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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Spinning milkweed fluff...Happy birthday Vova

yarn 2/3 milkweed 1/3 wool

I was told you could spin milkweed fluff so since I have milkweed in my yard and we are tarring out out yard currently I thought I would collect the fluff and give it a go.  The milkweed in my yard is not an accident.  My grandmother vova sent me seeds, my older sister sent me seed, and my middle daughter collected seeds.  Thus three spots in my yard had plants each from a different person.  My children and I collected the seed pods Saturday and removed the seeds from the fluff pretty simple just time consuming we collected about 14 pods.  Milkweed is poisonous.

How to do this read on if you want to and do it.  Do not blame me for any reactions you do this  at your own risk.

How to

  1. collect seed pods
    1. I had a reaction see red warning below
  2. remove seeds from fluff 
    1.  do this where there is no air current as the fluff will get every where.  We did it outside on the porch with fresh air but no breeze that day
    2. milkweed fluff
    3. milkweed fluff
  3. store fluff in bag or cardboard box till use otherwise it will fly away
  4. card it: card about 1/3 wool to 2/3 fluff
    1. add wool to carder first card up, then add fluff and card that transfer wool/fluff at least once then add a tinny bit more wool and card again and form a roll ready for spinning 
    2. wool milk weed roll ready to spin
    3. this makes my mouth itch as the fluff flies around and little bits rest on me remember poisonous stuff I had reactions to it see below
  5.  I used a drop spindle to spin mine to a single ply then used a drop spindle again to make it into a double ply yarn.  
    1. fluff, single ply, double ply  
    2. Fluff right in above photo, single ply top left, double ply hanks bottom left
    3. reaction again on mouth from fluff flying see below
When it was done it feels like angora and spins easily.  Real soft has a sort of sheen to it where ever you see the milkweed sort of like hints of spun silk or spun rayon.
Now  what does one do with something that is poisonous hmm... do not want it on baby items and the like.   Maybe a wool hat or just leave as yarn as look what I did not sure I want to do it again type of thing.

I have been told you can also spin dandelion fluff but I don't have those in my yard.  Also how long would it take to get rid of all those seeds yikes so little.  But at least that stuff would not be poisonous.

Some benefits of milkweed during WW2 it was collected for life preserver vest 2 bags full = i jacket which would float for 100 hours before the water would make it sink pretty impressive.  Also if you have warts the milk if put on the wart will kill off the wart.

When I was a child we would collect milkweed and caterpillars and watch them change into chrysalis and then into monarch butterflies happy memories of my Vova on this her birthday. So I did this in honor of her and all those happy memories.

Warning : Milkweed is highly  poisonous to the point of death if you get about an ounce of it in you.

Ask me how I know yeah I got mild milkweed poisoning while doing this project.  Makes your mouth and throat burn and makes you want to exasperate whats in your tummy (my nice way of putting that).  But if you get too much in you, it can kill you so be careful.  Also makes my lips itch when spinning and carding it, as the fluff flies in the air and little bits land on you.   Mine was a mild case of poisoning as I had gotten some milk on my arms from the plant and had not realized it and when I do yard work I wipe my mouth with my forearm not my hands and yes that is where the milk weed had spilled and dried as I could not see it.  But just that small trace made my mouth burn and throat burn and made me toss my cookies and my lips itch so be careful if you try this  I am not recommending that you do though because of this.  Now none of my children had issues that helped me remove the seeds from the fluff.  So I maybe more sensitive, who knows be very careful and you try at your own risk I do not recommend it
yarn 2/3 milkweed 1/3 wool


  1. I've forgotten where I read it but I thought you spin the fibres from stalk of the milkweed plant, not the seed fluff?

  2. you can do either way if you spin the fluff you spin it like wool. if you spin the stock you spin it like flax ie wet and it has to go through a rendering too to make it pliable enough op spin as well as spin it wet. Both are poisonous so be careful

  3. Hi- thanks for the post. I always wondered if one could spin milkweed fluff. Milkweed is not that poisonous though. The latex is mildly toxic but I've eaten the shoots straight out of the ground, the pods when they are young and deep fried the flowers in a batter. The root as well is medicinal.

  4. As I said do at your own risk I had bad reactions and my children did not depends on the person

  5. Milkweed is a good, natural beauty treatment for warts on the face and neck

    1. good to know but for those of us like me i will avoid it probably would work on my kids

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Really interesting, but I dont get it, I've seen web sites where they cook the pods...I would think the milk is in there too no?

  8. I have read that it is a member of the latex family, so it you have a latex allergy then you will have a reaction to milkweed too. So you probably had an allergic reaction, while your children didn't.

  9. I'm a biologist/botanist and spinner. I thought I would chime in on your experience. The white latex-like milky plant sap is indeed poisonous. It contains a compound (cardiac glycoside)that is toxic to predators of the plant (and predators of monarch butterflies), and to any animal that consumes large amounts based on body size.

    The seed fluff does not contain any of the latex or compound, but the seed does. Therefore, ingestion of the seed can also be toxic. Contact dermatitis (a reaction on the skin from contact with an irritant) can occur with milkweed -seed and/or live plant part- because of a different compound in the plant that is not associated with the one that causes toxicity. That is an allergy to a resinoid that causes inflammation and the burning sensation you experienced to susceptible people. It is the same reaction that one experiences from poison ivy. I get it from grasses, to which I am highly allergic.

    You may have transferred some of both compounds when harvesting and working with the plants to your arms and hands, and then transferred to your face at some point. Additionally, you may be more susceptible to the allergen (the resinoid) than your children. The fluff attached to the seed does not contain any of the cardenoloids (the cardiac glycoside), but it might contain a small amount of the resinoid immediately after expulsion from the pod. I suspect that any small amounts of resinoid may dissipate from the fluff fibers after exposure to the outdoor environment for some time. However, there is nothing in the literature specifically on irritants and compounds on the seed fluff, so caution might be wise with handling the fluff if one knows they are allergic to milkweed plants and parts. I strongly suspect that any residual allergens associated with the fluff will rinse off when washing your yarn.

    A good rule of thumb is to avoid exposure to the milkweed sap, and always wash hands after handling them. I carry a container water and a small bottle of hand sanitation with me when out in the field. I also have a tube of hydrocortisone on me due to reactions to grass leaves.

    I hope this information is helpful. :)

  10. Apparently the pioneers used the spun milkweed as a candle wick. Read about it in a William Johnstone novel, Eyes of Eagles.

    1. Cool! Does anyone know if it has to be mixed with wool?

  11. We eat milkweed fluff when it is young, before it turns yellowish. It is good when the pods are young, too. The pods are split in half and you can fill them with cream cheese mixed with parsley and tuna or anything you might fill a tomato with, etc. In spring when the shoots are just coming out of the ground, you can cook it and tastes like asparagus. It isn't toxic. And as for milkweed sap you can use it on warts and skin tags. It does burn a bit if some gets on your skin, but if you keep it on the wart or skin tag it doesn't.

    1. As I said my family had a reaction... Each person chemical makeup is different ... So I am glad you and your family aren't... For my family it is toxic

  12. I`ve been collecting milk weed seed fluff for a few weeks. Finally spun it today (by itself). So soft and ephemeral.

    1. Hello , I would very much like to hear more about this! In spinning it "(by itself)" , was that done as cotton would be spun ? (They seem rather similar , some ways)
      Spinners in this part of the world seem to consider cotton hard to spin ;I suppose it is ,compared to Wool. But if it were seriously difficult to spin Gandhi's self sufficiency movement wouldn't have had so many indians walking around with little portable COTTON-spinning-wheels , spinning cotton everywhere they went all the time - right. It's probably just a different technique ,that requires some adjustment.
      So, IF someone were accustomed to spinning cotton, would milkweed fluff 'spin similarly ' ? That's what I 'm wondering. (Who would know? ) It certainly seems wonderful stuff, so natural and readily available. (And, 'vegan',even)

  13. Milkweed fluff has made me want to learn how to spin!


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