Photos from an interesting article at Wormspit, delineating how to make silk from the cocoons of silkmoths (in this case, Polyphemus). Above is a bowl of empty cocoons from which the moth has emerged. They do so by dissolving a hole in the end (for commercial mass production the moths are - unfortunately - killed before they emerge, so that the resultant silk strands are unbroken and longer).
The photoessay at the link shows a number of stages for cleaning the cocoons of adherent leaves and debris. The next step is the stovetop -
- where the cocoons are cooked to remove the "gum" the larva uses to make the silk strands stick together. When this process is complete, one is left with a mass of tangled fibers, which can be untangled more easily after fabric softener is applied.
The "untangling" is probably the most difficult part. As with many other fibers, the process involved is carding:
More intermediate steps at the link, then after the carding comes the spinning -
- described at the link as follows:
The short bits and noils are caught in the teeth of the carder. I card these together with the shorter fibers to make a very light rolag. This spins up into a much lumpier, but still usable, yarn... I made just a couple of quick samples with the silk. On the left is the fine yarn - about a 2/50's or so. The combed fibers are easy to use to spin a very fine, even shiny yarn. On the right is the noil yarn, made from the rolag.Fascinating, and some new words for me to look up - but not today, because I'm in a hurry to get outdoors on a glorious spring day.