Wednesday, May 15, 2013


For the last several weeks, I have been spinning some cotton. Actually, it's been for many, many weeks -- I don't really remember how long -- but cotton is not a very fast fibre to spin.

I located two grocery bags of raw ginned cotton; I don't really remember where or when I got them. I seem to gather lots of things with the idea that one day I would make use of them. Sometimes it is many, many years before I find what to do with them, but usually I make use of it all.

Cotton is a very short fibre. It is very fine, and quite delicate. It doesn't card that easily. You need special equipment to card cotton. I don't have that equipment. I do have some small cards, which work quite satisfactorily with wool, but is not so good with cotton. I tried a little bit, and I created a lot -- and I mean A LOT -- of noils!
I did spin those little batts, but was not very satisfied with the result. I also made some punis, and that made spinning a bit easier.
It is a whole different technique than one uses with wool. I was never very good with the long draw, but have now learned to do that. You really spin better with the long draw with cotton.
So eventually I settled on drawing a small tuft of cotton over the teeth of the carder, and "combed" it that way. It's slow, but works quite well. I didn't get so many noils this way.

You may know that cotton needs a lot of twist. In fact, you need to put in far more twist than you think is possible, and maybe just a little more. Cotton is very resilient, and can withstand much twist. It needs it. It is a short fibre, and does not have any scales as does wool. So in order to hold itself together, it needs a lot of twist. It also cannot be spun thick. For that reason, you will find that cotton is usually a multi-ply yarn to give it some thickness, and strength.

I was going to make this a 2-ply yarn to knit a special project this summer. I may not get it finished until Christmas, but there is no time limit on these things! Ha-ha-ha. But after looking at some samples of the 2-ply, and seeing how thin it still is, and seeing it is somewhat uneven, I decided that I would do a 3-ply instead. So it's a bit more spinning; that's alright. There is no deadline!

I had forgotten how long it takes to spin cotton. I remember spinning some about 20 years ago. At that time, I made it a point to spin each and every day, even for a few minutes. I was working very long late hours back then in a stressful position, so even when I came home after midnight, I always sat down and spun for about 10 minutes or more. I found that it helped me "unwind" while I was winding the cotton!! There is a meditative quality to spinning, which I used to advantage. I found that spinning for a few minutes would relax me enough so that I could get to sleep, and be rested enough to be back at work early the next morning. Very often I would sit far longer than I expected since I really found it so enjoyable.

But it took me a long time to fill one bobbin! I seem to recall that it took well over a month to fill one bobbin. I did a 2-ply, as I recall, and just doing one bobbin of plyed yarn took me almost 2 full weeks!

This past Sunday, as I was reaching the bottom of the first bag of cotton, I could see a piece of paper in the bottom. It probabnly was a label of some sort, but forgot what it said -- probably where it came from. I reached down and felt that it was a rather stiff piece of paper. Pulling it out, I can see that it was a card in an envelope!  It was addressed to "Mr. Super Spinner"! Inside was a card with a lovely picture of a lighthouse on it. Inside, a short note addressed to me saying "A box full of cotton for you".

Then I remembered: this came from a dear friend of mine several years earlier, who had some cotton she said she wasn't going to use, and she sent it to me. I remember that I wasn't prepared at that time to do anything with it, but as with all things I have, I would use it "one day". That was in June of 2006. The day had finally come.

I have been so truly blessed to have met some absolutely wonderful and precious friends through fibre. This was a friend that I have known for many years, but have never met. We were "friends" through the internet. I can't remember how long it has been, but we used to meet twice a week, most times, for an internet chat. There was a small group that used the chat room through All Fiber Arts, but sadly, that chat has now dimished. There are people from across Canada, from Rhode Island, from Ohio, and even New Zealand. Through the years, we have gone through all kinds of tribulations and joys. We had a lot of good laughs, and have helped each other through difficult periods. We still keep in touch by email. I value these friendships better than most others, because we have survived for so long, and have shared so many parts of our lives.

So to you, Kessie, thank you so much for your gift of the cotton. I am spinning it now, and thinking of you often. Your generosity of sending me all this cotton, to someone you have not met, touches me deeply. I am going to use this to make something special (details will come later after I get started) and will treasure this as something that comes with a very unique story. Kessie, you are a very special lady.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding me of all kinds of things - Cathy in New Zealand