Thursday, May 24, 2012

Shhhhh...They're Sleeping

The silkies have all spun their little cocoons and are snoozing away, growing into moths.  Vegans: Stop reading now!

Most of them won't make it all the way, as I intend to harvest their silk before too long.   I'm okay with that.  Frankly, I think I worked harder than they did.  I gathered leaves each day - sometimes twice when they were the most voracious. I cleaned their trays regularly, adding silk worm manure to the composter & some directly into the garden.  Watching them get ready and then look for a place to spin was fascinating.  I really liked them, even when they got kind of big and creepy-looking.  Since this is my first effort at silk raising, I had a couple of good sources - Cassie Dixon, whose class I took at the Friends & Fiberworks Winter Retreat (she's teaching again this summer, and I highly recommend her class) and a website,

I was prepared that they would stop eating and look around, then crawl around as though they were looking to get away from their siblings to find a quiet, cozy place to tuck in and spin.  I provided a nice mix of toilet paper and paper towel tubes, rolled up paper towels and paper bags.  The paper bags were the easiest.  When one of the silkies was on the prowl, I dropped it into a bag and turned the top over once.  No staples or even a mere paper clip required.  They just aren't that interested in getting out.  They just settle in, spin a little hammock and then a cocoon.  Kind of cute.  Plus, the acoustics are right so you can hear them spin.  The tubes you see here allow the worms to travel a while to try and get it just right.  Hence a bit of worm doo visible in the webs, as well as the little guy on the right who's not yet fully committed. 

I have about 12 days to do the dirty deed that decides whether they lay eggs for next year or harvest the silk.  Watch this space.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Munch, munch, munch

So spin some silk already! A month ago yesterday, the silk worms hatched out of their tiny eggs and each day since then I have gathered mulberry leaves from a tree a few blocks from my house. As they have gotten larger, they eat more and more and more.  They are now quite large as you can see in this picture.  I've been posting pics every few days on my Facebook page (, so you can see their progress.

Any time now - hopefully when I get home from work - they will start spinning their little cocoons of silk.  One actually started yesterday.  I noticed him (or her) moving his (or her) head in a figure 8 pattern and there was actual silk coming out.  So I put the little guy in a paper bag and turned the top down.  I checked later and there was a good bit of spun silk. I could even hear it.  A nice change from the sound of about a hundred worms chewing.  

In other news at the world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers, I have been dyeing fiber for the Carolina Fiber Fest in Raleigh on May 18-20th.  You'll find my fiber at Friends and Fiberworks booth.  There will be  grab bags as well as a healthy amount of hand dyed roving for spinning and feltmaking.  I won't be there.  I'll be back in Asheville, holding down the fort at the shop.  This is a great show for your non-fibery friends as it's at the state fairgrounds and there is other agriculture stuff going on.  Take a look at their website - It makes me want to be there!

But no travel for me.  I have silkworms to feed and provide places to spin cocoons!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Kids Are Alright

Raising silkworms is a tough job, but it seems that I rather like doing it.  More than half way into their life cycle of about a month, the silkies have eating lots of mulberry leaves, shedding their outgrown skin and definitely getting bigger.  Here they were on Friday morning:

]Here they are today:

 The white ones are getting ready to shed their skins. The striped ones have already shed and they eat a LOT more.


Their appetites increase along with their size, so I gather more leaves each day.

Last weekend I went to the John C. Campbell Folk School for a English Country Dance weekend and took the little guys with me.  (It was really fun, but that's another story.)  Their home at that time was a recycled envelope box, which I placed inside a copier paper box.  They stayed in my room (luckily I did not have a roommate to negotiate with), but had to accompany me on Sunday as we had to get out of our housing by 9 am, but the event wasn't over until 1 pm.  I couldn't leave them in the car, but a copier paper box stashed under a bench doesn't seem to freak people out too much.  Some people did think I was a little bit crazy, but other folks were fascinated.