Cotton is the most widely used natural fibre in the world. For ages.
The plant offers fibres for clothing, and oil from its seeds, provides bio-fuel and the whole plant is used in some way or other. The fibres find their way to making your soft towels, sheetings, clothing and even to currency making.
Easy to wash and hypo-allergenic, cotton is easily the favourite in our wardrobes.
When it comes to hand spinning, it is perceived as ‘not so easy’ to spin compared to wool. That is because the staple length of cotton is short at around 25-35mm compared to wools having 70-100mm. The low crimp in cotton and the high cohesion making the fibres stick to each other pose more challenges to the hand spinner.
‘Takhli’, the bottom weighted spindle and the ‘charkha’ with a spindle which doubles up as a bobbin to store the spun yarn have long been used for spinning cotton.
We find that modern spinning wheels with greater speed ratios and better tension control are much better for spinning cotton. It is not only faster and easier but also has a big storage capacity with large bobbins.
We did some cotton spinning experiments with Ashford e-Spinner. We chose Indian cotton with about 25mm staple length for our experiment. We had prepared the fibres in different forms- hand-carded fibres in a batt, hand-carded rolags & industrially carded slivers. We also got some ‘punies’ from the market. After experimenting with all this, our choice now is industrially carded cotton slivers! They seem to have just the right cohesion and also the flow between your fingers.
We had to play with the speed settings and the scotch tension before settling down on the ‘sweet spot’. A reasonably high speed and practically zero scotch tension worked fine for the kind of cotton we spun. Both long-draw spinning and short backward draw methods worked great, though after some time, we settled down with short backward draw as it gave a nice rhythm to the spinning and we could ease into the ‘zone’ without much effort J
Thanks to the e-Spinner, we could set the wheel at high speeds and spin with comfort, ease and of course a very good speed!
No plans yet on what to weave the hand spun yarn with. But surely there would be a lot of discussions & debates at the studio on what to do with the lovely yarn.
The modern Spinning wheels are truly a pleasure to work with!