Nature · Spinning


Cotton Bolls

I am in process of working on my Master Spinners Certification through Oldes College in Alberta Canada.  I  am finishing up my Level 2 Homework, more on that in a few weeks when I am done knitting the final project. While finishing Level 2, I traveled to New Mexico to take the Level 3 course.  It was taught by the lovely Michelle Boyd, who is knowledgeable and fun.  She was also my Level 1 teacher so It felt like a reunion.  If you don’t know about this program yet and are interested in technical spinning, I would suggest looking into it.

Each of the levels takes you deeper into the world of spinning.  In Level 1 you learn the basics of wool, sheep breeds, the differences in woolen vs worsted spinning techniques and fiber prep and you start to find out more info about blending.  Level 2 takes you up that spiral in learning and adds a bit to what you knew about sheep and adds mohair, and alpaca into the mix. Level 2 is all about blending and balancing your skeins.  Most of the assignments are geared toward figuring out what fibers you would want to blend together to get a desired effect.  It is also about blending for color.  In this level you are taught about adding enough twist in singles and ply to get your skeins to balance when finished.

Level 3 adds to all of the above and adds in Cotton and Silk to the mix.  Up to this point, silk has been an item blended with wool or alpaca to obtain desired effects.  Now we get to look at both Cotton and Silk as fibers in their own rights.   We get to play with both fibers in all of their varied forms.  So far, I have just started to experiment with cotton.  Below are several pictures of the various commercial preparations of cotton.

Cotton slivers: Left – Pima, Right brown Acala

Ginned Pima
Right – Ginned Acala : left – Punis, center – spun yarn,

In the photo above, I hand processed the ginned Acala cotton into small rolags which are called punis.  I then spun it with a point of contact long draw.  There were several things I found while spinning the punis; you need a LOT of twist to hold the yarn together, and you need a lot of patience.  I probably lost half of the singles I was spinning to the floor as they did not have enough twist to hold them together.  Spinning cotton is really teaching me patience and humility.  I keep having to remind myself that I KNOW how to spin.  I have been spinning for a little over 6 years and in all that time I have never walked away from my wheel in frustration, until now.  This sounds horrible, but at the same time with every success, not only am I discovering something about spinning this fiber, but I feel a new joy.  I have found that not attempting a lot, just a few punis or a small amount of sliver at a time, has allowed me to experiment and grow in confidence.  Every time now, I have less and less under-spun wisps falling to the floor by my wheel.  I have already decided to experiment in growing cotton in containers in my yard this year.  One of the things I discovered is how beautiful hand picked cotton is carded into punis.  My friend Ric grew some colored cotton this year and I was able to get seeds from him and to card a few bolls below are some of the pictures of the punis from the hand picked cotton.  The green cotton is hard to see the color, but imagine a very pale sage green color.  It’s pretty stunning.

Brown Pima
Green Acala
Skein spun from Acala sliver

In the above picture, you can see that there are under spun places.  I added what I thought was quite a bit of extra twist to these singles and a LOT of ply twist to compensate, it was pretty amazing to watch that twist relax when it hit the water for finishing.  I can not wait to experiment with more skeins.  I have so much more to learn with cotton.  There are some books to read and videos to watch, this is definitely a journey that will test my patience and skill.

2 thoughts on “Cotton

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post. I have been a knitter for many years but have not yet tried spinning 🙂

  2. Incredible information on cotton. I can only imagine the frustration level. I am spinning some cormo of all things and it kept splitting. It was more aggravation than pleasure to spin, so I just walked away from it for an few days and then got back to it with no problems. I have not spun cormo before, but it appears to have a fairly long staple, got me beat why I was having so much trouble. By the way, say hi to Ian, still one of my favorite art students!!!!!

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