Road Cotton

Spin Cotton From the Roadside - so neat!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.

Spin Cotton From the Roadside - so neat!Driving by that area, I noticed that seed cotton, fresh from the fields had blown from the trucks delivering it to the gin and mounded in fluffy little lumps on the side of the road.

Spin Cotton From the Roadside - so neat!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.

Spin Cotton From the Roadside - so neat!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.

Spin Cotton From the Roadside - so neat!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!

Spin Cotton From the Roadside - so neat!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!

Spin Cotton From the Roadside - so neat!When I’d spun most of the fiber around the seed bits, I simply pulled off the last bit of fiber encased seed and went on to the next little bit of seed cotton.

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.




  1. Suzanne says

    This is so great. I just returned from a visit to PHX and was mesmerized by the cacti. I never saw the cotton but I never even knew it was a possibility. Thanks for making me aware. I hope you get lots of spinning done with your newest roadside find.

  2. says

    I’ve camped for a few weeks in the shadow of Mt. Graham, near Safford in Arizona, and seen all the stray cotton along the highway there. I wanted to it and spin it. How nice that you’ve made a sort of tutorial on doing that. Thank you.

    • Mom says

      You’re so welcome zippi! How cool that you’ve experienced the road cotton phenomenon! Next time you camp in the area, you’ll have to tuck a spindle in your backpack! 😀

  3. Nancy says

    Sounds like you had great fun spinning your cotton! I live in the Seattle area; no cotton on the sides of our roads, sigh. I did go to Michaels today, though, and came home with 10 different skeins of Sugar ‘n Cream to make more of your washcloths :-). Thanks again for the pattern.

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