Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Spinning Cotton

I've been playing around with cotton a little bit. I found a Web site called Cotton's Journey a couple weeks back (I have their site under my links as well), they sell educational material on growing cotton, supplies, even a spindle with a sliver of cotton for someone who wants to spin cotton thread.

So I ordered a bag of Pima cotton bolls (you get about 30), and a 4" cotton mini-bale that is enough to make a long-sleeved top if spun fine. I originally thought of buying the seeds as well to grow my own, but realized that there would probably be more than enough contained in the bolls... that is if I can get them to grow in the climate where I live, apparently I do not live within the cotton belt so I may not have much luck.

My order came in the mail just a few days after I placed it. Here you can see the process as I've prepared the fibers and then spun them. First I pulled the cotton locks out of the bur:

From there I extracted the seeds out of the locks:
I then did a process called hand carding, to straighten out the fibers and prepare them for spinning. Yes, that is a dog slicker brush I'm using - I bought two of them and find that it does the job just fine for an amateur. Not to mention it costs about half as much as it would to purchase a set of hand carders and, well, sorry but I'm cheap:

From here I gently shaped the rolags of cotton I carded into slivers:

Finally, I spun the cotton fibers into yarn:

As you can see it spins a little finer and tighter than wool. Like the wool, I also have had to get a feel for just how much I need to draft out while spinning so my efforts are uneven, but better than I expected for my first try. Unlike the wool however, I plan to make this a two-ply yarn since it is spinning so fine, at some points it's like thread though bulkier in others. But that's all right with me, it just makes for a more interesting yarn :-)

Once I'm done with the bolls I'll try to figure out how to bust open the mini-bale and spin that too. Though at the same time it just looks cool the way it is... then again, nah, I can always get another if I want a conversation piece.


Weave, Spin, Dye - Oh My said...

This is good stuff! Thanks for posting about it. How nice was the cotton in the bales?

Kneedle Junkie said...

It's actually been a while since I've worked on the cotton and I didn't get a chance to try spinning from the bale yet... but soon, hopefully soon. Given I almost exclusively use a wheel now it'll be interesting to see how it spins on there vs. the drop spindle.

Queenycorner said...

Using the dog slicker (brush) is a great idea... I'm thinking of getting into spinning and I'm also "cheap" - but I think of it as being realistic rather than "posh"... I'm going to get myself 2 brushes immediately!

Also... I'm going to try and spin the cotton puffs you buy at the supermarket before trying the more expensive cotton you get from the fibre suppliers... I figure that it's 100% cotton which has been washed so why not give it a try? That's me being SUPER CHEAP!

Kneedle Junkie said...

I've often wondered how cotton balls would work - as well as the cotton they put inside medicine bottles. It's not being cheap, it's frugal :-)

Let me know how that works. I haven't had a lot of time to spin, sadly... the alpaca I started working last year is still beckoning to me!