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milkweed fibers

I keep trying to extract the fibers from milkweed. They can apparently be spun, much like flax, and are very strong and beautiful. I've seen some videos on how to process flax, and I'm trying to do similar with milkweed, but there are so many variables, and I have very crude, and somewhat inappropriate tools, so.

Here are last year's milkweed stalks, which I left outside all winter so they'd rot somewhat. This seemed easier (and less smelly) than retting (where you soak the stalks intensively in water to help separate the fibers), but I'm not sure they decayed quite enough.

last year's milkweed stalks

(Here are all the milkweed-pod coracles, which I am going to paint and launch as a grand flotilla. Maybe.)

milkweed pod boats

And here are the stalks after just a little pounding. You can see some silvery white fibers in the lower right corner, just beginning to show.

milkweed stalks

And here's the whole pile of milkweed stalks, after a great deal of pounding, but still not pounded enough for the next stage, probably. You can see more of the silvery fibers here and there, but still a heck of a lot of woody stalky stuff. I probably need to keep on pounding for a while more. After Readercon!

milkweed stalks, semi-bashed



( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 9th, 2014 09:09 pm (UTC)
Milkweed threads! For clothes to go a-questing in?
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:28 pm (UTC)
Absolutely! It doesn't get more faery than milkweed garments. Unless it's this guy dressed in Burdock leaves…

Source: http://fergustheforager.co.uk/2012/06/burdock/

I will have to do an entry about him sometime soon.
(no subject) - osprey_archer - Jul. 10th, 2014 05:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 10th, 2014 05:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 9th, 2014 10:21 pm (UTC)
I love that you're doing this!
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:29 pm (UTC)
I'm having fun, though I wish I really could be assured of having usable fibers at the end.
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:13 am (UTC)
that looks like an immense amount of work!
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:31 pm (UTC)
The videos I've been looking at show all sorts of helpful tools that the Germans, English, and French used to process flax. I think it's still a lot of work, but much better than going at it with a rock or the edge of a mattock, which were/are my tools. Still, I guess I'd characterize my own activity as energetic play rather than work, since nothing depends on it (thank goodness).
Jul. 10th, 2014 01:53 am (UTC)
You're going to spin this? You have a spinning wheel... I'm impressed.

Maybe you could make something like papyrus with it too. I'd like to be there to try that with you. Milkweed papyrus: awsome!
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:33 pm (UTC)
I don't have a spinning wheel or even a spindle. My thought was that if I ever do get some usable fibers, I'd send half to a friend who does spin, and keep half to experiment with--experiment with learning hand spinning (you don't need a wheel--in fact, my friend who spins uses mainly just spindles and hand spinning).
Jul. 10th, 2014 02:33 am (UTC)
Cool! Of COURSE you would think to do something like this!
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:33 pm (UTC)
And I had so much fun with **all the silky milkweed seeds** too.
Jul. 10th, 2014 02:48 am (UTC)
I'm thinking a trampoline, a laundry bag, a bored person is what you need.
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:34 pm (UTC)
I was doing a version of that--minus the trampoline--to start out with!
Jul. 10th, 2014 07:53 am (UTC)
It makes you realise just how amazing cotton must have seemed when it was first discovered. I remember reading somewhere (NewScientist?) about a mythical place where sheep grew tethered to ground like plants and the theory that this may have been a garbled version of a wonderful plant that could make wool...
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:38 pm (UTC)
Oh absolutely. And yet part of what I'm also thinking of (in a vague, unfocused way) is how awful cotton production is for the land, requiring huge amounts of irrigation, draining the ground of nutrients, etc. … I don't know if milkweed could ever become commercial, but it has the huge advantage of being perennial and hardy. Not that it would ever replace cotton, but if a whole bunch of other types of fibers were considered for use, then maybe that diversity would make for better land use, etc. (I don't really know at all: it could be that even with proper tools and mechanization, processing milkweed wouldn't be cost effective--and really I'm doing this just for fun, but these thoughts do swirl around in the back of my head…. along with the thought of shining milkweed shirts!)
(no subject) - mnfaure - Jul. 13th, 2014 01:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 15th, 2014 06:32 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:12 pm (UTC)
I feel like there's a song in this somewhere, some kind of warning ballad.
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:39 pm (UTC)
In what aspect? The amount of work it takes, or…?
(no subject) - littlemoremasks - Jul. 10th, 2014 06:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 10th, 2014 07:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:34 pm (UTC)
Huh. I've heard about attempts to use milkweed slk as a substitute for kapok, as lifejacket stuffing, but never of using fiber from milkweeds talks like linen.

I was deeply impressed at a young age by a Children's Digest legend of a Chinese emperor wose irritation with Linum led him to take the right steps to process its fibers.
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:49 pm (UTC)
I don't know where I heard of it. First Peoples used lots of fibers from perennial plants like nettles--I might have found out about it doing that research. Or it could have been just through researching milkweed itself, which is such a wonderful plant in so many ways.
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:52 pm (UTC)
Write messages in the bottom of your coracles?
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:53 pm (UTC)
Mais bien sûr!
(no subject) - mnfaure - Jul. 13th, 2014 01:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 10th, 2014 07:34 pm (UTC)
What an interesting process! I actually really like the pictures--just as they are--for their great colors and textures. The pods, I could see spray-painting with some kind of sparkly paint, and making Christmas tree ornaments out of--or maybe just as they are--or maybe with a deep red watercolor on the inside.....though I idea of little boats is marvelous.

Keep us posted!
Jul. 15th, 2014 06:33 am (UTC)
Will do!
Jul. 11th, 2014 08:28 pm (UTC)
The project appears daunting. I hope you will post progress notes.
Jul. 15th, 2014 06:34 am (UTC)
I do feel like I could do with a mentor or fellow experimenter--I'm pretty much at sea! But it's fun :-)

I'll post notes--I haven't been back to it yet….
Jul. 16th, 2014 12:59 pm (UTC)
This reminds me of the story of the sister who had to spin and weave and make shirts for her twelve brothers, from thistles, to free them from the curse which had turned them into swans. :)
When I first read that story,when I was little, I thought the thistles were just put in to make it a more cruel ordeal for the sister, but it seems that thistles can be spun, just as you are doing. (Scotch thistles, I presume, since it's a Scottish fairytale.)
Jul. 16th, 2014 01:06 pm (UTC)
And I've heard that story, only with stinging nettles, and same: it turns out stinging nettles do indeed have spinnable fibers. I'd always imagined her making the shirts out of the raw nettles, leaves and all.
(no subject) - heliopausa - Jul. 16th, 2014 01:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 16th, 2014 01:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 35 comments — Leave a comment )

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