I began making dolls shortly after designing a couple of lanterns. For one lantern, I created a shade from mulberry paper. I then tied knots in 5 to 8 strands of thick cotton cord and spun string around the knots. I hung the knotted and wrapped strands over the shade. For another, it already had a paper shade so I hung a single piece of knotted cotton rope and then wrapped string around the knots.
I got the inspiration for the string after untwisting many feet of thinner cotton cord with my fingers. Each time I untwisted the cord, it wanted to twist back up, so I kept untwisting it until it stopped twisting back. I pulled the cord apart to separate the strands into individual strings. Then I held the strings together and brushed them with a hairbrush and a metal comb. Doing this made them fluffy. By that point, I had a large stock of string and started wondering how the knotted cotton cord would look if I spun them with string.
That’s when I started remembering "silkworm season" which for a couple of years, while I was growing up, was an annual event for my family. The ”mulberry” paper may have been what originally sparked it though the memories started really coming after I began spinning the string around the knots, and it felt like something was pulsing from inside.
When growing up my younger sisters, Barbara and Marie, stored a small plastic vial filled with silkworm eggs in the refrigerator. My mom’s friend, Nina, instigated this “You know silkworms love mulberry leaves. You have a mulberry tree in your backyard. I have some silkworm eggs. All you need to do is store them in your refrigerator til Spring” The seed was planted for my sisters - SILKWORMS! Nina gave them a small plastic vial full of silkworm eggs to place in the refrigerator to store there - which grossed me and my siblings out! Barbara and Marie were now wild with anticipation about what would be their first “silkworm season” and Nina prepared them for just what to do.
Take out the small plastic vial from the refrigerator. Place the silkworm eggs in a shoe box filled with mulberry leaves. Be patient. It will happen.
Some did hatch into silkworms. Usually 3-5. When they hatched, all they did was lie around, eat mulberry leaves and poop. They were albino, looked like spaceship shuttles and I think they were blind. My sisters would go nuts when they’d start spinning up their cocoons to prepare for their transformation. The silkworms all seemed to spin their cocoons at the same time. Then we would all wait patiently and one day it happened. The silkworm, now a moth, rips open the cocoon, with its mouth and wings crawling out of it with one goal: find another silkworm to mate with. We’d hear the fluttering of moth wings when they partnered to mate with another one in the shoebox. The cycle would start up again: eating mulberry leaves and pooping. Except this time they would ooze gooey stuff, lay eggs and die. We waited all year FOR THIS. Sometimes afterwards my sisters would take one of the cocoons as a keepsake - I think there was one year that I may have kept one too. We would say to each other “you know those cocoons are made from real silk." After it was all over, Barbara and Marie carefully placed the new silkworm eggs inside the small plastic vial that Nina gave them, and off it went back into the refrigerator, much to my disgust, to be stored for another year, til the next "silkworm season."
Now in my life, when I'm spinning strings around the knots and the memories come back so vividly...I realize just how influential silkworm season really was for me and how it continues to...