Focus on Fiber: Silk

By Caissa "Cami" McClinton – 6 Comments

Silk is a warm and luxurious fiber. It’s fabulous for making crocheted garments and accessories. Undyed silk ranges in color from a bright white to a honey brown color. Because it takes dye well, silk can be found for sale in many bold and vibrant colors. It’s possible to crochet in pure silk, but perhaps more common to find yarns for purchase that are a silk blend. I love silk’s softness and shine. It’s a bonus that silk is also a very strong fiber.

Silk fiber is animal-based, and like many fibers used for crocheting, it can be harvested humanely. The main source of silk fiber is the silkworm’s cocoon. The fiber the silkworm creates to form its cocoon is made of one continuous and smooth thread called a filament. If the pupa inside is not allowed to escape during the harvesting of the silkworm’s cocoon, the pupa inside dies. Sometimes harvesters kill the pupa in order to preserve the continuity of the valuable filament. Typically, however, this continuous filament is woven into fabric. Crocheters would use spun silk, which is made of shorter fibers that need not be continuous.

Crocheting with slippery silk can be a worthy challenge. Although it has some stretch, it’s not a springy yarn, so opt for silk blends if you need something with more bounce. If you choose to crochet with it, you’ll notice silk’s fabulous drape and beautiful shine, but it can have a tendency to snag, so be careful. Using a bamboo or wooden hook might help reduce the slipping. Paying close attention while inserting and pulling through loops might help the splitting.

One interesting source of silk yarn is the Indian sari. Saris are beautiful and often brightly colored garments worn by women on the Indian subcontinent. Sari silk has been reclaimed and spun into yarn or wound into balls for fiber crafting. If you’re lucky enough to find a skein of recycled sari silk, grab it for a beautiful and fun fiber experience. Soon I’ll blog about my own experience crocheting with sari silk!

Have you ever crocheted with silk? Would you like to crochet with silk? Please share your experiences, questions, and musings in the comments below! I love hearing from you!

Reference: The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes

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  1. Merry says:

    I love anything in silk, it’s such a fabulous material – so strong and delicate at the same. Do you have any suggestions for what to crochet using silk yarn?

  2. gatyamgal says:

    I have been raising silkworms off and on for over 8 years. It takes a LOT of cocoons to make silk. I let my emerge as white moths and work with the “spent” cocoons… boiling them and pulling on the fiber and making it into a thread. I have been drop spindling threads together to make a “yarn” but not in large quantities and just for my own use. I am anxious to see what you have crocheted with silk.
    There are a few places that do let the moth emerge from the cocoon, but in the majority of the silk making process The only thing SURE thing to keep the moths from “escaping” is to freeze or boil the cocoon… while the pulpas are still alive.

    I am not a radical against the process but it is something to think about.

    • Thanks so much for your valuable perspective. I read about the ways that silk can be produced, and I know what you are trying to say. It must be fascinating to raise silk in that manner and create the material for your own use!

      From what I read, the animals are killed to keep the cocoon thread continuous, and those prime unbroken threads are woven into fabric for garments. Any broken (waste) threads are spun into yarn. Therefore, it wouldn’t be *necessary* to kill the animal to make silk yarn for crocheting, but that doesn’t mean that all silk yarn has been harvested humanely.

      I agree, it is something to think about. A consumer would need to know *how* the silk is harvested to know if it is humane.

  3. Paula says:

    I love anything Silk, it is so lovely to work with. Work look so professional and beautifully finished off. My mothers maiden name is Silk, so it is bound to make an impact on my life and I am happy it has with my crochet and knitting. Crochet is my favourite, I taught myself 2 years ago, I am left handed, so it was a challenge, and I am improving all the time.

  4. Jocelyne Denault says:

    For those who are worried about the the worms or about the planet, I suggest using reclaimed sari silk like the one offered on line by Darn Good yarn. Their trade is based on helping women in India and Nepal and reclaiming silk that would other wise be waisted. Good option, don’t youy think?

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