Skate's silky creations

GILL ALCOCK
Last updated 05:00 07/11/2012
Silk worm

HURRY UP: The last silk worm is busy weaving its cocoon.

Skate
LIVING FIBRE: Skate models a piece of her painted silk while holding a box of cocoons and box of cradles, inside which the cocoons are made.

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Response to a call for mulberry leaves has seen one woman's desire to be a part of an age-old creative process flourish.

Since Surfdale resident Skate's silk worms were featured in a Waiheke Marketplace story on October 3 they have been enjoying a plentiful supply of mulberry leaves from across the island. They are now completing the next stage of their lifecycle and weaving their intricate cocoons.

Skate is waiting patiently for the last worm to finish off its bright yellow cocoon. Once it is completed it will join the others that she has collected.

Ending the silk worm's lifecycle at this point is tough for Skate because she has to immerse the cocoon with its live worm into hot water.

It has to be done so each cocoon, which is made up of one single thread of silk, can be unravelled. Once done, each thread will measure about 1.5km long.

Although she has several hundred cocoons, she says the thread is so fine that all that could be created would be something as small as a pair of silk knickers.

"I love silk. It is a living fibre and I enjoy painting it."

A recent piece of silk that she painted has just been returned from a dressmaker which Skate is modelling in the photo.

Encouraged by the positive response to the story in the paper Skate has also been taking her one-woman silk industry to the island's primary and Steiner schools, and the kindergarten.

She says she has enjoyed recounting the silk creation process to a new generation.

And to make sure she keeps this ancient industry alive, Skate has kept a few of the cocoons so the insects inside can pupate into a chrysalis and then emerge from their cocoons as adult moths.

She hopes they will breed so she can collect their eggs and she can start the whole process again next spring.

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- Waiheke Marketplace

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