This is the second stage in silk production after silk farming, spinning consists in unreeling the cocoons to draw out the silk thread. At first practised on hand spinning reels, and then on mechanical reels, spinning consists of a series of processes requiring some skill.
Drawing of the unreeling cocoons: 1/ “gindre” (large spool); 2/ backwards and forwards movement; 3/ “tavelettes” (little spools); 4/ band where the threads are gathered; 5/ bowl; 6/ threads are crossed; 7/ cocoons, weaving lesson, 1909
Shaking, deflossing and unreeling
Shaking clears the cocoon surface of layers of poor silk called floss, and deflossing consists in getting rid of this altogether. The spinner dipped the cocoons in a basin of boiling water and shook them with a little broom called an “escoubette”. This repeated action brushed the floss off. Floss silk was kept to make a rough fabric - the filoselle. Then the spinner picked up not one but several fibres as one fibre is too fragile. This made a continuous thread. These operations resulted in a skein called a “flotte” that was then removed from the reel, knotted and folded. This delicate work was usually performed by women.
Small and large spinning wheels:
These were traditionally used to spin wool, linen, or hemp. Until the end of the 19th century floss was spun on wheels, and then taken to weavers who made it into a very strong fabric, “la bourrette” used for clothes and blankets.