Monday, 10 October 2011

Ready for a Spin?

Rainbow lorikeets in the grevilleas outside our bedroom (in September) make a lively contrast to the white cotton I've been spinning.

I've learned to spin cotton, thanks to the generousity of strangers. Last year a fellow found one of our old websites and emailed to ask if I'd be interested in having his mother's long stored spinning equipment and fibres. She was going into a nursing home. Amongst the supplies he passed along to me, I found cotton top (processed fibres aligned for spinning), a homemade support spindle and a series of printed lessons on handspinning from a Flying Arts correspondence course available in the '80s. This year I had the opportunity to give cotton spinning a go.

I already knew how to spin wool, silk and alpaca. But I had never used a support spindle nor spun cotton. My first efforts left me feeling very frustrated, I just couldn't get the hang of it. The booklet's instructions regarding support spindles and cotton were... brief.

I turned to YouTube and Ravelry to see how others managed. Total strangers provided useful videos and the best advice: practice 15 minutes a day for a month.

Though I improved over the month, I continued to have trouble drafting the fibres. One problem: long term storage had compacted the cotton top. But there was something else. Whenever I ran into drafting difficulties, I began examining the fibres with a magnifier. I discovered a prickly vegetal bit at the centre of each clumpy section. Fragments of seed hull? Since this cotton top came from the '80s, it was almost surely not intended for a handspinner, but instead meant for use in a spinning mill where inclusion of small vegetal bits would not be a big problem. For this handspinner, those vegetal bits made spinning laborious and slow.

I searched for any website relevant to cotton handspinning and finally discovered Cotton Spinning with Joan Ruane. What a treasure! Joan has developed Easy To Spin Pima Cotton, a vegetal-free form of pima cotton top, specifically for handspinners. I ordered a pound from Cotton Clouds, one of the retailers that carry Joan's product. My cotton spinning went from being a chore to being a pleasure! I'm now spinning this cotton on a support spindle and on my Ashford Traditional wheel with no problems.

What shall I do with my skeins of handspun cotton yarn? Wash and weave.

M in JaM

No comments: