Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reeling Silk with the Piedmont Reel

Last night Jeff delivered the Piedmont Silk Reel that he made for me. It is based off of a woodcut found in a silkworm rearing manual from the late 1500's. He got the measurements from a later document, since the first woodcut didn't come with any instructions on how to build it.

Here is the woodcut of the Piedmont Reel. It's from "The Perfect Vse of Silk-Wormes: and their benefit." by Olivier De Serres, translated by Nicholas Geffe in 1607.

The legs of the reel come off for easier transport, and it goes together really easily. Here is how it looks all set up.

Here you can see the part of the reel where the silk enters the reel. Below the reel, on the ground, there is a pot of hot water containing the cocoons. Between 14 and 20 filaments from cocoons are gathered together into one silk thread. The silk thread goes through a small copper wire spring, called a drop guide, which ensures that if a cocoon jumps up out of the water it will hit the drop guide and drop back into the water.

After the drop guide the silk thread is placed around two rollers. These help to gather all the filaments together and make the thread more cohesive. After the rollers the thread goes through a guide in the casting arm. The casting arm is attached to a wheel which is turned by twine attached to the bobbin crank. The casting arm moves the silk thread from one side of the bobbin to the other so that wet silk is not laid directly on top of other wet silk. Wet silk will stick to itself and then be impossible to remove from the bobbin.

The bobbin is large, which facilitates the silk drying before more silk thread is laid upon thread that are already there.

The best way to see how the reel works is to see it in action. Here is a video from one angle -


And here's a different angle -


This video shows the drop guide in action. Twice in this video you can see a cocoon that gets pulled up out of the pot of water, hits the drop guide, and drops back into the water. Worked perfectly!


Here is the silk once it was reeled onto the bobbin. It took probably 25 minutes to completely reel the silk from 14 cocoons. Each turn of the bobbin collects 60 feet of silk. I didn't count how many turns of the bobbin we did, but this is what the bobbin looked like when we were done. It was fast and easy, and everything worked out great!

The silk felt very dry on the bobbins, so I didn't bother to re-reel onto another bobbin. I still need to do that and I hope that I haven't made a mistake by allowing the silk to stay on the bobbin. I hope it doesn't stick to itself. That wouldn't be good!

It's a fantastic system and it's amazing that they came up with such a great machine in the 1500's. I love my reel. Thanks Jeff! :)

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At March 23, 2010 12:28 PM , Blogger buckpony said...

Oh my gosh! That is awesome! How did you get into spinning silk? What are you going to make with it?

At March 23, 2010 6:48 PM , Blogger Serena said...

I got into reelling and working with silk because I raise the silkworms. I'm more a bug person than a fiber arts person! I'm going to dye and braid the silk and make a small braid suitable as a small purse string. :)

At April 2, 2010 8:26 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

how much and would he make another one

At April 3, 2010 10:47 AM , Blogger Serena said...

I asked him if he would, and he said he might. He'd have to think about a price. Are you interested in one?


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