For me, it started with the silkmoths. Now I know that lots of people think moths are small, nondescript creatures that fly at night, but those people have obviously never seen tropical silkmoths! My husband has been breeding these since he was a child, and so I have had plenty of opportunities to learn first hand about feeding, rearing and breeding them. I still feel privileged when I get the chance to watch one of these small creatures emerging from its cocoon , to climb up and hang with shrivelled wings, slowly pumping them up to their full glory. Of course, it’s not without its frustrations - whether trying to find a suitable local substitute for some obscure tropical foodplant that will be acceptable to a fussy caterpillar or trying to persuade a female moth to emerge from her cocoon before the last male moth decides to die. Over the years I have become familiar with the caterpillars and moths of a number of species, and found some of them in the wild in remote corners of the world, but more on that another time.
The spinning part came rather later. After moving to Wales and being surrounded by sheep, I decided to learn to spin. There seemed a certain romance about sitting at a spinning wheel turning fleece into yarn on a cold, dark winter’s evening, and so I bought myself a wheel - a secondhand Haldane purchased from Ebay. I now cringe at the thought of what I could have ended up with, because this really isn’t the way to do things, but I was luck that my wheel was in working order, with all parts intact (and yes, it really was luck, and not judgement, on my part!). So, with lots of practice and with the help of my local Guild, I have mastered the basics and can now produce some passable yarn from raw sheep fleece.
What to spin next? Well, with an array of cocoons from various species of silkmoth, as well as some from the silkworms I reared last year, it was time to make silk .....
And so, two worlds collide - the exotic moth breeder and the fibre spinner.