(Note: this is a supplemental tutorial to my previous instructable)
During my last trip to Assam, I finally saw how traditional wet spinning is done. The technique is used primarily by the Bodo tribe of India, though much of the process has now been mechanized. It's a little tricky, but oh so satisfying when you get the hang of it.
There are quite a few instructables on drop spindle spinning. You can refer to any of them for the principles and the physics behind their use. If you are interested in the history and kinetics of drop spindles, this article is a fun read.
Step 1: Get a Spindle... Better Yet, Make a Hobotastic One!
The only extra tool you will need for this method is a spindle.
Don't get or make anything fancy. Use what you have lying around. We will be wet spinning- meaning, that meticulously crafted wooden spindle you ordered from a specialty yarn store would just get wet and damaged.
I made a few from old art brush handles and plastic container lids. They work fine, great even.
ETA: If you feel the need to have a heavier spindle, just stick three even size balls (depending on the weight you want), spaced equally, of blu-tack or any other adhesive putty on the bottom side of the whorl (in this case, the plastic lid). And there you have it, your very own adjustable spindle!
Step 2: Prepping the Cocoons
To start off with, please refer to my previous tutorial, as almost all steps are basically the same, except that you are using an additional tool. I have, however, made a few minor changes in the degumming methodology as I've since learned more from experience. Listed:
1) Allow the cocoons to ret in the lye and baking soda solution. Once you've boiled the cocoons, leave them in the solution for at least a day up to three. This will allow most of the gum to dissolve and the fibers to separate more easily. It will smell like yucky wet rags, but it does make a huge difference.
2) Lift the cocoons from the solution individually and wash out the lye by squeezing a few times under a running faucet. Once clean, you may squeeze all the water out and leave the cocoons out to dry for future use.
3) When you want to spin, place a few of the processed cocoons in a container of water. You are now ready to start spinning!
Step 3: Spin Baby Spin
The principle behind any drop spindle spinning is the same, regardless of if you're using wool or silk. In this case, however, the silk is wet. As previously mentioned, it can be quite tricky and requires a bit of confidence,. Or you can try dry spinning the silk. I will stick to wet spinning as it's part of my tribal heritage and apparently yields better quality yarn. .
Sorry about the video quality (I'll eventually find some time to make a better one), but it should give you an idea of what I'm doing.
Again, refer to my previous instructable at step 4. The steps are the same, except that you don't have to spin with your fingers because the spindle is doing it for you. Your job now is just to ensure that you're pulling down a more or less even amount of fiber to feed into the yarn. Also, keep the cocoon wet as the water helps separate the fibers from sticking to the cocoon.
You can get at least 30 feet of continuous yarn from a single cocoon if you're having a lucky day.
1) Do not do a death grip with the hand holding the cocoons. Your fingers need to be loose enough in order to let the fibers slip down to join the yarn.
2) Don't move too fast. You might feel the urge to keep pulling down the fibers to keep up with the spinning- but just relax and find your own comfortable rhythm.
3) Don't panic. Some times the thread will break because the fibers were weak to start with (some cocoons are just like that), and sometimes for no reason at all. Just shrug and rejoin the thread.
4) Stand up. I find that standing is the best position. I also like walking around a bit. It'll impress your friends.