Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cotton Spinning

Well, all those facts in my post a couple weeks ago really put a damper on my thought process. I suppose I will put some information like that in this blog and in my book and I will keep it to a minimum. First of all, I am not an expert on the various textiles and I am collecting the information the same way anyone else can do- searching the internet. So, I'm going back to practical stuff- the basics of creating textiles.

Since I talked about cotton last time and I had a sample of cotton fiber ready to spin that I picked up last year, I thought I'd take it for a spin! (Pun intended.) For anyone just getting in to textiles and spinning, do not start with cotton. I have "Organic Upland" sliver. It comes from New World Textiles out of Black Mountain NC. I bought it indirectly from Hillcreek Fiber Studios who visit the Michigan Fiber Fest every year.

When it comes to spinning fibers, the easiest fiber to spin in my view, is wool, especially the long staple varieties. Wool also has crimp (the "curliness" or "kinkiness" of the fiber) and scales because it's basically hair which helps the fibers stick to one another.

Cotton, on the other hand, is a plant fiber with very short fibers.

Spinning materials which have very short fibers takes lots of practice and experience. I've been spinning a number of years and have been spinning very fine thread as well. Still, it took several hours before I was able to spin without constantly losing the spun thread through the orifice of the spinning wheel. I have learned that the cotton fiber does have some twist to it. Here is a picture I found referenced from a book from 1926 called "A Girl's Problems In Home Economics".

Here is a shot of me spinning the cotton with a close-up of the fibers.

It took me about 4-5 hours to spin 1/2 a bobbin of fibers. I am spinning fairly fine thread as you can see from the next photo. This is a comparison of this cotton thread I'm spinning, sewing thread (the red one) and some purchased cotton yarn which is categorized as "4" or medium/worsted weight yarn. After I get through 1/2 of the cotton, I'll spin another bobbin, turning the wheel the opposite way. This will allow me to weave with both threads as singles with one as the warp and the other as the weft. It will be interesting to see if it's spun thin enough to be make a wearable fabric.

I just spent this morning in the greenhouse. It was beautifully warm in there- about 75F. It was time to add lots of wood chips to the chicken area and clean up many of the pots in the aquaponics system. This was probably the most physical work I've had to do since starting to wear my experimental clothes. I may have to do some quick washing of the tops especially- the off-white sweater is now a bit dirty and I still have 2 days to wear it before the next official wash day. I am thinking I'll have to make allowances for when I go out after a day working in these clothes. I'm going out tonight to Kalamazoo's Cooper's Glen Music Festival and the sweater is just too dirty!

Oh, next week, I'll be writing about two year-long experiments a couple of women have been undertaking concerning clothes. Taken together, my experiment and the other two say a lot about the task ahead of us regarding relocalizing our textiles.

See you then!

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