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 Successful spinning milkweed?
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proverb31
New Pal

25 Posts

Posted - 11/03/2005 :  5:30:15 PM  Show Profile Send proverb31 a Private Message
Just wondering if anyone has had success spinning milkweed?

I recall seeing a sample in SpinOff so I gathered some that I saw along the road the other day. It seems short and very slick like the fibers may not hold together.

Does it require any special processing or spinning techniques? Do you blend it with longer fibers to help bind it together?

It's a lovely, soft fiber.

Thanks for any tips.

Debra

"She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls." Proverbs 31:13-15

kdcrowley
Permanent Resident

USA
4773 Posts

Posted - 11/03/2005 :  5:43:43 PM  Show Profile  Visit kdcrowley's Homepage Send kdcrowley a Private Message
I think that you would spin the bast in the stem, not the fluff....HTH

Kelley

Everywhere you go, there you are! Imagine that....

NaNoWriMo 2005 username: KDCROWLEY
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BessH
Permanent Resident

3095 Posts

Posted - 11/04/2005 :  04:49:33 AM  Show Profile  Visit BessH's Homepage Send BessH a Private Message
The fluff is very brittle - like glass. I don't believe it will hold for clothing or house hold apparel, but as a piece of fiber art you might hang on the wall you could try it.

Bess
http://likethequeen.blogspot.com
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pjkite
Permanent Resident

1198 Posts

Posted - 11/04/2005 :  11:34:04 AM  Show Profile  Visit pjkite's Homepage  Send pjkite a Yahoo! Message Send pjkite a Private Message
Milkweed fluff (as opposed to the fibers from the stems, which are similar to flax) spins in a very similar fashion to down fibers like cashmere - insert lots of twist quickly with no take-up tension or weight. I've gathered it around here and spun small amounts as a curiosity, either with just my fingers or on a supported spindle. The resulting 'yarn' doesn't have any real tensile strength, and the myriad small seeds make it very persnickety spinning. But you can spin it into a strand and even ply it by doubling it back on itself.

Pamela Kite
East Tennessee
http://fiberlife.blogspot.com/

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petiteflower
Chatty Knitter

USA
297 Posts

Posted - 11/04/2005 :  6:44:12 PM  Show Profile Send petiteflower a Private Message
This milkweed topic is one I am myself OH SO KEENLY interested in. I saw a brief reference to spinning it in the book "The Whole Craft of Spinning", as well as bits of info on spinning cattail fluff, cottonwood fluff, dandelion fluff and thistle down. The book recommends carding the milkweed fluff with wool, one third wool and two thirds fluff. All of these types of fluff make a durable yarn when mixed with wool this way. All are hand washable too. The book says that they are not difficult to spin.

Since seeing this reference I started having my eyes on some developing milkweed pods in my friend Walter's yard. I waited to peer into a pod until mid September, the fibers were fully developed even though the pod was still a sea-foam green. It was moist in that pod and when I stripped the seeds out and separated the fluff, the fluff was moist. But it quickly dried and was easily fluffed up into a beautiful cloud of silky soft lustrous delight. A few days later I plucked some nice big milkweed pods at the side of the road and when I got them home I realized that these were in a drier state and it was quite a bit more of a hassle separating seeds from fluff. I determined that separation is easiest and quickest by far when the pods are still a bit green and the fluff is moist in there.

How I do it is I open the pod gently along the seam (there is only one natural seam). I press down on the fibers at the POINTED end of the pod and I use my thumbnail to scrape those seeds loose, scaping toward the stem end of the pod. As I work my way toward the fat stem end of the pod, I have to keep pressure on the fibers. They are not anchored in there really, and I want them to stay put until I get all of the seeds off. It is very much more time consuming to remove the seeds when the neat arrangement of the fibers gets disturbed. The main objective here is to remove the seeds without disturbing anything else too much. (All of this is going to make much more sense to you when you have some pods in front of you!).

Milkweed pod interiors are amazingly gorgeous, the seeds are laying artistically in a scalloped-looking layout on a plump core of tightly packed, unfluffed fiber clusters. I remove the seeds on one side of the core, then I gently twist it around and do the other side. You get the seeds off and you are looking at the clusters of fibers all tightly arranged. There is this pithe-like core thing that the fibers are kind of slotted into that you don't see until the fibers are pulled free from it. Once you get the seeds all out of the way, you remove the whole center from the pod shell. Then you can pluck the fibers away from the pithy core.

As I "husk" each pod, I work over a shallow pan sitting on a table. I let the seeds (there are between 200 and 300 in each pod) fall into the pan, and I drop the damp fibers into a bowl in my lap. As soon as I'm finished with that pod, I dump the fluff into a larger bowl with a lid. The reason I don't put the fluff directly into the big bowl is because sometimes a few stray seeds get left in the fiber and it's much easier to fish them out from the small bowl. The reason the big bowl is lidded is because I don't want the fiber to dry out until I say so. When I have husked out oh, about 15 pods I transfer the fiber from the big bowl and lay them out on a plastic paper plate holder (like you use for picnics) and place another paper plate holder over it. These holders let air in so the fiber can dry but don't allow it to fluff up. It only takes a couple of hours max and the fibers are dry as bones. I then gently dump them into a cardboard box for storage. As I was filling my box day by day, I did a couple of times put a piece of cardboard over the fluff so I could gently compress it and make room for more. I have a 3/4 bushel sized box full of gently compressed fluff! This was about 650 pods. Not all of my fluff in the box got in there before it fluffed out. Oh, the flying fluff! It took me a little while to work out my system, and I have some ideas for improving my present system, but that's a project for next year!

I've been researching milkweed fluff on the internet and can tell you that it is an amazing fiber. It is very durable and water resistant and the fibers are hollow, and was used during World War II to stuff life jackets because it remains bouyant for 100 hours! School kids used to collect milkweed pods for the war effort and the motto was "two bagsful saves a life." In the 1600's the french experimented with spinning and weaving it to try to mimic silk but found the fabric to not be as strong as they wanted. Maybe they should have mixed it with a bit of wool? Currently, the fluff is being used to stuff down comforters: 20% fluff to 80% goose down. The fluff increases the insulative value, is very durable, and also neutralizes the allergens in down. The clusters of milkweed fiber don't stay in their clusters at all with any handling, therefore they don't "refluff" like goose down clusters and that is the only thing keeping them from using milkweed fluff straight as a comforter stuffer. It is excellent insulation, I mean excellent. My hand warms right up when I stick it down into my box of fluff! I am planning on using some of my fluff to make a down comforter. Instead of goose down to mix it with, I am going to use cattail fluff which DOES re-fluff after handling almost as good as goose down. And of course I intend to card milkweeed fluff with wool and spin it up and see what is what. I also would like to hear from anyone who has experience spinning with it.

And yes you can also spin the bast fibers in the stem of the milkweed plant. You just let the stems remain standing outdoors and naturally rett. I imagine handling the fibers from there is somewhat similar to handling flax and right now I do not recall how the individual fibers in the stem are separated. I am sure I saw this info on-line. The Native Americans used the fiber from the stems to make rope and fish nets. They also used the fluff to insulate moccasins and winter robes. The milkweed plant has so many uses and it is so very beautiful to boot.
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proverb31
New Pal

25 Posts

Posted - 11/04/2005 :  11:20:48 PM  Show Profile Send proverb31 a Private Message
Wow, thanks for the great replies and info. I had not thought about using the base stems like flax. Nor had I thought of using it as a filler.

Petiteflower, I understood exactly what you were saying as I had just harvested pods. The green ones were by far the easiest to "de-seed" and all the fibers lay so pretty in an unopened pod. Once they get loose they fly all over the place.

I'll give your suggestions a try. I don't have nearly as much as you- maybe 15-20 pods total. Just enough to experiment with.

Debra

"She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls." Proverbs 31:13-15
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Lanthir
Warming Up

USA
54 Posts

Posted - 11/05/2005 :  07:44:00 AM  Show Profile  Visit Lanthir's Homepage Send Lanthir a Private Message
I used to have a milkweed plant in my backyard. But my mom killed it some years back. Darn it. (-_-)

"And we shall call it 'This Land'"
Firefly
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