December 4, 2020

A Look into Our Classes 5 "Reeling Silk Thread from Cocoons"

We will introduce some of the classes from the Professional Course at Kawashima Textile School (published irregularly).

Mr. Honda reeling silk thread from the cocoons

For HyƓgenron (Creative Expression) class, we invited Yuji Honda of Honda Silk Works, for the students to experience silk thread making. The class started with boiling a pot of water. The class proceeded with a rhythm similar to cooking, such as boiling the cocoons, turning off the heat, and waiting for a few minutes. It is a rare opportunity to learn the entire process, from boiling the cocoons, zaguri, which is to reel the thread, to making a skein.

In the class, the students first tried making kiito. They were able to see "kibiso," which is the harder thread the silkworm first spews out, and also made "mawata." The mawata they tried was "kakumawata," which is made by soaking the cocoons, which have become small without the kiito, and spread out by pulling on the corners. The students' hands were timid at first, but were boosted by Mr. Honda's words. "Even if you pull tightly, they won't break." When the thread spread out smoothly into a square, cheers rose. Mr. Honda showed the completed form made of twenty layers, and the students felt the texture, commenting on its softness. 

While working, Mr. Honda talked about various things such as the habits of the silkworm, cultivating mulberries, and the amount of work as a livelihood. The pupae in the cocoons start to appear. By actually witnessing this, many questions about silkworms were asked by the students. Mr. Honda says that at first, the silk thread and the existence of the "insect" did not connect in his mind. He was surprised at the scene of the cocoon making site, where silkworms were bred, and was shocked, and thought, "so this is the origin!"

He said that at the site, he "felt conflicted about killing insects and making thread." As he continued to face that fact, he came to think that he is "receiving life to make clothing, like meat or fish," and that the feeling of people and insects connecting, by cherishing the insects and the thread they spew out, should not be forgotten," and began making things with respect to the origin.

At the end of the class, the same number of pupae as the threads drawn, appeared. "From now on, when you see silk, you will be reminded of the silkworms," Mr. Honda said. "I learned for the first time that silk has many expressions. Usually, we only have the opportunity to see them as thread," a student commented. The class turned out to be a time where students were able to experience the origin, and learn the process of silk reeling.

-What does weaving mean to you?
"Something that can express how interesting silk thread is."

"I originally liked clothes. I moved to agriculture, then after I encountered sericulture (silk farming), I started to do everything from thread making to weaving. My current job is to make things from the beginning, and do everything I love. I am completely absorbed in thread making, and am excited about the wide range of possibilities, such as how you can see the expressions of various threads from the cocoons, how easily it takes dye, and how the texture changes depending on how it is scoured, and so on. I think weaving is something that can express how interesting silk thread is. "

About Yuji Honda
Yuji Honda started sericulture and weaving with his wife in 2009 upon meeting a silk farmer in Chichibu, Saitama. He moved to Kyoto in 2016, and after two years of training in weaving at Jun Tomita Textile Studio, became independent in 2018 and started Honda Silk Works. They make and sell handwoven shawls using threads that are reeled from cocoons, dyed with natural dyes, and threads that are made from cotton with a strong twist.

instagram: @hondasilkworks