Skein #23 Silk Medium Smooth Yarn (May Be Multiple Ply)

169.5 m 28 g 6050m/kg
7.5 w/cm 19 w/in
Size Determination: Medium

Bombyx mori cocoons

Reason for choice of this sample
Continuous filament is the primary fiber from cultivated silkworms. All other forms of B. mori silk are secondary products from unreelable cocoons or waste.

Treenway Silks — Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada

Preparation for spinning
Sort cocoons for size and soundness, 50 at a time.

Equipment used
Heated basin, hand reel, flyer spinning wheel.

Type of spinning

Direction of Twist

Number of plies


Suggested uses
This yarn is designed for sprang, to demonstrate the effect of twist on the upper and lower fabrics with a yarn that has almost no twist at all. It has not been degummed, and should be additionally sized before using as warp. As both warp and weft it makes a heavy (for silk) fabric, with a hand and sheen unlike commercial "raw" silk fabrics. Use plain weave for the most durable result and degum after weaving. Do not wash yarn or fabrics that have not been degummed and do not degum the yarn alone unless it is to be used as embroidery floss. For a novelty decorating fabric, use raffia or thin wood as weft and do not degum.


Maximum 54 points

Examiner 1: 54
Examiner 2: 54

Although Examiner 1 notes that reeled silk is not technically spinning (I did describe this as "twisting,") this got people's attention. I wasn't sure how it would go over, if it would be interesting because it's novel or panned for being "not spinning." I wanted to do it partly because I could and partly because I never found a bombyx top I was happy with. And I was trying to use more raw fiber. A friend has an antique Japanese reel he let me use at his studio.

I have a feeling the first reaction was along the lines of "I didn't know you could do that!" The plied yarn is the only place I thought I could do a thrown (twisted) silk because I don't have the proper equipment to do a consistent single. (I need one hand to turn the reel and one to guide the thread, leaving none to cast on new cocoons as they fall off or the filament naturally thins.) With ten plies, I was able to vary the direction of each filament to even out the final yarn. It has only enough twist to hold the filaments together for handling. Most ancient silk textiles have no twist at all (indicated by "I" rather than S or Z.)

Reeled silk is unusual for handspinners, I think it's more the dead bug thing than anything else. But the yarn itself is very, very traditional. On that point, the only thing remarkable about it is that it is so large. Traditional silk yarns, of any kind, are rarely this thick.