Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Smith and Ewe dyeing Mawata silk hankies

 I thought I would show you how I dye Mawata silk hankies.

Each hankie is a single Bombyx mori cocoon attenuated (spread out) into a large square; they are piled one on top of the other after attenuating, onto a frame in the shape of a square - these are easy to spin or knit, and can also be used in textile arts such as papermaking and felting.

The original name, mawata, comes from Japanese, and means "to spread around." This form of silk was originally used as padding inside winter kimonos and other garments, as well as being spun into yarn.

The hankies come in a bundle, and I then separate them into smaller bundles. I aim for about 15 grams per bundle (don't ask me how many hankies that is because they are so fine, I can't count them out).

 Into my square plastic bin (from the dollar store), I add about 1 teaspoon of citric acid crystals, and then hot water (about 1/3 of the bin full), give it a swirl to make sure the citric acid has dissolved.

I then place each bundle of Mawata in the warm-to-hot acid/water, and gently push it down to make sure the entire bundle is under water. If you use cold water, it makes this part a lot more difficult. Leave the silk in the acid/water for at least 1/2 hour or more.
 Now I am getting the dyes ready. Using the condiment squeeze bottles from the dollar store (gotta love that store), I add a pinch of dye powder to the bottle, and fill with hot water. Shake well to make sure all the dye has dissolved.
 After I have drained the acid/water out of the square bin, I am ready to apply the dye. This batch was dyed with fuchsia and turquoise. You can see how I applied the dye.
 After the dye has been placed, and using rubber-gloved hands, squish the dye into the silk by pushing and mushing. Don't move it around, just squish.
 Then flip the silk over. You can see that the dye did not penetrate right through the hankies. Apply more dye to the other side and squish some more. Through trial and error, I have chosen to use only about 15 grams of Mawata at a time, finding that too much and I had trouble getting the dye to penetrate, even after flipping and re-applying.
 Now I have a piece of plastic wrap and I place the squished dyed Mawata bundle on it, and roll like a jelly roll.
At this point, you will be able to squeeze out most of the water as you are rolling the dyed silk.
Here are 4 bundles of Mawata ready to go into the microwave oven. I put the bin with the silk bundles on High for 4 minutes, and after the oven stops, leave the silk for 10 more minutes.

I put warm water in the sink and gently unrolled a bundle of Mawata into it. As you can see, there is no dye leaving the silk - it has entirely exhausted into the fibre.
And the final step - the hankies are put out in the sun to dry. If you are interested in purchasing these, go to my Etsy store, www.smithandewe.etsy.com for many more colour combinations, or just e-mail me after making your choice, smithandewe@gmail.com.