How to Use Silk Hankies or Mawatas

What Are Mawatas?

Mawatas, also commonly known as Silk Hankies, are one of my all time favourite craft supplies.

For several years now I have dyed and sold my hankies both on my stalls and on my online store and I just love to watch people pick them up and cuddle them, mesmerised by their cloud-like puffiness and silky texture.

And yet time and time again I see people put off investing in their own mawatas because:

I just wouldn’t know what to do with them…

So here is some background, and hopefully some inspiration for you!

White cocoon silkworm

As I’m sure you are already aware, silk is produced by silk worms during the construction of the cocooons which allow them to metamorphosise into the adorable silk moth.

Typically this silk is harvested in a long single thread by unwinding the cocoons by either hand or machinery once the moth inside has been, shall we say, ‘disposed of’ (insert sad face here).

Close up Silkworm eating mulberry green leafIn a sense, therefore, mawatas are an ethical alternative to silk harvesting as the moth is allowed to break free of its silky cell in order to procreate and no doubt chase all the lightbulbs it so pleases.

During the break out the moth leaves a trail of gum and gunk around the hole of the cocoon, this is removed by soaking the silk for roughly 24 hours before stretching the fibres over a frame. Each cocoon is layered on top of each other until a batch of silk mawatas is created (typically between 8-10g per batch/roughly 20-30 mawatas)

These are then duly dyed by colour addicts such as myself and can be used in a variety of crafty ways from paper making to crochet.

silk cocoon to a butterfly yellow silkworm

Isn’t he just adorable?


How to Use Mawatas


One of the many reasons why I love using mawatas is because of their flexibility and universality with little to no experience or equipment necessary…

Unlike most fibres such as wool or silk brick, spinning is not a necessary part of the process in turning a mawata into a finished item. It is in fact easier to knit or crochet directly from the hankie itself which also gives you freedom to adjust the colour way as you progress.

  • To turn a hankie into a ‘yarn’ simply detach the top hankie from the batch, make a hole with your fingers in the centre of the mawata and pull…
  • Keep pulling firmly and consistently, keeping your hands wide apart until the silk begins to draft apart.
  • Continue this drafting process around the circumference of the hankie until you reach your desired gauge and thickness.
  • Once satisfied simply break the circle of silk that you have created and wind the yarn into a ball, ideally around a makeshift nostepinne to prevent knots and tangles (if in doubt a loo roll tube is sufficient and readily available!)

Be aware that during this process the silk will stick to everything and anything it touches, I recommend using a hand cream before settling down to play with your hankies! Don’t worry though, the lustre of the silk will return once it has been knitted or crocheted.

Should a fine but strong silk thread be desired the mawatas can be also spun on either spindle or wheel.

To see for yourself just how easy it is to use silk hankies give the video above a watch and if you have any further questions please comment below!


Katie x

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