Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Silk Weaving

Silk weaving started in Spitalfield's with the arrival of the French Huguenot refugee's, silk weaving existed in London before this time but not on the scale that occurred from 1685 onwards. Money was raised to help the newly arrived immigrants who came with nothing but their knowledge of their occupation. This quote from the editor of Stow's Survey of London shows how highly the skills of the silk weavers were regarded:

'Here they have found quiet and security, and settled themselves in their several trades and occupations; weavers especially. Whereby God's blessing surely is not only brought upon the parish by receiving poor strangers, but also a great advantage hath accrued to the whole nation by the rich manufactures of weaving silks and stuffs and camlets, which art they brought along with them. And this benefit also to the neighbourhood, that these strangers may serve for patterns of thrift, honesty, industry, and sobriety as well.'

The silk weavers mainly came from Lyon and Tours where the best quality silks were imported from, soon though the skills of the London silk weavers meant that some of the best silks in Europe were being manufactured in Britain. The refugees passed on their skills to local people and the area thrived. This is a drawing by William Hogarth from 1738 called Noon depicting the rich and godly French Huguenot's with the British residence of Spitalfield's.

In 1721 silk weaving was described as one of the countries main branches of manufacture. Parliament raised the tax on imported goods to further encourage the growth of local industry and in 1764 after protests from weavers they also reduced the import duty on raw silk and prohibited the importing of silk ribbons, stockings and gloves.

In Fournier Street many of the houses were owned by wealthy silk weavers. The looms would be in the generous roof spaces and the family would live below. To stop the noise of the looms from travelling through the house the weavers would stuff the spaces between the floorboards with silk throwsters waste. Throwsters waste is the virgin silk fibres that are discarded during the reeling process. When reeling the silk cocoons the fibres can become tangled and they have to be cut from the machine. This tangled fibres are still soft and lustrous but not any use for weaving. In modern crafts throwsters waste can be used to make felt, silk paper and as a quilting material. It comes either in it's natural state; still coated in the sericin gum from the cocoon or it can be cleaned. In it's clean state it can be spun to form silk yarn. I bought some of the cleaned throwsters waste:

I also pressed some of the fibres to try and create a material, it was quite successful but I think that it would unravel over time so I have decided to purchase some the uncleaned, natural waste to try and create a silk paper.

I really like the natural properties of the throwsters waste, it is very soft but also very strong and I would like to find a way to incorporate it into my project. For now I am going to continue to experiment with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment