Silk Hankies

I finally finished Mawata gradient. I do believe I accomplished the goal of spinning them thick this time. They are, of course, rather thick and thin but not thin like the ones I spun and plied ages ago on the wheel. I left them as singles in order to make sure I had as much yarn as possible out of them. 120 yards. They are very soft and shiny and no, I have no clue what I’ll do with them.


The other day, Sparkeespud had posted some silk hankie spinning and I ended up getting a little verbose on her blog. Thus, I decided that perhaps that deserved a place of its own on my blog:

“I just wanted to say a word about spinning silk. Silk hankie spinning is very very different from silk spinning. With silk hankies, all the little fibers are in disarray in the hankie and they kind of cling to each other, making it a pretty easy spinning experience. That is why I use it to teach spindle spinning, as it gives the idea of drafting before you get to the hard stuff.

However, when spinning silk roving (or top, or sliver) all the silk fibers are aligned perfectly and that stuff is very slick and slippery. It acts differently than silk hankies.

Then again, I always say that there is no particular fiber that is hard to spin, just different preferences among people. So, try it all and decide for yourself what you enjoy spinning, don’t say “That’s too hard, I should save that for later.” When I was a new spinner, I found silk blends the easiest to spin. Merino/silk, BFL/Silk, if it had silk in it, I could spin it finer, faster, and more even than anything else I encountered.

If you enjoy the silk hankies and are searching for more, they are also often listed under their technical name, mawata. Silk caps (or bells) is another prep you can look for, as it also gives a similar grabby silk experience.

And finally, if you are having trouble with the silk sticking to your hands, make a brown sugar scrub out of brown sugar and olive oil, exfoliate, wash your hands, put lotion on them, and then spin. This helps immensely.”

That being said, I am getting the impression that most people think that silk hankies are not for beginners. I beg to differ. In fact, in teaching my friend Marja how to spin, they were the second fiber I had her try, the first being Kauni pre yarn. Because the drafting happens prior to spinning, they give the new spinner the opportunity to learn to draft without having to handle the spindle at the same time. They were also one of the first things I was told to try if I was going to try a spindle. I am quite curious, for the spinners out there, were you told silk hankies were something to try early on, or something to avoid?

6 thoughts on “Silk Hankies

  1. What a gorgeous color! I wasn’t told anything one way or another in regards to hankies. I had to teach myself, so there hasn’t been much advice yet. After reading your post, though, I may try this out! I’m still fairly new, and yeah, that drafting and managing a spindle at the same time can be tricky.

    I’ve seen the silk caps around lately. How are they to work with?

    • Silk caps are really the same thing as hankies. Different looking prep, but same process for spinning. Just peel a layer off, draft, then spin.

      I also like silk hankie spinning for beginners because joins are so easy. Making a proper join with fiber can be a complicated and distressing process for a new spinner. With silk hankies, they just naturally stick to each other so a simple overlap in fiber makes the join without any stress.

  2. Thanks for the shout out! You know my thoughts on silk hankies. I didn’t find them to be difficult at all and have quite enjoyed them.

  3. Even though I was a self taught spinner, I have read/heard the idea of not using silk hankies when starting out. I wonder is it has to do with the misconception you mentioned above, and/or maybe sometimes because of the price? I know that for me, price was a large part of my fiber purchasing decision, maybe because I felt that until I could spin better I didn’t want to spend tons of money on the nice stuff. As I develop as a spinner, I am realizing that the quality of the material matters so much more, but I am also getting better as a spinner, which helps justify the cost? Okay long comment over, just meant that yes I have heard of not using the hankies as a beginner.

    • I wonder if things have changed that much since 2007 as well. Different thoughts on spinning processes seem to come in and out of vogue. I’ve noticed that over the past 5-6 yrs and I am guessing it is par for the course. And as usual, you’ve triggered another blog post for me. Clearly your long comments are working for me. Thanks for making me think!

  4. I have to say why I thought hankies would be hard was because I didn’t know the difference between a silk hankie and silk fiber. I thought silk was silk. Kind of like when I began knitting I thought all wool was the same.

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