Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Creating silk paper and other fibre films Intro part 2

There are a wide range of types of silk fibre available to use in silk paper making.
It is important to know the properties of the type of fibre you are getting, because the type of fibre has some bearing on the method you will use to create the paper.

There are nine types of silk fibre which can be purchased;

  1. Tussah silk tops
  2. Mulberry silk tops
  3. collected fibres
  4. Silk hankies
  5. Cocoons
  6. Silk rods
  7. Cocoon strippings
  8. throwster's waste
  9. Sericin fibre
The first five are not usually used on their own to create silk paper by the traditional or water method, because they have little natural glue left on the fibres.  The last four have varying amounts of this glue, called sericin and are the foundation for making paper by the first method.

Here are some pictures and description of these fibres to help you

Tussah silk tops are made by silkworms that are not fed on mulberry leaves.  They are slightly cheaper than mulberry tops and have slightly less sheen.  This might be an advantage if you want a more matte appearance to your paper. Because these fibres have been processed, there is little sericin left on the fibres and they will not bond together tightly on their own.

Mulberry tops, are obviously made from cocoons where the worms have fed on mulberry leaves.  They have an high sheen and are slightly dearer than tussah tops.  Because these fibres have been processed, there is little sericin left on the fibres and they will not bond together tightly on their own.

Collected fibres are silk fibres that you can collect from silk fabrics and from silk threads when sewing.  These fibre have no sericin, but are very useful as inclusions in all methods of silk paper production.

Silk hankies, are basically cocoons which have been stretched out into a flat piece of intermeshed silk fibres. They can be used as a base for silk paper in this stretched out form, but can also be stitched into fibre work as is  or needle felted to a piece to add a fine layer of colour. They are made from degummed coccoons (which is why they can be stretched out in this way), so contain only a little sericin

Cocoons are just that.  The cocoons of the silk worm. Usually they are degummed.  There are two types of cocoon.  The first is the cocoon where the worm has been allowed to emerge from the cocoon.  The worm destroys some of the silk to create a hole to do this.  for our purposes, this method is satisfactory.  As well, it is more humane and eco friendly, because the worms are allowed to emerge and reproduce.
The other method, used in manufacturing, where the cocoons are reeled, or wound as single threads, involves smothering and killing the worms so they do not break the threads as they emerge. I don't think I could purchase these cocoons.
Cocoons are often used just as they are for dimensional work by fibre artists.  They can be processed into hankies and fibres, however, the availability of these other more useful forms makes this process a bit tedious and they are such a beautiful shape and texture as they are.

Silk rods are a very useful, sericin rich fibre.  They can be used in all methods to make silk paper, but can also be used on their own to make dimensional work in fibre art.  They are the fibres which stick to the rods of the machinery during processing and are cut off frequently as the silk is processed.

Cocoon strippings, are just that, the strippings from the silk cocoon before it is processed.  when the silk worm begins it's cocoon spinning, these bits of fibre are the first bits made, to attach itself to a support.  They are not as fine and long as the actual fibres within the cocoon, but are full of sericin, which makes them very useful as a binder in silk paper.

Throwster's waste, is also a by-product of  silk processing, being merely the silk fibres which are cut off the machine when tangles occur.  It can be gummy or degummed, depending on where you get it from.  It is best to check before buying, depending on the method you are using, but you can experiment with it to see if it will bind, and if not, use it in another method or as an inclusion.

Sericin fibre, is fibrous waste which is very rich in sericin, so is very useful for making paper using the traditional water method, but can also be used in more dimensional fibre work due to it's strength and stiffness. 

I hope this extended introduction has given you the information you need to make some silk paper.
The next post will start on the actual making, finally!

Below is a list of the references I have used so far in this series.
If I find any more good ones I will add them to the following posts.  I will also try and give you an idea of which references have which techniques.  (I will use the numbers below, then I'll know who hasn't read these intros, LOL)


  1. Rollerson, Dale. (2011) Silk Paper Making. Thread Studio leaflet.  www.threadstudio.com
  2. Lawrence, Sarah. (2008)  Silk Paper.  North Light Books.
  3. Hedley, Gwen (2010) Drawn to Stitch.  Interweave.
  4. Grey, Maggie and Hall, Isobel (2010) Mixed Media new Studio Techniques.  D4Daisy books.
  5. Holmes, Val (2006) Creative recycling in embroidery. Batsford.
  6. Beck, Jean Raffer. Quilting Arts. 25. pg. 62-68  Textural Surfaces for Stitch.
  7. Hughes, Angie (2007) Quilting Arts. 29.  pg. 50-57.  Textural Book Wraps.
  8. Clasper, Carol. (2007) Silk Paper Making Tutorial.  Downloaded from; http://carolclasper.blogspot.com/2007/09/silk-paper-making-tutorial.html
  9. e-How. How to make silk paper.  Downloaded from http://www.ehow.com/how_2321852_make-silk-paper.html
  10. Spiral Dyed Downunder (2010)  Silk Paper Instructions. http://spiraldyeddownunder.blogspot.com/2010/07/silk-paper-instructions.html 
  11. Meinke,  Debra Olbrantz. Silk Paper Making Instructions. http://www.meinketoy.com/silk_paper_inst.htm
  12. Trenway silks  The Inside out of Silk Fusion. http://www.treenwaysilks.com/inout_fusion.html
  13. Ten Two Studios. (2005)  Making Silk Paper. http://gomakesomething.com/ht/papermaking/silk-paper/ 
  14.  e-ssortment   Learn the origins of silk, and how to make silk paper. 
  15. McCaffery,  Bonnie. Fantasy fabric. Vidcast 02. http://bonniemccaffery.com/VC002.wmv
  16. Miller, Vicki. (2011) Organza, collage and entrapping. http://victoriaedm1.blogspot.com/2011/05/i-have-been-hard-at-work-on-renovations.html
  17. Welsh, Vicki. (2010) Technique of the month – Using bits and pieces. http://threecreativestudios.com/freeprojects/tom/bitsnpieces_TOM.pdf
Of course this list is not exhaustive, it's just what I have got on hand.