Recycled sari silk is a colorful fiber that is collected from the mills that produce saris and made into fiber, roving, and yarn for fiber artists to enjoy. It can be spun alone or combined with other fibers. What I find most enjoyable about working with it is COLOR!
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I’ve had the joy of experimenting with some recycled sari silk roving provided by Paradise Fibers, a local yarn and fiber shop located in Spokane, WA. I don’t live in Spokane, and I have never visited, but Paradise Fibers has a very user-friendly website and an active virtual community of crafters via their group and forum threads on Ravelry. I hope someday I will get to visit in person!
I wanted to show various ways that you can work with recycled sari silk. First off, if you are not a spinner, but would like to work with this fiber you can purchase recycled sari silk yarn from Paradise Fibers here.
For the spinners, you can spin recycled sari silk roving all by itself! It has a very short staple length, so it needs quite a bit of twist to keep it together. I used a multicolored roving that I received in one of the Fiber of the Month Club packages from Paradise Fibers a few years ago for the sample below.
I spun the roving on my Ashford Traveller double drive spinning wheel into the singles you see in the smaller skein. Then I wound that into a center-pull ball and plied from both ends to make a two-ply DK weight yarn. I knit this on US size 5 [3.75 mm] needles into the swatch you see on the right. The yarn didn’t seem all that soft, but the swatch is very soft and lightweight! It would make a delightful sweater, scarf, cowl, or shawl! I suggest you zoom in on the picture of the swatch and take in the color included in this yarn! It’s beautiful!
Next I wanted to try different methods of combining the sari silk with another base fiber to add pops of color to a neutral. I’d call it a tweed, but my additions of silk were a little too large to make a tweed effect. The base fiber I selected for this project was natural colored Blue-Faced Leicester, available from Paradise Fibers.
I tried combining the BFL and silk in five different ways and made a small sample of each to see which I liked best. I hope that at the end of this post you will leave me a comment about which result you like best!
Each of the yarns made in these blending experiments was Z-spun into singles on my Ashford Traveller double drive spinning wheel, wound into a center-pull ball, and plied S from both ends. Each yarn is about DK weight. Last, I knit a swatch on US 8 [5 mm] needles.
The first thing I tried was to combine the fibers using wool combs. I have a nice set of wool combs that I bought from Paradise Fibers. You can see them here. I just did one set of blending passes. What I found right away was that the short, dense silk fibers did not work well with wool combs. They tended to get stuck in the tips or in between the tines.
What I ended up with was top that was mostly white and some clumps of short wool fibers combined with most of the silk. I spun all of this. The clumps were more like spinning from “cloud.” This resulted in a yarn that had most of the color concentrated at one end, but it turned out alright because I plied from both ends of a center-pull ball so that the white end was plied with the colorful end. The colors of silk got blended together a lot with this method.
I was happy with how the yarn and swatch turned out, but if I do this over again, this won’t be my go-to method because of the short fibers and clumping.
Next I decided to see if my results would be any different if I used one comb more like a hackle, just loading the fiber on and pulling it off without any blending passes. Because I don’t have a hackle, I didn’t use one in this set of experiments.
With this method the BFL pulled off the comb much more easily than the silk, so it still didn’t blend nicely. It took effort to make the silk come off with the BFL and it came off in large clumps. This resulted in more “white space” in my yarn and swatch than I wanted and it kept the colors more pure, less muddied. It also meant that the silk didn’t get blended much with the wool in the yarn, they were in separate sections spun with their ends connected, if that makes sense. I liked it, but this still wasn’t my favorite method.
Next I decided to try my handcards. I have classic Ashford Handcards. If I had it to do over again, I would have loaded less fiber on the handcards at one time, and I would have decreased the silk to wool ratio. The way that I did it, my yarn and swatch wound up with a LOT of silk in them. This is fine, but it wasn’t what I was going for. I hand-rolled the rolags off my handcards, which made them fluffy and messy, but it worked. It turned out to be pretty, colorful, and soft. This is actually my husband’s favorite swatch.
The next blending tool I tried was my Ashford blending board. I really enjoy my blending board. It is a really fun tool to use and I’ve made a lot of beautiful yarn with it! I was pretty happy with the results of the blending board. I think if I did it again I’d add slightly more silk to each load of fiber, but not much. I used the dowels to pull off rolags that were neat and pretty. Then I spun, plied, and knitted it into a pretty swatch that was just about what I was going for. I just needed to find a way to get more silk into the BFL that was hanging off the bottom of the board. That wound up leaving me with a big white patch in my swatch.
The last technique I tried actually turned out to be my favorite. It required the least amount of prep work too. For this last experiment I didn’t use any blending tools. I just held the wool and silk together as I drafted to combine them. I rotated colors of silk in a repeating pattern, holding the silk and wool together for just a bit and then spinning the BFL on it’s own in between bits of color. This kept the colors of silk from blending together, but it did a really nice job of blending the silk with the BFL. I was so happy with how this yarn turned out and spent a ridiculous amount of time just admiring its bright, happy pops of color. Because of how long my sections of silk drafting were, and the size of my swatch, I wound up making a striping yarn. It wasn’t really what I intended, but I like it. The only drawback to this method, IMO, is the stop and start while drafting because you have to stop momentarily each time you pick up or put down the piece of silk roving with which you are working.
I would really love to know your thoughts on my experiments! I’m dying to know which you like best! Which method do you think you would use? What would you have done differently? What blending tools do you love?
Please share your thoughts below, and happy spinning!