One of the best things about being a textile artist is discovering unusual things that can be stitched and sewn, and incorporated into mixed media art in creative ways. Silk cocoons and silk carrier rods are definitely some of those unusual things.
The cocoon is the metamorphosis home of the silkworm and is spun in one continuous thread almost a mile long. Cocoons vary in size from about 3/4″ to 1.1/4″ and most of them are an oval shape. Silk carrier rods are the by-product of reeling silk from the cocoon. As the silk filament is unraveled from the cocoon into skein form, some of the filaments get wound around the machinery. This silk, with the sericin (natural gum) still in it, is then slit and removed.
Because they are made from 100% silk, cocoons and carrier rods are very strong but they can also be easily cut, dyed, painted and sewn.
This is what they look like in their natural state.
And this is what they look like after hand-dyeing.
They can also be dyed using multiple colors which makes them far more interesting I think, and this technique is explained during my Assemblage Hand-Dyeing Online Workshop. You can find more information about the workshop here.
One of my favorite uses for silk cocoons and carrier rods is to use them as embellishments.
They can be stitched and sewn or even glued, and can be incorporated into mixed media art in any number of ways.
One of my favorite uses for silk carrier rods is to use them to make silk paper. Although there are various ways to make silk paper, you can find an easy method here.
And one of my favorite uses for silk cocoons is to use them as caps when I make small tassel embellishments.
To begin, simply cut one end of the cocoon to shape using a small pair of sharp scissors, then the edges can be easily stitched and hand-embroidered using decorative hand embroidery thread.
When making mini-tassels I like to make the tassels out of bead dangles and lengths of decorative fibers. (You can find a tutorial for making bead dangles here.) But attaching them directly to the cocoon is quite difficult. The easiest way to manage the strings of beads is to first sew them all to a small piece of felt.
Once all the bead strings are attached, gently push the felt up inside the cocoon and secure with a few hand stitches. Finish off with a few stop beads threaded onto the outside of the cocoon.
This little beaded tassel is so cute and is now ready to use! Simply stitch it to your sewing or mixed media project.