THE RAW MATERIALS
Silk thread scraps left over from the making of Silk Indian Saris (traditional clothing in India) are purchased from small mills in India.
PREPARING THE SILK
The skeins of silk threads (called Fiber - literally the individual filaments of silk) are separated by color, unwrapped and laid out. Contrary to the name "recycled silk yarn", the raw materials are all new remnants left over from making saris - not used saris! While it might seem straightforward and simple to separate the various colors and qualities of silk, it can be quite tedious. Various qualities of silk (both wild and domestic), natural and synthetic dyes used and gauge of the silk has to be taken into consideration.
The skeins of silk are cut into even strips then arranged by color so that the finished yarn will have a complex set of colors. The fibers are then carded (brushed smooth and straight).
MIXING THE SILK
The various shanks of silk are mixed by hand, a long process that ensures that the colored silk fibers are evenly mixed. The length and quality of the fiber determines its texture, strength and overall quality. Superior quality recycled silk yarn is made from longer fibers - producing yarn that is smoother, stronger and more elastic. Cheaper recycled silk yarns containing shorter or a mixture of fiber lengths are softer, fuzzier and less strong. One of our best spinners is Jun Maya, pictured to the left.
TEASING THE SILK
Once the silk strands have been mixed, the raw material is hand teased by repeatedly picking and pulling at the strands. This part of the process is key to making the yarn be fun and original and yet well mixed and having the fibers aligned so the yarn will be strong. The longer the teasing process, the better quality and tighter the gauge of the yarn.
SPINNING THE YARN USING A DROP SPINDLE
The actual process of making the fibers into yarn is done the same way it has been done for centuries: by hand using a drop spindle or charka.
This stage of the recycled silk yarn is where skill really comes into play. The more skilled the spinner, the tighter, more consistent and the higher the quality of the yarn produced. The photos to the left show one of our spinners creating the silk yarn using a drop spindle. Holding the teased fiber in her left hand, she skillfully creates a consistent yarn.
Note that immediately above the spindle and below her hand is the "drafting zone" or "drafting triangle". This is the area where many of the factors that affect the yarn is determined. If this triangle has more fibers in it, the yarn will be thicker, if it has fewer fibers, the yarn will be thinner. The yarn is formed when fibers enter the drafting zone and are caught by the twist that is coming up the yarn from the rotating spindle.
NOT ALL RECYCLED YARNS ARE ALIKE: We carry several grades of recycled yarn: Most are 100% silk, unless otherwise noted. However, many other sellers online actually sell lower-grade yarns that have 30% or less silk (and some that contain no silk whatsoever!) and are made up of mostly rayon, nylon or cotton fibers. We no longer offer balls - only skeins, as we've found that the consistency of skeins is better (sometimes balls would have high quality yarn on the outside and lower quality on the inside!!) We GUARANTEE the quality and content of our yarns.
MAKING THE SKEINS
After spinning the yarn, it must be made into skeins. Typically this is not done by the same artist who spun the yarn but other women working in Kathmandu, Nepal. After consistent lengths or more commonly weights of yarn are measured, the yarn is skeined. Some women use tools called niddy-noddies, the backs of chairs or as in the photo to the left, their toes, knees and or arms! The yarn is tied to keep it from tangling then it is twisted and then bagged.
Consistency in the quality of the yarn is very important. There are several grades of this wonderful recycled silk yarn from finest Lhasa (100% handpicked, best quality) to mixed yarns.