African Wild Silk- from cocoon to fabric

If you have been following my blog in the last few days you will have read about Africa’s best kept secret .

Yesterday we looked at the role of silk in the Malagasy culture

In today’s thread we will look at how the cocoons are transformed into a usable fabric, it is an involved if not fascinating process.

When Silk worm cocoons are collected in the tapia forest, the Landibe eggs are subjected to various  treatments, before there are turned into usable thread.

The first stage involves the soaking of the cocoons in water and are turned upside down using a simple metal tool.

This treatment increases their volume four or five-fold, and they are then dried in the sun. When dry, they are boiled in soapy water for an hour and a half, and are kept in a container or cooking pot for about four days.

After this fermentation, the silk material is produced, which is cleaned with soap and dried. It is beaten with a stick to make it suppler. After drying, the wild silk is ready to be spun. As in the past, spinners in Manandriana use traditional weaving equipment.

After the thread is formed, women remove the gum in it by boiling it in soapy water for about a quarter of an hour and then leaving it to soak for half a day. The thread is then rinsed and dried in the shade.

Weavers in Madagascar traditionally use brown thread, dyed naturally, to make burial shrouds. However, faced with evolution in silk products on the market, women are diversifying to produce a range of fabrics and scarves in a wide range of natural colours.

They use a mix of domesticated silk and wild silk, experimenting with different weaving techniques and natural dyes. About twenty plants are used to make the different colours, which can come from different parts of the plant: their leaves, stems, bark, and roots. Various colours, such as red, green, brown, yellow, grey, black, are produced depending on local knowledge and practices.

The women of Manandriana  still use simple tools, old wooden looms, during weaving and various weaving  groups in Amoron’i Mania are benefiting from essential technical and material assistance from NY TANINTSIKA’s project.

For a selection of handwoven wild silk scarves from the project please visit our online shop

I hope you have enjoyed learning about African wild silk and as usual if you have any views please share them

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