Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lovely cotton!

I have had a most productive and enjoyable day, rediscovering cotton. I knew I liked it - I had forgotten how satisfying it could be to wheel spin as well as spindle or charka spin. When I say productive, I don't mean quantity-wise, but in preparation for the next workshop.

I shall be using the Lendrum, which would be my wheel of choice for cotton spinning anyway. So I dragged it out and set it up with its higher speed "ordinary" flyer. Oiled the spindle shaft, as I hadn't used it in a while. Checked the rubber band that I use instead of a spring on the scotch tensioner. The one I have on at the moment is a tad too long, I seem to remember that it was a bit of a belt and braces job when out and about one day. But it is good enough. So, I played around with that set as lightly as possible until I had just the right gentle but positive draw-on. Then I prepared my cotton.

I spun sliver first. It has been in my stash awhile, so I paid extra attention to "conditioning" it (with grateful thanks to Stephenie Gaustad, who taught that at a SOAR Retreat session years ago!) By which I mean: take of a length of sliver, then hold it lightly between your two thumbs and forefingers, a very little way apart. Gently more or less rotate it, working along the sliver as you do so, then back again, for as long as it takes. You will be amazed how much your compacted fibre opens up and becomes ready for easy drafting!

OK, so join your fibre supply to your leader any way that works. I generally short draw it until the join is safely stored on the bobbin - the only circumstance in which I would dream of using short draw for cotton. Then you are quite ready for easy, effortless, relaxing cotton spinning.

No-one ever believes me, it is so sad. (Learned from another SOAR Retreat, Patricia Emerick* this time, who taught me various things but mostly that the big secret to cotton spinning is to relax!)

Treadle slowly to begin with. Once under way, hold the forming yarn in a straight line with the orifice by hooking index and middle finger so as to form a right angle with the yarn around them. Or whichever finger combination feels comfortable. I lean to the left - the right is totally acceptable! Then just use a point of contact technique to allow the yarn that you will feel forming in the sliver (no-one ever believes that, either) to draft out. You need to build up a lot of twist for cotton, so lounge spinning technique, being very laid back and comfortable in how you are sitting, will work well. It is a good thing to have quite a distance between your hand and the orifice for the twist to build up. Depending on the ratio of your wheel, you will need to hold back the yarn to a greater or lesser extent. But once you are in a comfortable rhythm, you can speed up the treadling.

orange cotton

Having done that, I went on to make some punis.


I used the same flyer, but modified my technique somewhat. I found that using something rather closer to a longdraw, it worked better not to hook and bend, but just to draft back at an angle. I used too large a knitting needle to roll my punis, but they were still good to spin from - pity I don't really like making them!

So, next step was to be brave, and put on the extra-fast flyer. I haven't used this all that often, and I was a bit apprehensive, but I needn't have worried. Went like a dream. I'm going to finish the orange cotton - might make a scarf, or neck shoawl with a bit of luck. But the only thing I need to do now before the workshop (other than writing up some notes) is to find the cotton bolls and spin from a seed - that is such fun!

*What ever happened to her?


beadlizard said...

Lovely punis, but I know what you mean about making them...

Can't wait to see your orange stuff all spun. --syl

Anonymous said...

It is a rough road indeed when you suggest to spinners that cotton spinning is a lovely quite enchanting process. I love to spin it, but so far just use the finished skeins as decorations.

Happy trails to you. (likely a poor phrase to direct to an English person since it came from Roy Rogers movies circa 1950)

Dianna from sk

Ruth said...

Ah, you've already gone by now. I read about your punis earlier on, and now you're on travel. Cie la vie.

I love cotton! I love growing it, I love spinning with it, and I love knitting with it.

My question for you- should you share the secret of making easily-drafting punis? Mine never draft as easily as the India-made ones.

Thanks- and safe trip! Enjoy!

Ruth said...

ooops, typo. I typed "Should you share" when I meant "WOULD you share the secret of making punis?"