Archive for the ‘Silkworms’ Category

Winter is coming

November 6, 2014

Yes, it’s coming and that change is also something to look forward to. My persimmons predict snow with their spoon shaped centers. I can’t wait to see if this is really possible. You never know.

split "kaki" seeds

split “kaki” seeds

In the meantime however, I’m relishing this season and thoroughly enjoying my current class at Pullen Arts Center. They (my students) are continuing in their explorations in stitch and do seem engaged.

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After a week between each session they are ready to dye their projects from the previous week.

5-3734A 7-7481A

After that, “we” look at some new or at least different ideas or challenges for the week ahead.  This week we looked at arashi (not stitching, but could be combined with), and variations in boshi.  So coming up, after a week off for Veteran’s Day, we’ll resume for our last class.


Chidori or Plover motif – another fall image.

One of our discussions at the end of class was the next workshop. At that moment it was already listed in the new January – April Leisure Ledger – top of p.22.  I’ve since updated my “Upcoming Workshops” Page as well.


雪花・Sekka shibori

The topic, apart from shibori & indigo, will be winter and its crystalline manifestations. So, the question is, will we have that white stuff for inspiration or not?  The kaki spirits have been consulted.  We’ll see.



July 5, 2010

White Asiatic Lily

We are apparently in midsummer, but I feel like I’m just beginning the season. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out exactly what my summer goals are, even though I’ve been planning for it since last fall. When the time comes, I don’t know what to do with it. I’m in limbo even though, actually, I’ve been productive – at least making or “playing”.

Triangle explorations – itajime

I really want to feel the season:  the heat and humidity, rest & refreshment (after the school year), the insect sounds, garden colors and and the time to soak  fabric in dye, then hang them on the line outdoors. It’s what I’ve been looking forward to all year. Then, it takes so long to approach it.

Pole beans & fried green tomatoes

Along the way, though, has been the pleasure of good food from the farmer’s market &  produce box which arrives each week.  The aromas and colors of these farm fresh vegetables are dizzying.   I’ve been introduced to new vegetables, recipes and tastes.  It’s been fun and summer’s just beginning.  There has also been a little added mystery.

It’s a frustrating mystery, but at this point, I’m starting to take it in stride.   It’s nature and it’s all that can be said.  The silkworm project keeps “shrinking.” I’m not sure why. Last year I had no problems raising them.  I might have lost one in the process.  All I did was feed, clean their living quarters regularly and watch them.  It was so simple.   This year I can’t seem to do it and I’m puzzled.  I’ve tried several times over with different batches and they all die after a point.  Last week, I lost over half of my final batch for the summer leaving me with about a dozen.  Today I have about 9 healthy worms.  I wonder if it’s the environment.  I’ve wondered lots of things and don’t really have an answer.  It seems it isn’t the year for it and in that, there is something to learn and appreciate – the wonder and mystery of the silkworm.


May 21, 2010


Originally uploaded by SOFennell

Sometimes things just don’t work out, but it doesn’t mean I’m giving up, not by a long shot. These little guys didn’t survive for some reason. Something made them sick and I have no idea what. Up until now, they were eating voraciously and growing at what seemed a good rate.  I don’t know if it was the leaves or perhaps the room temperature that affected them.  It was cooler than I expected on my return home (from my Missoula trip) and I didn’t pay attention to that aspect of things.

I do have another group of eggs started from week ago, though and brought another bunch out of the ‘fridge today, just to be safe. I’m not giving up, but it does make me wonder and want to learn more about these little creatures.

It also makes me think about the venture in Silk Hope, NC that didn’t work out. Apparently there is no evidence of that industry today.  The only site that I’ve found telling a story about it says that the gentleman grew Mulberry trees, ordered his caterpillars from China, then when they were placed on the leaves, would not eat.

When I read that, I wondered about where and how he learned about the process. It isn’t my approach (not that I’m an expert) and it isn’t how I’ve seen it done in Japan. At any rate, the story is apparently lore and it’s just a thing I think about when raising my own “worms” in North Carolina.

Silkworm hatchling – day 1

April 11, 2010

hatchling – day 1

Originally uploaded by SOFennell

Finally, after waiting for a good 2 weeks a tiny caterpillar has emerged. I was beginning to wonder if it would happen. I’m hoping the rest of the eggs will hatch soon. I’ve got many more if this batch doesn’t work out. It’s good to see though.

The mulberry shrubs began leafing out a good 2 weeks ago, a good indicator as to when to begin this undertaking. Although, I suppose I could have even started before. My concern is always whether or not my food supply will last and will I, in the end, have to forage outside of my yard for more? This year though, I’m seeing even more mulberry sprouts around.

Hankie corner detail

March 7, 2010

Hankie corner detail – 202A

Originally uploaded by SOFennell

I don’t know where it’s going yet, but I had to start somewhere and it’s been waiting for me to work with it. I’ve got several other pieces waiting “in the wings” as well, but I wanted to start with a sample piece just to see how the fibers would respond, or how I would respond to it. So far, I like it.

This particular piece is only 3 thin layers, the product of 3 cocoons (the work/life cycle of 3 caterpillars) – not much really, but I am grateful for their hard work.

My other pieces are 5 to 10 layers thick and will feel more like handmade paper. My approach to those will be different. I also have more cocoons waiting to be processed, and I’ll wait until the weather warms up a bit more before tackling that job.

Workshop Prep

October 20, 2009


Originally uploaded by SOFennell

The last couple of days have been filled with organizing, planning and packing up what I need for only 2 days, but six mini-workshops for 9th graders in a nearby high school.

It’s my first series in this school year, and like being able to start out with my favorite subject matter, aizome shibori. I also enjoy the age group, so it should be an enjoyable experience.

They’ll be introduced to the indigo dye vat working with silk scarves and handkerchiefs. This also gives me an opportunity to introduce the topic of silk production and I’m looking forward to that.

Silkworm Pincushion by Indigo Night Owl

July 4, 2009

Silkworm Pincushion 001

Originally uploaded by IndigoNightOwl

I’m sure there are many things that can be done with silkworm pupae, but this does take the cake! They’re good protein (for snacking), excellent in compost, but this is a refreshing, playful and imaginative take on them. Maybe it’s a little ghoulish…I can’t decide, but I like it.

The silkie moths & their eggs

July 2, 2009

Laying eggs 1

Originally uploaded by SOFennell

I have to hand it to the Chinese, Japanese and other cultures who have it all figured out, so that it’s a neater and more manageable process. I’d like to improve on it but that will take some time. In the meantime, things are really, finally coming to a close for the season.

Most of the eggs have been laid and it seems as though most of them have also been fertilized (they are the dark ones). They were a light yellow then went to a blue. Some are still in that transitional state. So, I’m finally collecting them for refrigeration and starting to clean up the mess. I hope to have it all tidied up over the weekend, as I’m traveling to Florida for a family visit in the very near future.

A silkworm haiku by Issa:

mura naka ni kigen toraruru kaiko kana

the whole village
pays them court…

Brewing Silk soup & Making Hankies

June 25, 2009


Originally uploaded by SOFennell

Following the instructions on Wormspit, Beth and I plunged into the next step in our explorations with raising silkworms.

The morning began with making silk soup (with the proper ingredients including cocoons) and then opening up each cocoon (after removing the pupa skin or shell) and pulling it out and attaching it to a stretcher.

The hankies were layered up to about 10 sheets or less, then rinsed in a vinegar and water solution, then in Milsoft. They were then removed from the frame, squeezed out on paper toweling and hung on the line to dry.

Altogether, we opened 70-80 cocoons with the results being about 8 silk pieces. I have roughly 50 cocoons waiting to hatch and if I were to repeat what I did today, I would have 5 small silk textile pieces to work with. Thank you silkies, for your hard work. Gokurosama deshita!

Simply Irresistible

June 23, 2009


Originally uploaded by SOFennell

It happened a little earlier than expected and what I even determined in the “wrong” box…but here he or she is…newly hatched. Another cocoon nearby was moving actively. I suppose there could be another tomorrow.

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