I did some silk reeling today, Lao style! Last year, I took a silk reeling class with Michael Cook and even though I learned a lot, the experience was a bit overwhelming. I bought a lot of cocoons from Michael but have not done any reeling because the processing seems difficult and I was missing some key equipment.
My friends at the weaving guild knows a master weaver/spinner from Laos at the Phaeng Mai Gallery in Vientiane who is visiting the US for an art festival in New Mexico. Her name is Kongthong and today she taught us how to reel silk using very simple equipment from Laos. To reel silk, you need a croissure and it can be elaborated like the one that Michael uses, or one made out of bamboo and a simple thread spool. The process is still the same. The cocoons (about 30 in a pot) are boiled in hot water (we found the rice cooker has the perfect heat setting), which releases the nearly invisible silk threads and the croissure is used to gather all the threads into one strand and cross it to squeeze out the water. You also need a silk bobbin and/or a winder to spread out the reeled silk so that it doesn’t stick together because of the sericin.