re already spinning silk or spin it in a different way, you rock!  For anyone that has tried and is frustrated, I hope that this helps you get started.  There is nothing quite a luxurious and incredible as silk and it is something that every spinner (in my opinion) should be lucky enough to work with from time to time.

Happy spinning all!

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