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From Seed to Sliver with Jill Holbrook

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.

Green cotton lint and slub yarn

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!

Irene Schmoller, Founder and Owner

03/27/2017 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

Spinning Through Cyberspace?

by Guest Blogger, Connie Childs Peterson, Team Captain

Could it be possible to gather twenty-five handspinners from across North America and unite them into a team through cyberspace?

I, along with 24 others, have been doing just that during National Spinning & Weaving Week !  Spinzilla is a global event where teams and individuals compete in a friendly challenge to see who can spin the most yarn in a week! Since its maiden voyage in 2012, Spinzilla has  inspired spinners all over the world to join the tribe.


Once again our team members stretched across the USA! Roughly placed on the map, the yardage our team spun would let us travel this route 8.5 times! Road trip anyone?

Team Cotton Clouds spun a whopping 63,378 yards, placing 28th out of 74 teams!


Me, Team Captain?


In the summer of 2014, Irene Schmoller, head-honcho (later to be known as “Fearless Leader”) and founder of Cotton Clouds, asked me to be Team Captain of her newly formed Spinzilla Team Cotton Clouds’ Cotton Tails. Truth be told, she chose me because I was her most active “LIKE” on Cotton Clouds’ Facebook page.  I would respond to every post with some sort of witty comment or drool over her luscious products.

We started out with only eighteen spinners the first year, but have grown so that Team Cotton Tails maxed out at 25 spinners.

We were team thirty-nine out of fifty-four in 2014 but rose to team twenty-eight out of seventy-four in 2016. That’s quite an accomplishment!


How did we do it?

As Team Leader, I was responsible for welcoming in our new spinners, getting them excited and introducing them to each other to build team comradery.

What seemed to work best for back and forth chatter among our team members was an email that asked them how they were doing.  A floodgate opened and they poured their hearts out about their joys of having a full week to spin as well as their frustrations at not having enough time to spin. We also filled up eight pages on Ravelry.

I ran a simple survey this year so that they would get to know each other. Questions that sparked the most response were Favorite Treat(s) to Eat or Drink While Spinning, Favorite Fiber for Fast Spinning, Favorite All-Time Movie you’ll be watching while spinning and Personal Spinzilla 2016 Goal.  Many reached or came close to their goals.

dirty_dancing             gwtw


In truth, it was our spinners that built the team. They invited friends, advertised on FaceBook and at group meetings. It was in Ravelry and through group emails that they built friendships, sharing stories of hardships, delights and events in their lives. My job was to simply encourage them on with their preparation, keep them excited when they felt they wouldn’t make it and cheer with them when they hit their goals. Or, if the case might be, commiserate when they didn’t hit their goals to hopefully make them feel that they had done a great job at just participating.


We all had so much fun that most of the team has said that they want to participate on OUR team next year. Many had been on the team for four consecutive years. Most, but not all were thrilled to spend their time perfecting their cotton spinning skills.

Here are some quotes from a few of our happy spinners.

 “Once again, it’s been a great adventure, and fun to be “with” old friends & new. We did well, didn’t we? I’m proud of us! Every year it’s a challenge to see if I do this or that better than the year before … spin more evenly, more quickly, more efficiently; plan better, prep better, organize better. Mostly it’s an upward curve, with the odd stupid downturn, like neglecting to have extra drive bands on hand! So every year one hopes to learn / improve / achieve a little more. My singles have all become 2-plies and bands are replaced. Ready for next year … bring it on! Cheers, one and all!” Sue


 “Well folks, sorry I haven’t been posting on a regular basis. I retired in July and am not nearly as organized as I was last year. I spun every day, but life intervened and I didn’t get as much done as I had hoped. Nor did I document as well as I did last year. I did spend a half a day with Joan Ruane and got some great tips! I spun on a tahkli and on a charkha. I plied everything this year and plied on both the charkha and a Louet. I did not spin on the Louet.” Jill


Some had family health issues, some had personal health issues. Some were traveling and were confined to certain times to spin. Some worked long hours and had limited times to spin. But all spun, dedicating time and effort to join in this cause. I am proud of them. Irene, “Our Fearless Leader.” is proud of them. They are proud of themselves and each other.


Ours is a small story within the larger one of so many Spinzilla teams (seventy-four this year) world-wide that dedicated their time and efforts to do the best they could for the whole team. It was a true espirit de force that kept us all together within the spinning community.  We’ll see you all again next year!  Keep on spinning!Irene & Spinzilla

Irene Schmoller, Fearless Leader, loves to support Spinzilla.  She has been spinning since 1972.

Connie Child Peterson, Team Captain, is a living historian who teaches and demonstrates historical fiber skills. She has been spinning and weaving since 1973 and owns thirteen looms, ranging from band looms to a 36″, 8-shaft loom, along with three working wheels. Her favorite is a double-treadle traveler; a Kromski reproduction 1870 Polish wheel as her demonstration wheel and a very rarely used, very small upright ship’s wheel, probably used by a captain’s wife while sailing on the seas.

She and her husband live on six acres in Southwestern Minnesota with one dog, four cats and several Corriedale-cross sheep which are her main source of spinning fibers, although she has some Cotton Clouds’ fibers she promises to learn to spin!

See you next year at Spinzilla 2017! Connie & Irene

10/24/2016 at 8:04 pm Leave a comment

Flash Sale! 50% Off! Ends Sunday January

Flash Sale! 50% Off! Ends Sunday January 21! Cotton Classic & Cotton Classic Lite plus FREE pattern with every order!

01/22/2016 at 2:55 pm Leave a comment

The Birth of “A Year of Towels” Kit Club

Start the year off right!

Rigid Heddle Year of Towels Kit Club!

Join now!


A few years ago I had the idea of designing twelve towel projects to share with my fellow rigid heddle weavers.

I started with basic plain weave, adding simple stripes to jazz up my towels, then as the ball got rolling, or should I say the shuttles were flying, I expanded on simple plain weave with some of the many weave structures that our rigid heddle looms allow.

Weaving towels on my Schacht FLIP Rigid Heddle Loom has always been the most rewarding weaving for me, with the need for minimal finishing  and the many design possibilities.

As each towel was evolving, the next project idea was beginning to form.   I couldn’t wait to start the next project and I almost felt like I was on a production line!  My shuttles were definitely flying!


Houndstooth Plaid Towels

Another great thing about weaving towels is that they can be woven in any size depending on the width of your loom, from small-sized tea towels to generously sized kitchen towels.

There is always a need for kitchen towels.

They make great gifts too! My friends and family love receiving my hand woven towels and almost expect them for their birthday and holiday gifts.  Most of these towels are woven in our soft, super-absorbent, all-natural, unmercerized Aurora Earth 8/2 cotton.

Each kit comes with all the yarns, instructions and pattern resources you’ll need to weave two to four towels depending on kit.


Diamond Lace Towels

Much of my inspiration came from The Weaver’s Idea Book. It’s a great reference for many of the pick up techniques and designs I used in these towels. It’s a must for any rigid heddle weaver’s library!


Stained Glass Towels

When all twelve projects were complete,  I loaded them into two huge shopping bags and drove to my mom’s house for a photo shoot. 

My mom’s collection of kitchen props is amazing! I was even able to use one of my grandma’s antique cookie jars and we actually ate the pie in one of the photos for Thanksgiving!

Once we had twelve great weaving projects and twelve great photos, it was time to design the calendar for our “Year of Towels:  Rigid Heddle Weaving”.

Designing the calendar fell into place and presto,  A Year of Towels Kit-of-the-Month Club for Rigid Heddle  was born.

Order any of these kits individually or join our

Year of Towels Kit-of-the-Month Club

FREE SHIPPING all year when you join the club!

Come join the fun! I’m here to answer any of your questions whether it’s about ordering or when you start warping and weaving! Come join our Kit-of-the-Month Club Group on FB for hints & tips and inspiration!

KOMC Group Vista Print

                           Join us at:

Jodi Ybarra, your fellow rigid heddle weaver at Cotton Clouds.

12/22/2015 at 8:44 pm 1 comment

You’ll absolutely love how QUICK, EASY

You’ll absolutely love how QUICK, EASY & FUN it is to to make gifts on the Schacht ZOOM Loom! In stock for immediate delivery.

12/09/2015 at 5:16 pm Leave a comment

Free Shipping Sale! The Schacht Sidekick

Free Shipping Sale! The Schacht Sidekick Spinning Wheel is everything you want in a spinning wheel: Efficient, Responsive, Practical and Portable! Only two left in stock! Order yours today for free shipping plus free spinning fibers! Check it out at:

12/03/2015 at 12:05 pm Leave a comment

Gift a friend or yourself these quick &

Gift a friend or yourself these quick & easy Waffle Weave Towels to weave on any rigid heddle or 4-shaft looms! Order just in time for the holidays! Check it out at:

12/02/2015 at 1:10 am Leave a comment

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