Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Spinning Milk Silk aka Milk Protein Fiber

Got Milk? No, not that great cookie-dunking drink, but milk protein fiber! New to hand spinners is a manufactured fiber made from milk. It is a lovely, soft fiber that takes color beautifully. I love dyeing this fiber because the colors turn out like jewels. I call my line of hand painted milk protein fibers, Milk Silk. Here are a few pictures of the colorways I have dyed so far. You may click on an image for more information.

Spinning Milk Silk

For my first 100% Milk Silk project, I chose to spin the "Calypso" colorway. I needed to make something special for my guild's exchange and I thought a lace shawl made from brightly painted Milk Silk would be fun to make.

I began by spinning from the end of the dyed top, but found that the fiber clumped up in my hands. I then tried spinning from the fold and found that this spinning technique worked well. Not only did the fibers cling together better while being spun, but I was able to more fully control the color changes of the painted top.

Milk Silk is a somewhat slippery fiber to spin. I found that if I loosened my spinning wheel's tension so that the draw-in was as light as possible, it kept the fibers from slipping out of my hands before they were spun.

I wanted the colors to stay clear and bright, just like the painted top. I also wanted this yarn to be a laceweight two-ply. So, I divided my top lengthwise and spun each length separately. When plying, I made sure to line up the colors so that turquoise plied with turquoise, copper with copper, etc. Occasionally, the colors overlapped each other for a short distance when one color changed to another, but for the most part the colors lined up well.

I learned that Milk Silk needs quite a bit of twist in order to hold the slippery fibers together, but, if it has too much twist, the yarn will snap. It took a little practice to determine the optimum twist for this yarn, but once established, spinning went quickly and smoothly--Very smoothly!

The yarn turned out beautifully. It had an unbelievably soft hand and also a nice weight that I hoped would create a shawl with good drape. Click here to see pictures of the completed shawl.
I recommend Milk Silk to those who are comfortable spinning wool and who are ready for the challenge of more exotic fibers. I found this easier to spin than silk, yet trickier than most other protein fibers. I would say a spinner with moderate ability will enjoy spinning Milk Silk.


mad angel said...

Wow, I just cruised in here from Phat Fiber on yahoo. The shawl and yarn all look fab! Awesome job!

Paula from Mad Angel Creations

mad angel said...

Oops! I actually came in from Our Bamboo. Not enough caffeine in the system for me to have brain yet. LOL.

A. Hiscock said...

Oh my gosh, these are just gorgeous! I love the gentle sheen milk has. Can't wait to get good enough with wool before I try working with it.

vickyjustme said...

that is awsome!! gives me the push to try it myself!! was wondering did it leave any residue of any kind or did it spin clean?