our selection of recycled silk yarns
yarn is made by people - not factories or machines!
is Silk Sari Yarn Made?
Meet our spinners
Meet our Knitters
made with recycled silk yarn
Meet our spinners
recycled silk sari yarn is made by economic disadvantaged women who are
organized through several women's development groups and cooperatives in
Nepal. By taking an item that would normally be thrown away (remnant
silk from the making of traditional saris in India) and making it into our
colorful recycled silk sari yarn, the women have created a cottage
industry that allows them to support their families make a living wage
which allows for them to live beyond just subsistence survival. One
of our best spinners,
Jun Maya Ghale
is pictured to the left with her young son.
The group that produces our
recycled silk and banana yarn is made up of Tibetan refugees, Nepalese and
Indian women, ranging in age from 20 to 60 years old. These women hand
mix and hand spin silk thrums (The
fringe of warp threads left on a loom after the cloth has been cut off)
to earn a
living wage to support their extended families. Most work from home
in small villages high in the mountains of Nepal.
whether working from home or in a provided safe working environment that
offers child care and meals, work at their own pace. Earning a very good
(living) wage, most of these women are supporting extended families of up
to 20 people. Through the sale of our recycled silk yarn and
products made from it, we are able to enrich the lives of the artisans
by paying a living wage, providing
building materials and equipment (sponsor a family or donate items) and
providing much needed medical care and educational grants. We also
provide no interest micro loans to weavers (of which only 75% has to be
Additional photos of spinners
and how you can help coming soon!
How is Recycled Silk Sari Yarn Made?
THE RAW MATERIALS
Silk thread scraps left over from the making of Silk
Indian Saris (traditional clothing in India) are purchased from small
mills in India.
The top photo to the left shows the
fringe remnants after a sari has been woven on a hand operated
loom. These remnants are called thrums and are the pure silk
threads that are the fringe of warp threads left on a loom after
the saris has been woven and cut off. These threads
are collected, separated by color and bound into the skeins of
pure dyed silk that you seen in the lower photo to the left.
Red and maroon colors predominate because these are auspicious
(good luck) colors in India.
PREPARING THE SILK
The skeins of silk threads (called Fiber
- literally the individual filaments of silk) are separated by
color, unwrapped and laid out. Contrary to the name
"recycled silk yarn", the raw materials are all new remnants left
over from making saris - not used saris! While it
might seem straightforward and simple to separate the various
colors and qualities of silk, it can be quite tedious.
Various qualities of silk (both wild and domestic), natural and
synthetic dyes used and gauge of the silk has to be taken into
The skeins of silk are cut into even
strips then arranged by color so that the finished yarn will have
a complex set of colors. The fibers are then carded (brushed
smooth and straight).
MIXING THE SILK
The various shanks of silk are mixed by
hand, a long process that ensures that the colored silk fibers are
evenly mixed. The length and quality of the fiber determines
its texture, strength and overall quality. Superior quality
recycled silk yarn is made from longer fibers - producing yarn
that is smoother, stronger and more elastic. Cheaper
recycled silk yarns containing shorter or a mixture of fiber
lengths are softer, fuzzier and less strong. One of
our best spinners is Jun Maya, pictured to the left.
DID YOU KNOW?
is the natural fiber produced by silk moth larvae. Our
yarn is made from the cocoons of these moths. These
cocoons are woven of a single strand that can be as long as
4,000 feet long (that's almost a mile!).
The food fed to
domesticated moths determines their silk's natural color;
this can be white, green or yellow. There are also
wild and semi-domesticated silk worm fibers as well.
here to see the lifecycle of the silk worm & to learn more
TEASING THE SILK
Once the silk strands have been mixed,
the raw material is hand teased by repeatedly picking and pulling
at the strands. This part of the process is key to
making the yarn be fun and original and yet well mixed and having
the fibers aligned so the yarn will be strong. The longer
the teasing process, the better quality and tighter the gauge of
SPINNING THE YARN USING A DROP
The actual process
of making the fibers into yarn is done the same way it has been
done for centuries: by hand using a drop spindle or charka.
This stage of the recycled silk yarn
is where skill really comes into play. The more skilled the
spinner, the tighter, more consistent and the higher the quality
of the yarn produced. The photos to the left show one of our
spinners creating the silk yarn using a drop spindle.
Holding the teased fiber in her left hand, she skillfully creates
a consistent yarn.
Note that immediately above the
spindle and below her hand is the "drafting zone" or
"drafting triangle". This is the area where many of the
factors that affect the yarn is determined. If this triangle
has more fibers in it, the yarn will be thicker, if it has fewer
fibers, the yarn will be thinner. The yarn is formed when
fibers enter the drafting zone and are caught by the twist that is
coming up the yarn from the rotating spindle.
NOT ALL RECYCLED YARNS ARE ALIKE:
We carry several grades of recycled yarn: Most are 100% silk,
unless otherwise noted. However, many other sellers online
actually sell lower-grade yarns that have 30% or less silk (and some
that contain no silk whatsoever!) and are made up of mostly rayon,
nylon or cotton fibers. We no longer offer balls - only skeins,
as we've found that the consistency of skeins is better (sometimes
balls would have high quality yarn on the outside and lower quality on
We GUARANTEE the quality and content of our
MAKING THE SKEINS
After spinning the
yarn, it must be made
into skeins. Typically this is not done by the same artist
who spun the yarn but other women working in Kathmandu, Nepal.
After consistent lengths or more commonly weights of yarn are
measured, the yarn is skeined. Some women use tools called
niddy-noddies, the backs of chairs or as in the photo to the left,
their toes, knees and or arms! The yarn is tied to keep it
from tangling then it is twisted and then bagged.
Consistency in the quality of the
is very important. Historically we sold yarn balls, however
we've found that the consistency and quality of the yarn is far
superior in skeins so we no longer offer the balls.
We currently offer several grades of this wonderful
recycled silk yarn from our
finest Lhasa (100% handpicked, best quality) to our mixed yarns.
Meet our knitters, weavers & crotchetiers
Our recycled silk sari yarn is
also made into items by a group of women working in Kathmandu, Nepal.
These women often work from home or in a provided, safe environment.
Knitting, weaving and crocheting items including scarves, hats, mittens,
gloves, purses, bags and other items. Zanzibar Tribal Art always has
a changing selection of these items for sale. The women are paid
living wages (usually 2-3 times what they would make working at other
jobs), are given health care, child care and have access to micro,
no-interest loans, saving plans, building materials, as well as
educational assistance for their children through the various programs we
have in place. You can sponsor one or more artisans through donating
a variety of badly needed items (coming soon!)
learn about our
Recycled Silk Scarves