I had one of those mothers who always carried a hanky in her purse. It was a charming, if old`fashioned, habit and I loved it. So, when Mary Hayne, our resident spinning guru, showed me Knitty City's collection of beautiful "silk hankies," I was smitten. When she explained that this beautiful 'hanky" could be turned into knitting yarn without being spun, I instantly wanted to try it. Mary, being Mary, pointed me in the right direction. I love a good "how to" so, as soon as I got home, I checked it out online.
This is what I learned: "Hanky" is just the nickname for these lovely silk squares. They are called that since they are similar in shape and size to a handkerchief. Beyond that, there is precious little similarity. In the fiber world, they are known as "Mawatas," which is a Japanese word that, loosely translated, means "to spread out." They are silkworm cocoons which are spread out into 10" squares. Multiple layers of tissue-thin silk cocoons are contained In each one-ounce package (approximately 28 grams). These can be spun or hand rolled to create one-of-a-kind yarns for knitting or crochet work. Knitty City stocks Mawatas from Blue Moon Fibre Arts and Frabjous Fibers, companies known for producing exquisitely colored fibers. Can you imagine one of these beauties being transformed into a one-of-a-kind pair of fingerless gloves or a lacy crocheted scarf?
If you are interested in learning how to knit with a Mawata, there ares some excellent YouTube videos on the subject. If spinning is your thing, Amy Singer (Knitty.com) shares your passion. Here is where you can find her excellent tutorial on spinning hankies. For a more humorous take on the subject, check out Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's love letter to her mittens.
... And for those of you who wish to try your hand at knitting something truly unique, here's a link to a free pattern for a pair of "Mermaid Mittens" which would show any one of the luscious color ways we stock to its best advantage.
Note: For what it's worth, I made these mitts in some gorgeous lightweight Madeline Tosh DK yarn a few years back, and I'm still getting compliments on them! I think it's time to give them another go with a "hanky" of my own.