Wednesday, October 19, 2011

North Country Fiber Fair 2011

NCFF this year was fantastic. Despite having the disco light over my booth that kept flickering in and out, we did better than ever! This was my fourth year (wow, time flies!) and not only did we meet more people and sell more goodies, but I actually learned something completely new! And now I have to share.

Have you gotten on the silk hankie bandwagon? Like so many knitting crazes, I'm pretty sure the Yarn Harlot had something to do with the near viral spread of their popularity. (See her really fun mittens here.)

Well, I have a confession. Two actually, but we'll start with the first.

Confession #1:

I'd never heard of silk hankies. Not this kind anyway. Only the kind grandma used to have. But these are totally different. This kind of silk hankie is made from layers of silkworm cocoons spread over a frame. They're also called mawatas. That's Japanese for spread around, or spread out, or an expanded cocoon...or something to that effect depending on who you ask.

First, I saw these hankies being knit up by the lady at the Corny Goodness booth. She showed me how to poke a hole in the center of each hankie and stretch it out until it's the thickness you desire, and then knit with it! (I'll post a tutorial tomorrow.) So, of course, I had to buy a bunch and start knitting with it right away. As in, in my booth. And I had to show every customer that came in my booth how cool it is.

Now, an aside.... silk like this can snag on callouses on your hands. I learned this the hard way. Thankfully, there was a vendor selling lotion right across the aisle from me! Penny from 444 Farm was a sweetheart. She has some great stuff too, so show her some love, k? (I kinda might have bought more than just lotion. I kinda might have bought a bunch. And it's all awesome. Just sayin'.)

Okay, back to it. So I'm grinning like a dork happily knitting up my hankies, when I find out that another vendor is not only selling silkworm kits (so you can raise your own!), but they're demonstrating how these hankies are made. Yay!

Which brings me to....

Confession #2:

I didn't take a single picture at NCFF 2011. *facepalm*

But thankfully, Susan Stark (aka WIHH on Ravelry) took some great pictures and was gracious enough to give me permission to use them here. Thanks, Susan!

So I ran over to Dragon Craft's booth for a little demonstration. Loretta was kind enough to give me the Cliff Notes. First, you soak the cocoon in a warm soapy water to get rid of some of the worm spit.

Then you can snag a bit on one corner of the frame (there's a nail there) and carefully streeeeeetch it out towards the other three corners, like so.

And like so.

After you've stacked 10 or so cocoons on this frame, it's time to take it off. There may be some more processing after this part, but this is as far as we got.

Really nifty though, huh?

Now, Loretta assured me that raising silkworms is both fulfilling and easy. And I believe her!

But I think I'll be buying my hankies. Anyone who knows me, knows that I like doing things from scratch. But knowing it takes hundreds of cocoons to make one small garment? Silk hankies seem cheap compared to the time and effort involved in raising that many silkworms.

And really, we all know that my main interest is in dyeing them all kinds of pretty colors. Who wants to bet that I'll have some available for sale in my shop soon? ;)


pia said...

Yay! I bought a stack of hankies at Maryland Sheep and Wool this spring and haven't touched them yet. I figured it was a good "stuck at home this winter" type project. Looking forward to seeing your tutorial!

Casey said...

No, fail! You need to buy silkworms and bequeath the responsibility to the little jly ladies!