Oct 31, 2009

They're Alive!

It's a dark and rainy Saturday morning, happy Halloween. You never know what kind of trick-or-treating weather the little ones are going to endure up here in northern Wisconsin. Again this year it looks like the kids will be going out dressed up as warm winter coats.

As for me, I'm so out-of-the-loop I thought Halloween was tomorrow. My big plans for today were to make a bunch of tatting mistakes and then try to untangle them. But first I wanted to peek in on my lovely, white cocoons. That's when I noticed a rusty red syrup in the corner of the box and something flitting about. CAN IT BE?

(Just look at the tiny fuzzy fluff on this character.)
Yes! They're alive! At least one is anyway. This little moth is all alone and perched atop another cocoon. I'm wondering, does the little moth know that this particular cocoon is the next to spring to life? Once transformed they only live for 5 days or so during which time all that they do is procreate and lay eggs. Kind of a bummer to be the first and only one out.

It is also kind of a bummer to think of more rusty colored syrup goo to come as the remaining 99 hatchlings complete the transformation. I figured as much and now I know: Allowing the cocoons to hatch definitely adds a good bit of extra work to the silk harvesting process. These guys are really going to make me earn those silk noils. Still, I must admit this is the most exciting part of the process. It's quite an amazing change that takes place. What crazy goings on in these little silken capsules!

Oct 30, 2009


That's going to be my new swear word.

So, while we're still waiting for those silkworms to awaken from their cocoon comas. (Hasn't it been too long? It feels like it's been too long. The cocoons aren't even moving or kicking or giving me any signs of promise...)

Anyway, time on my hands to do something really stupid. I spun up a couple of hobby store craft fluffs and loaded the resulting yarn onto a tatting shuttle.

Now,  I have about 14 hours of total tatting experience under my belt. I'm at that initial stage in the learning curve where one paces around mumbling, "crummy lighting" while trying to undo crazy-tight miniature doll house sized knots. And yet, already I can say with confidence that if ever I am called upon to teach or demonstrate tatting it will not be with a craft fluff.

The above front sample is about 2 craft fuffs worth of "jingle lace".

Let me simply say that if you are interested in tatting go ahead and splurge on some real cotton. Might as well get 100%  super-combed and gas-singed Egyptian cotton (the Corinthian leather of the cotton boll world). I am halfway serious. It's really nice stuff! Here's a good resource. (Fast shipping and friendly extras.)

So, If I can't yet watch beautiful silkworms flutter forth into the final stage of the silkworm cycle, which should be any day now unless all 100 of them said, "ShUTtLe FLuFf! I just can't be bothered with coming outta here."...while I'm waiting I'll just make fluttery insects out of my tatting motif mistakes:

Butterfly Boo Boo
(I could create an entire entemology display of motif mistakes.)

Oct 22, 2009

Quiet Respite for the Good, Little Silkworms

Well, we're all snuggled up and tucked in now. The little silkworms have completed their spinning stage. I have exactly 100 cocoons!

Left: After having chosen a favorite paper roll  in which to spin, these little silkworms are in the process of building their cocoons. Right: The lovely, white cocoons once the outer fuzz is removed. These characters should be hatching forth in the days ahead.

Except for one lone wolf who appears to have a tremendous appetite and little interest in the handy-dandy toilet paper rolls that are so conveniently beside him!

I do think he's a smart lad because, as I took this photo - with the evil intent of making fun of him on this blog and saying mean things like, "Looks like you're just going to be a worm for life!" -  he gave me this pose...

,,,where he's making a little poo.

O.K. Think of me what you will for even playing at this entire experiment but I say,  "Glass Houses to you."
If you think I'm odd I understand. It's like I'm forcing everybody to give too much thought to where milk comes from. Besides, you know you love silk, which very interestingly  happens to rhyme with milk. (Coincidence? I think not.)

Aw, aren't they just as white as they can be?

And, now we wait.

I love waiting. I love waiting, and weekends with cold snaps of crisp, wintery weather when everybody says, "Time to hunker down and make soup!" And I say, "Time to persue something fiddley!"

So, while we're waiting for the great silkworm transformation, and for somebody to make soup,  I'm going to try my hand at what initially might appear to be something fiddley but, which  in all actuality is a fantastically aerobic workout for the fingers. (No, the new running shoes haven't gotten much use as of yet but, you have to admit from the first picture above I've certainly made excellent use of the shoe box.)

For your intermission amusement I'm going to create lace out of little, cottony craft puffs merrily tinkling with jingle bell embellishments for the festive holiday season ahead. And, I'm going to use only the items in the below photograph:

Above: plastic Aero tatting shuttle, pale yellow craft fluffs, little, tin jingle bells, small coin spindle.

First, using the coin spindle I shall twist the "fluffs" into fine, tight thread. (So far it's a bit like a crazy car chase isn't it?)

I'll then load the shuttle bobbin and commence to tatting (and cussing because it's fiddley and I only just obtained my first-ever shuttle last Saturday so I'm still knotting up a bit, though I do get the overall concept, which is half the battle...right?)

And why speak further? It simply goes without saying that these are indeed, most exciting times for The TREADLER.

Oct 11, 2009

UPDATE: Silkworms Are Spinning!

Ah, where does the time go? This has been a weekend for those last, fond farewells as the little babies are growing up and heading off to enjoy the next phase of life.

Here's a bird's eye view (through a paper towel roll) as one of the little characters spins a silken knook for itself. I haven't captured it here but, in the proper light I can see the silkworm working away inside as it spins layer upon layer of lustrous cocoon. Much like children, and I know I'm getting weird here, each silkworm seems to be developing at its own pace. Some are spinning away and others are still rather small and slow to mature.

It's all good though for certainly there is no rush to be made through this life. My mother had 5 children and we each learned to walk, talk, make our individual strides at different ages. She always said, "Who cares about the "when". Nobody walks down the isle on their wedding day in a diaper." No pressure, no drama, no rush to grow up. And, so it is with the silkworms. They each will do their own thing in their own time.

As for the character pictured above, there shall be a two week respite for this one before any new action is to occur from this dormant cocoon. Then there will be a final bursting forth, a new emergence and after that I shall claim that discarded silken capsule for my handspinning and knitting adventures! Oh joy!

An aside: What the heck? I've decided I want to tat and cannot find a simple tatting shuttle anywhere across this town or the next one over! (It's a modern world when the only way you can obtain a tatting shuttle or an old fashioned washboard is online.)

Oct 5, 2009

Another Free Cotton Cloth Knitting Pattern: Evergreen of the North Woods

Here's a fun cotton cloth design that knits up quickly and has a bit of a Northwoods theme:

For ease in reading I have spread the row-by-row instructions over two pages. To Print: Click on each instruction page individually to enlarge. Then print the enlarged picture. If you have any difficulty simply email me and I'll happily send you a PDF version. My email address is at the top of the right column of this web log. I am working to post jpeg picture instructions that print clearly for everyone so don't feel badly about emailing me. I'd like to know if you're having a problem and I am unable to upload PDF patterns here.

For those following the silkworm adventures the little rascals are getting bigger and cuter! I look forward to a week from now when some of them should be close to spinning cocoons. When they spin silk they crawl into a cozy knook (paper towel roll or egg carton) and begin throwing lustrous silk about as they repeat a figure 8 pattern with their little heads. I look forward to seeing all of the snowy white cocoons.

I do not intend to reel the cocoons as is traditional practice. I want to see the entire cycle and will be watching the feathery moths burst forth. They are snowy white, beautiful and only live for about 5 days. The moths are born with no mouths and, although they have brilliantly white wings they cannot fly. Their sole activity is to mate and lay tiny, tiny eggs that I will store in petri dishes and then place in refrigeration to simulate a dormant winter season.  (I've promised the guild I'd share silkworm eggs with those interested in pursuing this sort of adventure.)

The silk noil that remains after the moths have emerged I will gently simmer, dye lovely colors, dry and then card those shiny fibers into woolen blends for hand spinning. The goal is to photograph this tedious adventure all along the way so, stop back by won't you?  (And, witness the madness.)