Weaving Sea Silk in Sardinia: Preserving an Ancient Art

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Weaving Sea Silk in Sardinia: Preserving an Ancient Art
« on: November 22, 2010, 09:00:24 »
Weaving Sea Silk in Sardinia: Preserving an Ancient Art
   


The byssus is a fine fabric produced from the velvety strand of the noble pen shell, or pinna nobilis, an endangered fan-shaped species of mollusc, native of the Mediterranean Sea bed. Originally, the pen shell used to be fished in order to pull the byssus out, but Chiara has come up with a special cut so that she can take the secreted material without killing the precious animal.

“The pen shell offers us ten centimeters of byssus per year,” explained Chiara, who dives herself on the lookout for the rare silk. “To gather 200 grams of byssus, I need to go on 300 divings,” she revealed, pointing out to me that “it doesn’t grow on the bottom of the shell, like many people think, but right here, on the side.”

After collecting the byssus, the first step is to leave the raw material to soak in a mixture of eight seaweeds. Once dry, Chiara combs it with a wool card and finally twists the fine filaments together with a spindle made of oleander, forming the gilded thread. The yarn is spun quite a few times in order to make it strong enough to be employed in the loom and woven with her slender fingers.
   

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