Posts filed under ‘Spinning Cotton’
Spinzilla is a community-wide challenge to see who can spin the most yarn during Spinning and Weaving Week (October 7-13, 2013).
We’ll be spinning up a storm with Team Cotton Clouds, and we’d love to have you join us!
- Who: Team Cotton Clouds
- What: Spinzilla 2013
- When to register: Register between now and September 23.
- When to spin: Spin, spin, spin during Spinning and Weaving Week, from October 7-13.
- Where: Wherever you want! Get creative and try to fit spinning into your routine as much as possible!
- Why: Why not?! Can we make enough yarn to reach from one side of the U.S. to the other? Maybe around the globe, or even to the moon?
How Do I Join A Team?
Joining a team is easy. Simply click here to visit the TNNA website to sign up anytime between now and September 23rd. We hope you’ll join our team!
Though you can spin any type of fiber you’d like, our goal is to make Team Cotton Clouds the place for cotton during Spinzilla. We’ll be sharing cotton spinning tips and tricks, giving away cotton fiber and other goodies, and having a whole lot of fun along the way!
You can keep up on the action in a variety of ways. Each team has:
- An official Ravelry thread in the Spinzilla group where we can talk and share photos.
- A board on the Spinzilla Pinterest account
- An official hashtag (ours is #teamcottonclouds) to coordinate the discussion on other social media channels.
- We’ll also be sharing group photos and other fun on our Facebook page.
There’s a $10 registration fee to join Spinzilla, and all of the funds raised go toward starting a spinning program as part of the National Needlearts Mentoring Program (NAMP).
How Is The Winner Determined?
During Spinning and Weaving Week, participants will share photos of their spinning and submit their yardage to their team captain. At the end of the week, each captain (ours is the wonderful Connie Peterson) will calculate their team’s yardage and submit their spinning results, and the inaugural Spinzilla winning team will be crowned and inherit the Spinzilla trophy along with bragging rights for the next year. Can Team Cotton Clouds take the prize? We sure hope so!
In addition to the official Spinzilla prizes, we’ll be giving away goodies throughout Spinzilla. If you’re part of our team, you could win:
- A $25 Cotton Clouds gift certificate
- A package of our hand-dyed cotton sliver
- A brand new copy of Hand Spinning Cotton by Harry & Olive Linder. This book is currently VERY expensive and hard to find because it’s out of print, but Cotton Clouds will be re-printing it so a new generation can appreciate this fabulous resource!
Stay tuned for more info about Spinzilla, team Cotton Clouds, and all the activities we have planned. Whether or not you join our team, we hope you’ll join in the fun during this exciting week!
As summer temperatures continue to climb, we’re happy to be surrounded by soft, cool clouds of cotton fiber. Cotton really is a dream to spin and knit in the summer months, and the finished yarn is perfect for everything from a woven set of placemats to a lightweight knit sweater. With a few days left in our extended Free Shipping Sale, now is the perfect time to grab a spindle and get to spinning!
If you’re new to spinning cotton, don’t be intimidated! There are a wide variety of resources to get you started, and once you learn, you’ll be hooked! Wondering about terms like boll, punis, or sliver? For a quick primer on the different types of cotton fiber, click below to watch our Cotton Fibers for Spinning from Seed to Sliver video (or read more about it in this recent newsletter). It’s a quick walkthrough that will take the mystery out of cotton terminology, and it will also introduce you to the different types of cotton fiber available for spinning.
When it comes time to pick your fiber, the options are nearly endless. Our All About Spinning Cotton Kit is a perennial favorite and includes a tahkli spindle, expert step-by-step illustrated instructions, plus samples of many different types of cotton for you to experiment with. Once you’re done trying things out, choose from one of the many types of prepared cotton for your next project. You’ll find a full selection on our website, but here are a few of our favorites:
If more instruction is what you’re after, you’ll be happy to find that there is a great selection of DVDs and e-books. Try one of these options to take your cotton spinning skills to the next level:
And don’t forget about our Free Shipping Sale, which has been extended until August 19th. You’ll receive free shipping on any order of cotton spinning fiber or cotton kits when you use promo code SPINCOTTON at checkout!
Stay cool, and happy spinning!
We welcome our guest blogger: the lovely denise renee grace!
I consider myself to be a bit of a magpie- I like to use found materials to my advantage. I was talking with Irene at the WARP tour and dinner that Schacht hosted, and told her that I was saving all of the “cotton” from my vitamin bottles to spin someday. She looked at me over the top of her glasses and said “honey, that is NOT cotton. I will send you some cotton.”
A few weeks later, I received my first package of beautiful naturally colored green cotton. I leapt for joy! I took it home, tried to spin it and I was completely intimidated.
Luckily, Spinning 2 with Maggie Casey was right around the corner! One of the many things she covered in her class was how to spin cotton. We started with a cotton boll which to my surprise was much easier than the sliver. You fluff the cotton boll a little, hold the seed between your fingers and just allow the cotton to slide off into the twist. It is a great way to start a conversation with cotton. We continued the dialog with cotton pima sliver and I was hooked!
It is no wonder Irene is drawn to this amazing fiber, that is so much like her. She had polio when she was young. Some might think this might make her fragile, but I have only known her to be super strong! She runs her own business, loves Nia, spins like a champ, and has a wonderful cheery attitude. Cotton is a short staple fiber, so it can seem very fragile. If it is spun with a lot of twist, it can be super strong.
Irene does an amazing job of inspiring people to spin cotton! After I broached the subject of doing a guest blog, she sent me MORE cotton. I had to go home and spin it immediately!
I watched her video and finally got the confidence to dive into the Morning Glory hand dyed SuPima Cotton with my Ladybug ‘Aja.’ It was like learning to spin all over again. Words came out of my mouth such that I was glad small children were not near.
As I continued to spin, my chat with the cotton got more comfortable. My inchworm short draw became a short modified draw, which moved into a long modified draw, and then I started to get the hang of the long draw. Luckily, I had the soothing view of the mountains to calm me. I found my best spinning occurred when I was looking out at the mountains, or talking to my partner, and just let my hands do the work. When I let go, the strength was able to emerge.
I was so inspired that I went straight for the natural green cotton that she had originally sent. To my surprise, it was NOT like riding a bike. The discussion was awkward at first and there were more “adult only” words before I started to get in the groove. With patience, the groove came and I was comfortable in my mountain spinning again. I just thought….. keep going. It will turn into something good. That is how art (and life) are a lot of the time. It looks horrible to start, but if you just keep going, it morphs into something good! And sometimes I find that it doesn’t morph into something good until the very last step. It is like a leap of faith. Of course when I was finished, I was so excited to weave the yarn with my new Baby Wolf that I totally forgot to take pictures of the beautiful yarn and it just went right on the loom.
The gift of cotton comes full circle round. I spun it, wove it, and gifted it back to the giver. In celebration of National Spinning & Weaving Week, consider giving the gift of cotton to yourself, or to your favorite spinner/weaver.
And…….Irene loves her handspun, handwoven scarf gifted to her by denise!
Thank you denise! YOU are my gift of cotton! Irene
Our 33 year love affair with spinning cotton is translated into these very helpful hints and tips, demonstration videos, and more!
Cotton Clouds provides you with Quality Cotton Spinning Fibers in a variety of preparations that make it easy for any beginner to get started spinning and for the experienced spinner to explore the limitless possibilities of creating the most advanced, delicate yarns.
We highly recommend these excellent DVD’s devoted to cotton spinning:
Current Cotton Clouds’ Blogs on Spinning Cotton:
Helpful Tips & Videos for Successful Cotton Spinning:
Cotton Spinning Tips
Cotton needs a lot of twist to hold together as a yarn! You can’t overtwist it!
Practice spinning cotton on a support (Tahkli) spindle to get the feel!
Begin with a long staple (Pima) cotton fiber either in lint (ginned) or Puni (carded into a rolag) form.
Set your wheel’s spinning ratio (wheel to revolutions of bobbin) to the highest, or sit farther back from the orifice.
Adjust your spinning wheel so that there is just enough draw-in to have control of the fibers as you spin.
Relax, sit back, take a deep breath and have fun spinning cotton
Cotton Fiber Preparation
I admit that I often spin just for the delight of spinning with no thought of what I will do with the yarn. At best, I will try and make a consistent yarn for whatever batch of roving or sliver I am spinning so I will be able to use it for a project. I usually do turn these yarns into something knit, crocheted or woven.
I have also spun for a specific project. I highly recommend that at least once, you spin for a project. The exercise of spinning with a project in mind teaches you how to plan, choose the right fiber, calculate and complete your project.
Where to Start: Pick a Project.
Weaving with cotton handspun:
- It is best to use 2-ply cotton for warp.
- After some experience you can use a cottton single as warp. Use a higher twist in the single than you would for the weft.
- Singles can successfully be used for weft.
- Your first cotton handspun no matter how irregular can be used for weft with a commercially spun yarn for warp.
- Some spinners will go straight to the loom with their handspun cotton without any finishing.
- You may want to first sample to check the shrinkage. Watch for differential shrinkage – in other words the 2-ply warp may not shrink as much as the single weft causing a puckered fabric.
- Leave your handspun cotton on your bobbin overnight to temporarily set the twist. The yarn does not tangle as easily. To permanently set the twist handspun cotton requires boiling or steaming.
Knitting with cotton handspun:
- Two or more plies are the most common yarns for handknitting.
- Use a 2-ply yarn for lace (opens up the lace more) and 3-ply for socks (stronger yarn).
- For “British” or “American” style (AKA throwing the yarn) knitters, spin Z and ply S. This way the yarn does not untwist while knitting.
- A single can be used if finished (boiled or steamed) to set the twist so the knit fabric will not bias. Be sure to do a swatch if you try this.
- Cotton yarns are heavy – much heavier than wool. Keep this in mind when choosing your project.
- Finer cotton yarns (lace, fingering or sport weight) will make lighter garments.
- Needle size is important – start with one size smaller needle than for a woolen yarn of the same diameter. A very open knit fabric in cotton has no body – maybe desirable for lace but not for a sweater.
Crocheting with cotton handspun:
- Crochet fabric is thicker than knit or woven fabric in the same size of yarn.
- Again the finer yarns here – lace or fingering – will give the best results for garments.
- Hook size may need to be a little larger to keep the crocheted fabric soft – depending upon the project, of course – a potholder needs to be firm. Swatch until you get the fabric you want.
- Some spinners will spin S and ply Z for crochet. This really depends upon the crocheter. There seems to be less untwisting of yarn in crochet.
Next Blog: Spinning and Plying a Consistent Yarn
Start planning your project!
I first learned to spin cotton in a Cotton Spinning Workshop by Harry and Olive Linder. It was an amazing class. There was so much information; I was too new to absorb it all. I wish I could take the class again, but alas, they are no longer with us.
I left the class able to spin cotton slowly on my double drive band Saxony-type wheel. It took many support spindles and finally a Tahkli spindle before I really loved to spin cotton.
Support spindles are the very best way to learn the “feel” of drafting cotton. The nice thing about support spindles is you are in control of the twist , you can stop them any time and they don’t reverse directions on you. Drafting cotton is a lovely thing. It is a very light and easy draft due to the short staple length of the fiber. If you can, start with a puni. The fibers are compacted and have a better tendency to cling to each other.
The Tahkli Spindle
The Tahkli has the added benefit of spinning very fast. This quickly adds the high twist needed to hold cotton together as a yarn. You can produce an amazing amount of yarn faster than you think spinning cotton on a Tahkli.
I suggest using a backward draw to spin on a support spindle. In the backward draw the twist is going into the fiber as you are drafting back. You almost cannot feel the draft – it is so light. It is easier to watch the twist go into the drafting zone; holding the fiber very lightly, keep pulling back to stay just ahead of the twist so it stays in the drafting zone and does not move into fiber you are holding in your hand. This is sometimes called the point of twist draw.
This is the only draft you can use on a supported spindle or a Charka as one hand is needed to spin the spindle or turn the wheel on a Charka.
For a suspended spindle (AKA drop spindle) you can use the backward draw or a short forward draw. The short forward draw gives you a little better control, at least at first, for a more consistent yarn. It is a slower way of producing yarn but it will work on almost any suspended spindle. I have not tried in on spindles that weigh more than 1 ½ ounces. The densly compacted fibers of a puni are conducive to spinning on a suspended spindle.
Tips for starting to spin cotton on your wheel
Once you have the feel of drafting cotton you can spin cotton on any wheel. There are some adjustments that will make this easier. The primary aim is to decrease how fast the yarn is wrapped onto the bobbin so that sufficient twist will be added to the newly spun yarn so that it will strong enough to hold together.
Spinning Wheels & Ratios
A wheel with a fast flyer or a lace flyer will spin cotton more effieciently.
Fast flyers or lace flyers are made to add more twist in your yarn during spinning.
These flyers have high ratios. A high ratio would be 24:1 or higher.
A ratio is the number of times the flyer goes around (inserting a twist each time) for each revolution of your wheel.
The wheel goes around once each time you treadle.
So if the ratio is 24:1 then the flyer goes around 24 times inserting 24 twists for one treadle.
If you are using a short forward draw –for example a one inch draw – for each treadle then 24 twists will go into that one inch of yarn. (Probably not something you would want).
If you are using the long backward draw and you draw back seven inches and let the yarn go in for each treadle then those 24 twists will spread out over those seven inches.
Cotton Friendly Wheels
Thankfully spinning wheel manufacturers are making fast flyers for our spinning wheels today. Ashford, Louet and Schacht, all available at Cotton Clouds, have fast flyers for many of their wheels. The Ashford wheels also have the Lace Flyer Kit designed to give ratios up to 30:1 to 40:1 for the Traditional and Traveler spinning wheels.
Flyer Driven Wheels
If you have a fast flyer, use that starting with the largest whorl. If you do not have a fast flyer start with the smallest whorl you have.
For all wheels, decrease the tension on the drive band on the wheel until the wheel does not turn at all, and then slowly increase the tension on the wheel just until the wheel turns.
If your wheel has a brake do the same with the brake–take the tension off the brake then slowly increase the brake until the leader on the bobbin starts to be pulled into the orifice. This is your starting point for spinning cotton.
Adjust the tension on the brake first if you need to increase the uptake—that is the ”pull-in” of the newly made yarn.
If you have a double drive band you will need to increase the tension on the drive band to increase the uptake of your yarn.
Bobbin Driven Wheels
For Bobbin driven (the drive band is on the bobbin) wheels, you may need to take the brake off completely to slow the uptake of yarn.
If you are still having trouble with your yarn being pulled into the orifice too fast you can slow down the uptake by criss-crossing the yarn on the hooks and starting to spin on a half full bobbin.
Happy Cotton Spinning!
Visit www.cottonclouds.com for all you cotton spinning supplies: fibers, tools, wheels, DVD’s, books and more!
If you love to spin cotton, it does not get any better than this!
My spinning study group had the wonderful opportunity to go into the experimental cotton fields of the University of Arizona and pick as much cotton as we wanted. I caution against greediness here. There is an amazing amount of fiber and seeds on those little bolls.
Taking the seeds out by hand takes a lot of time. Find the pointy end of the seed and peel the fiber down from this end much like peeling a banana.
Although we thought this was great fun, it did give us an appreciation for the men and women who had to pick cotton and remove the seeds by hand. Prior to the invention of the cotton gin, it took a man (usually a slave) 18 hours to remove the seeds from one pound of cotton lint.
There is a lot of lint (the official name for cotton when it is off the seed) on one cotton seed. You can spin directly off the seed but only if it is a naked seed as in Pima cotton where the lint does not adhere to the seed. This can get tedious especially if you are spinning on a wheel. It is better to take the seeds out and then spin the fluffed up cotton - it is fluffed after removing the seed.
If you get ginned Pima or ginned Acala cotton it is usually after it has been compacted into a bale. Ginned cotton has to be fluffed before spinning. You can just tease or fluff the cotton by hand or use hand cards to open up the fiber. Using the teased-only method will usually result in a slubbed yarn that gives a nice texture to knitting or weaving.
If you are spinning cotton for the first time or if you want a smooth, easy-to spin-yarn, using a puni is the answer. A puni is fluffed or carded ginned cotton rolled and slightly compacted on a stick. It is the slight compaction and the fact that the cotton has only been ginned and not altered by the industrial methods that make the puni so easy to spin. The cotton clings to itself better and is not as slippery as some of the sliver prepared cottons. You can make your own with handcards. Often the wider hand cards with a finer carding cloth are called cotton cards. It is possible to make punis on wool hand cards but the finer, closer set teeth of Cotton Cards do open the cotton fibers much better.
Or you can buy punis made in India. These are Acala cotton – the shorter stapled cotton. They are lovely to spin.
Spinners now have access to fabulous Easy-to-Spin Sliver cotton. These are pulled from the commercial processing before the fibers are stretched and the crimp is removed. There is still some tooth in the fiber so they are not as slippery as commercially processed cotton sliver . It is easy to get a nice smooth yarn with the Easy-to Spin Pima Sliver, Easy-to-Spin Acala Sliver, and Easy-to-Spin Green Sliver. They are a joy and comfort to spin.
Watching this short video showing all types of Cotton Clouds’ fiber preparations will help you chose which is best for you!
All this talk of cotton has made me want to go spin some cotton. Come join me and show-off your handspun on Cotton Clouds’ Facebook page for all to enjoy! Have fun spinning cotton!
We welcome guest blogger Jill Holbrook to dispell any roadblocks you may have to spinning cotton!
I absolutely love to spin cotton. It is my favorite fiber and the most soothing fiber to spin. When stressed or upset, I spin cotton.
Gandhi said ” If everyone in the world spun an hour a day there would be no more wars”. What a lovely thought! Gandhi spun cotton – a plant indigenous to his country, India.
There is a modern myth that cotton is hard to spin. The fact is, it is really easy to spin though definitely different than wool – the fiber most spinners learn to spin. Cotton does not have scales like wool. Instead cotton fibers start as a tube that becomes hollow and collapses as it matures. This creates convolutions in the fiber that assists the spinner in the same way that the scales in wool fiber does. The cotton fiber convolutions hang onto each other. They pull their neighbors along into the drafting zone.
Commercial processing of cotton straightens the fibers making them slippery. The cotton sliver available to hand spinners in the past was this type of cotton. Now we have Easy to Spin cotton sliver in both short Easy-to-Spin Acala and long staple Easy-to-Spin Pima varieties, as well as new Easy-to-Spin Green. For spinners new to cotton or those who tried the slippery versions in the past you have to try the Easy to Spin. This sliver makes spinning a joy.
It is the short staple of the cotton fibers that causes the most significant difference in spinning cotton. The staple length in cotton can be ½ to 1¾ inches depending upon the quality and type of cotton. Acala or Upland and the naturally colored cottons are the shorter staple, while Egyptian, Sea Island and Pima cottons have longer staple. Hybrids of the naturally colored cottons are now available with longer staples. Soon we will have a lot more of Pima Brown or Sea Island Green – mmm… so much to look forward to!
Here are a few simple things to remember when spinning cotton:
Because of the short staple length in cotton, the draw in spinning has to be adjusted to get enough twist into the fiber to make a continuous yarn. The good news is the draw in cotton spinning is almost effortless.
At least, that is true using the long backward draw – the best and fastest draw and the necessary draw if you plan to spin with a support spindle or a charka.
The key is drafting as the twist enters the drafting zone, sometimes called the point of twist.
The drafting hand moves back as the twist enters, very lightly, while the forward hand is turning the wheel of the charka or twirling the spindle. The draw is so light there is a sense that the newly formed yarn will come apart. It won’t as long as the twist is consistently going into the drafting zone. Of course, this requires practice and patience.
There is a wonderful “Ah Ha! Moment” when you feel that “just right draw”.
It is easiest to learn this draw on a support spindle such as a Tahkli. The hardest part is overriding the “default draw” we have trained our hands and minds to do with wool.
Need further evidence that cotton is easy to spin? At a Tucson Handweavers and Spinners Guild meeting, a visitor came to learn how to spin cotton on a prehistoric spindle. She had never spun before.
Thus, she had no preconceptions about spinning cotton. I had some carded cotton and demonstrated how to spin the spindle in its little bowl and how to spin cotton. After a two minute demonstration she thought she could do it. She could. She spun a continuous yarn not much different than the one I spun while demonstrating. Was I surprised by this? Yes, but I shouldn’t have been. The tradition of including children in household and farm chores was necessary in prehistoric and current cultures. Cotton was the fiber available to the ancient peoples of India, South America, Mexico and Southwestern United States. Children were taught to spin cotton starting at three years of age. (Children have no preconceptions either.)
Which goes to show us all that spinning cotton is really child’s play! Give it a try and discover your cotton spinning child within!
Click Hereto learn more about all Cotton Clouds’ spinning fibers.
Have fun spinning cotton!