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Try a New Silk Prep: Kim McKenna’s Tussie Mussie

Struggling with silk slivers? Add this easy technique to your spinner’s toolbox.

Kate Larson Nov 23, 2022 - 3 min read

Try a New Silk Prep: Kim McKenna’s Tussie Mussie Primary Image

Kim McKenna created a technique to add loft to her silk fiber preparation. Photos by Matt Graves

Kim McKenna loves eri silk sliver, and she began exploring additional methods to adjust this dense, perfectly tidy fiber prep for different spinning techniques. She developed a clever technique for loosening and realigning the long silk staple to increase spinning control and loft. Let me introduce you to the tussie mussie.

What first caught my attention when Kim shared this technique is that the handling method she uses here for fine, luxurious silk is so similar to that of another long, dense, no-crimp fiber: flax. Tussie mussies are like tiny dressed distaffs, and the principle is the same. By creating several loosened layers of fibers before pulling them into an organized shape, the fibers can more easily move past one another during drafting. Brilliant.

Kim uses this preparation to add loft and consistency to her silk yarns. This skein with medium ply twist would be perfect for knitting or as woven weft.

When Would I Use This Method?

My go-to methods for spinning silk have typically been spinning directly from the end of the sliver or spinning from the fold. After experimenting with tussie mussies a bit, I found that the extra preparation time was well worth the investment when spinning yarns and threads that needed to be precise. In my own work, high-twist, two-ply silk handspun for stitching is one place that I strive for consistency from one inch to the next. Two- or three-ply high-twist silk for bandweaving is another.

Kim details her method in a feature article in Spin Off Winter 2023, but it’s also helpful to see the process in action. So, we recorded a short video to demonstrate Kim’s method, and we’ve included a PDF of her full article for reference. Current Spin Off magazine subscribers can log in below to access both resources.

I hope you give this method a try and see how it works for you!

— Kate

Kate Larson is the editor of Spin Off and spends as many hours as life allows in the barn with her beloved flock of Border Leicesters.

Tussie Mussie Video Demonstration + Article PDF

Here’s editor Kate Larson showing Kim’s tussie-mussie method:

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