Caroline, who writes Spinning Down Under, wrote me a comment on yesterday's post about Soy silk that is too good not to get it's own post. I don't want you to miss this...Caroline really knows her way around fibers. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!
If I can add to those instructions a bit? Tops, whether wool, silk, soy, or anything else, are made up of fibres usually of a consistent length, and whatever you make will be stronger and more durable if you work with that length.
To find out how long the fibre length is hold a piece of stripped top about the thickness of a little finger between your hands about 6 inches apart and gently tug. If the tops come apart in half, take one half and gently tug those, and that should give you your fibre length. Any shorter than that and you will have problems, but check anyway by once again tugging the length in half. Once you have the fibre length established, you know how much overlap you need to keep your piece structurally sound., even if you are "glueing" it together with acrylic medium.
If you can take a whole piece of top and easily pull it in half crossways, without stripping it to finger width first, you probably have extremely short fibres, best suited for wet felting. If, on the other hand, you find you have to start your hands wider apart to pull the strip of top in half, you have a lovely long fibre that is perfect for projects like this and can get a good overlap of fibres where you have to thin them out and lay them in pieces.
This is especially important as tops are often made from fibres that are not suitable for commercial spinning because they are not the right length to go through the machines, and with silk it can also be the tangled remains of a silk cocoon that has had to be hand cut apart. Obviously some fibre suppliers are better than others, but it pays to start with good quality tops.
Its also worth noting that some dyes can burn and weaken the fibres, and its not always visible.
Also, when buying them, if the shop assistant takes to the tops with scissors to cut you a length, shop elsewhere, because you are going to get extra short and useless fibres at both ends! Always pull tops apart by hand.
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