Since I returned to my home in Arizona from Greece, I’ve really come to appreciate my home state. True, it’s too hot much of the year, and there’s only a small window of time in which I can enjoy wool hand knits, but the desert is beautiful. I find ways to indulge my passion for knitting and fiber – even in warm country. This is cotton farming country – especially just south of my Phoenix area home. Fields stretch for miles in these areas and large mountains of cotton sit at the cotton gin, waiting for processing.
It stuck to the weeds, coating them like newly fallen snow. I scooped up a big bunch of the dirty, dew – damp road cotton, interlaced with dried weeds, small bits of gravel and piled it in a brown paper grocery bag. I set it on my back porch to dry for a few days – figured I’d experiment with it.
This was seed cotton – right off the plant, still surrounding the seed from the boll. I’ve tried spinning cotton sliver – something like the top made of wool I buy for my spinning wheel. It’s so slippery, (the cotton that is)and short stapled, that it’s frustrating to spin, even on a spindle. But cotton on the seed? That’s a different fiber altogether. It behaves so differently because the fibers are all tangled up around the seed.
First, I felt for the seed in the middle of the cotton and holding that, I gently drafted out the cotton away from the seed, leaving a little cotton sun, ready to spin. My cotton was dirty and had pieces of gravel and veg matter – but I just pulled out the non-spinnable parts and went on with things, not worrying too much if I wasted pieces of cotton in the process. After all, it was free and I had plenty!
I pulled out one longer end, wrapped it in my leader and added some twist. It cooperated nicely and the twist traveled up the tangled little cotton ball, pulling new fibers in as I drafted and creating a nice even cotton singles. One little cotton ball made an extraordinarily long length of yarn!
If you don’t have cotton laying by the road in your neck of the woods, but you’d like to try spinning seed cotton for yourself, I guess the next best thing is to order online. Cotton Clouds sells it by the pound, and after hours of cotton spinning experimentation, I can assure you that 16 ounces goes a long, long way!
I expect I’ll be working on my paper bag of road cotton for some time to come.