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Skill Guide: Working with Silk Hankies

There's more than one way to spin a hankie! We've gathered some expert advice, tips, and projects to inspire your silk spinning.

Spin Off Editorial Staff Apr 11, 2024 - 12 min read

Skill Guide: Working with Silk Hankies Primary Image

Silk hankies shown with the Autumn Forest Scarf by Malynda Allen. Photo by Matt Graves

Chances are you already have a couple of dyed silk hankies tucked away in your stash—perhaps they were too alluring to pass up, even though you weren’t quite sure what to do with them. Silk fiber can be slippery and challenging to spin, but spinning silk hankies or mawata is a whole different experience.

Today’s Skill Guide will give you a solid foundation. As you read, you’ll learn about:

  • Turning silk hankies into roving
  • Spinning hankies using a swift
  • Tips for knitting straight from the hankie
  • A flexible and stretchy sewn bind-off for a knitted silk garment
  • Putting this technique to work with the Wild Water knitted scarf by Amy Tyler
  • Next steps, including a recommended video resource to help you explore further

Every item we’ve selected for this guide is part of your All Access program and will help you get the most out of your subscription. Check out the Spin Off Library and our video course website for more learning opportunities.

A few tips before you start working with silk hankies:

  • Condition your hands with lotion, or you’ll find that the fine silk fibers will stick to cracks and crevices on your hands that you never knew you had.
  • Consider spinning for short periods at a time if you experience cramping in your hands; working with hankies entails drafting against long filaments.
  • Because the filaments are long, drafting can be made easier by increasing the drafting zone. This means that if the fibers are reluctant to slide apart as you draft, try moving your hands farther apart before you pull.

Spin Off editors

Working with Silk Hankies

Adapted from an article by Amanda Berka and Amy Clarke Moore

Silk hankies or mawata are made from silk cocoons that are intact but not suitable for reeling. Any remains of the worm are removed and the cocoon is stretched out and eased over a small wood frame. Each layer in a hankie is composed of one or more cocoons.

How to Turn Silk Hankies into Roving

Photos by Joe Coca

  1. Begin by separating out one translucent, filmy layer from the silk hankie with which to work. If it is too thick, it will be difficult to draft.

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