From food, clothing, hides and even milk and cheese, all of these products can be gotten from the glorious sheep. To top it off, wool is warmer in winter, even when wet, yet cooler in the summer. Another such miraculous creation we have is the humble little soy plant and its magnificent little beans.
How else but miraculous can you describe a plant that can make everything from milk, tofu and meat-like products to fibers that look, feel and dye like silk? I am amazed at this plant, and the fibers that are made from it. Like the humble sheep we get many products with many uses from this one little plant. From high quality, affordable livestock feed, to luxury fibers, the soy bean has it all in the tiny little package.
Soy silk is made using the leftovers from the processing of tofu, so it is very earth friendly. People who for one reason or another feel they need to avoid real silk, can indulge in soy silk sans guilty conscious. The process uses leftover products, so nothing is wasted, and the fiber itself is a more affordable alternative to real silk or some of the other silk type fibers.
The fibers have a staple length of about 3 to 4 inches, with a bright and shiny look to them. Even though this is a plant derived fiber, it dyes the same as wool, with acid dyes. The natural color is a deep rich golden color, and is delightful just as it is with no dyeing.
I did find that the dyes did not always absorb to the center as well as other fibers like wool. But with some careful dyeing this could be avoided, and even so the color variations were beautiful. The colors come out bright and lovely, but they take several days to dry completely.
You can easily blend soy silk into other fibers with hand cards or a drum carder. I found that I could mix the silk in, and that it made a lovely stripy effect for a variegated type yarn that glistened and sparkled here and there. I loved the way the soy silk looked next to the wool in the yarns. The yarns had a softness and drape that was undeniably gorgeous, and anyone would love these yarns for anything from a lacy shawl to a cozy scarf.
I also really liked the way the soy silk looked spun as a single by itself, and then plied with another fiber. The slippery little soy silk ply winds its way around and adds just the right amount of sparkle that says LUXURY! I also found that using dyed samples in with natural colored wools brought out the vibrancy and softness of the soy silk for an over all effect that was just lovely.
To top it all off soy silk is incredibly strong and is perfect for things that require a lot of durability. I made a three ply sock yarn for the swap, and used two plies of wool with one ply of soy silk. The yarn was caressed, admired and got many ohhhs and aaaahhs from everyone who saw it. The yarn was compact and durable, but still squishy and soft feeling despite the added twist needed for sock yarn.
Soy silk was a little difficult for me to spin, so pre-drafting was essential. I also discovered I needed to keep my hands a little farther apart than I would for a wool type fiber.
The fibers in my hands would hang up a bit, or slide away to be sucked onto the bobbin on occasion, leaving me with fiber, and a lost yarn. I found that it would get all snarly at times.
Once I started drafting that area, it would smooth out with little problem. I found keeping the fibers separate in a ribbon like shape helps a lot to keep a good consistent drafting.
Over all though it is a nice fiber to spin, even though it takes a little while to get the hang of it. I think people who have spun with regular silk and those types of fibers would not find any difficulty with soy silk.
I really loved the soy silk, and I found it to be just as delightful as regular silk. I can purchase it here in my area for $2 an ounce retail. I found blended with wool, that a mix of one ounce soy silk with three ounces of wool made a super shiny and lovely yarn with lots of gloss. The fiber is fairly affordable, and a little goes a long ways towards a beautiful yarn than anyone can love.