Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Art Yarn: A flock of flowers

I had been asked “just how did you do that?” in regards to not only turning silk cocoons into flowers but adding them to yarn. Spring is upon us so why not add flowers to your fiber? So, as promised, especially for Mara in Germany, this is exactly how I made the flowers and added them to yarn.

Please, before you start out be sure to check that you will be able to put your silk cocoon flower through your orifice. They are quite forgiving as to being pushed through the orifice and helped over your flyer hooks. As for bobbins? Size does matter. The bigger the better! My pictured sample was produced on an Ashford Joy with Freedom Flyer.

Of course there is no reason why you can’t do this technique with a spindle.

All is not lost if your wheel’s flyer cannot take in the cocoon flowers and you are not a spindler as you can attach your flowers to your finished yarn by securing them with sewing thread. 

 What you need:

  • Whole, undyed silk cocoons Oh, and that rattle you hear? That’s the silkworm.
  • Sharp exacto knife or scissors
  • Toothpicks or bamboo skewers
  • Craft painting brushes. Japanese calligraphy brushes are ideal
  • Silk paints
  • Paper towels
  • Styrofoam block
  • Steamer or double boiler (non-food use only)
  • Rubber gloves
  • Old towel
  • Craft flower stamens
The yarn:
  • Handspun yarn plies. One thick and thin ply is great. The other ply needs to be thin or a commercial thread/fine yarn also is awesome.
  • Tiny crochet hook (0.75mm)

Making the flowers:
1. With a sharp exacto knife or sharp pointy scissors like embroidery scissors, you are going to cut a zigzag opening around the middle of the cocoon. I cocoon makes 2 flowers. [1]For your first one or feeling a little tentative, try drawing your zigzag cut line first with a pencil.  Just a word of warning: this process doesn’t smell so great…just so you know. Once the 2 halves are separated, discard the worm.

2. Setting up to paint, cover your surface well and set out your paints/dyes. I use steam set silk dyes. Poke a skewer or toothpick through the bottom of each cocoon half and stick the other end into the block of styrofoam.

3. Glove up to protect your skin and now you are ready to paint your cocoons.

4. Have fun with your paints then set aside to dry

5. Once dry, set according to silk dye manufacturer’s instructions. What I do is wrap the cocoons separately in [2]paper towel. Line your steamer with an old towel and then place your cocoons on top of the towel. Fold the towel over and close your steamer. Do not use anything you use for food. I picked up a great steamer at a thrift shop I only use for crafts. Once the dye setting process is complete (approx. 20 minutes), you can remove the cocoons and whilst still a little warm and pliable, you can shape the petals.

Now I guess you want to know just how to get them on the yarn, eh?

1.      Your plies are of course your own choice but I will say in order to aesthetically balance the yarn, I recommend one thick or thick/thin ply and the other a thin one. The thin ply is what you will be adding the flowers to as you go. For the pictured example I used a commercial metallic filament.

2.      I add approximately 12 cocoon flowers per 2oz handspun but this  is entirely up to you. I also add it randomly so…..start plying and stop in a [3]thin section of the thick/thin ply when you want to start with your [4]first cocoon.

3.      Insert your crochet hook from the inside of the flower to outside through the hole put in earlier during the painting process.

4.      Catch your thin coordinating ply and pull it through the hole into the inside of the flower.
5.    Insert 2, 3 or how many stamens you want through the loop of the ply you just pulled through.

6.      Fold the stamens in half and pull the ply at the back of the flower firmly. This secures the stamens inside the flower.

7.      Carefully continue to ply, ensuring the back of the cocoon flower is plied in snug. Also observe how it passes through the orifice and flyer hooks and help along as needed. You can continue to ply without fussing over the flowers that are on the bobbin. You will have to pay a little more attention to filling your bobbin as you won’t want your flowers to lie on top of each other in order to get as much yarn onto your bobbin as possible. I haven’t had any problems with any tangling if I let them lie on the bobbin how they go naturally. I don’t wind off onto my niddy noddy perhaps as fast as I would a yarn without add-ons, but these flowers should be securely in place.

So Mara and others, this is how you do it but if you have any questions or get into any trouble with my directions, please do ask. It really is quite easy and opens up oodles of possibilities for adding you your yarn with the same technique. You could always add a bead instead of the stamens or lock all kinds of goodies with a loop in your plying. Please enjoy and I would love for you to share your yarn pictures.



[1] Thanks to Dotty for proof reading and handy hints.
[2] Or you can use tissue paper. There will be some dye transfer to the paper so that the paper makes awesome wrapping paper afterwards.
[3] The flowers ply in more securely on a thin ply than the fluffier thick part of the ply
[4] Keep in mind if you want to use your yarn beyond it being a finished skein for anything that may require a longer leader.


  1. So beautiful!! I will have to experiment soon.

  2. So, so, so gorgeous. Thanks for the tutorial :D

  3. Thank you for sharing.. being a newbie to weaving.. I just love this.. have just purchased a Country Spinner 2 to make art yarn... love this so much thanks

    1. Thankyou so much. I am really glad you like my tutorial.

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