Silkworms lesson #3. Soften

Silkworms are the real deal in soft creatures. Radically soft. Very very tender. And they become exceptionally soft in their peak moments of transitions, when shedding the tight skin, or especially when turned into a chrysalis inside the cocoon.

Softening can take many forms. In this workshop session, we will explore becoming softer as the practice of degumming the cocoons. Degumming is a process to separate the sericin (a glue-like protein) that holds the fibroin (the silk thread) in place, forming the cocoon. Degumming unlinks the fibers, altering the carcass and transforming the protective silk-made containers that hold the caterpillars-pupa-moth into something else.

We will yield to the softened cocoons and engage our sensory experience in the making of ‘hankies’ (silky tissues emerging from softening and expanding the cocoons). Letting their renewed softness to engage in dialogue with our gesture and tactile senses, becoming a bit softer ourselves.

De-centering humanness might feel messy, yet, in order to continue existing together on this planet, we need to find other relational configurations. We don’t know them yet. Silkworms teach us to soften and to become unstuck, so we let these new configurations emerge. Which sticky substances are not useful to us anymore? What do we need to get unstuck from to yield into more spacious, softer, forms?

Degumming Protocol: 

  1. Clean the extra silk from the cocoons.
  2. Put cocoons in a cotton bag.
  3. Get water to boil and add soap (I use Quilt Soap).
  4. Sink the bag with cocoons into a simmer for 40 mins to an hour.
  5. Rinse the cocoons. 
  6. Prepare a bucket with water you can comfortably work with, and add a few cocoons (avoid grabbing too many, as the silk threads tend to get entangled!).
  7. Get your structures ready (the ones we made in the last session)
  8. Gently grab one cocoon at a time and pull the fibers so it lands on the structures. 
boiling… I add some weight so the cocoons remain all submerged

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