I grew a bit of cotton in my home garden this year, and I've been creating punis to spin into two-ply cotton yarn. Today, however, before I run out of raw bolls, I decided to test the ease of spinning cotton from seed using my tahkli spindle. At first, I had beginner's luck, and spinning from one seed produced a little over a yard of single ply. It was definitely beginner's luck, though. On the second, third, and fourth seeds, I had to spin through a lot of challenges.
USING THE TAKLI TO SPIN FROM SEED
- The first step was to loosen the cotton from the seed. I simply used my fingers to loosen the fibers all around the seed without detaching the fibers.
- Next, I used the hook at the end of the spindle and placed it into the loosened cotton to start the process. I spin clockwise.
- Just as with any other spinning, I spun the tahkli with my right hand while pinching the loose cotton with my left hand, and released the pinch while pulling my left hand up the fibers to allow the twist to run up the fiber.
- The extra step involved with spinning from the seed was rotating the seed so the twist evenly caught all of the fibers from around the seed in order.
When it worked, this process produced a "fuzzier" single ply than when I used cotton that had been made into punis on my cotton carders.
CHALLENGES SPINNING FROM SEED
The first challenge was that this required more twist and a lighter draft than spinning a puni. With the exception of my first attempt, there were several breaks that had to be reattached as I completed each seed from each boll. Furthermore, the extra step of rotating the seed as I drafted was exceptionally important: The fibers had to come from the seed in order, around, not from around the other side of the seed. If I rotated the seed to quickly or too slowly, or at an additional angle, the fibers stopped moving because they became wrapped and twisted around the seed. Subsequently, tugging the seed to release it broke the work, and paying attention to the seed instead of to my work made me lose focus. The thread I created is definitely uneven and very thin in some places. I do worry that this will cause breaks when I ply it.
CONCLUSION: MAKE PUNISMy experiment yielded uneven results. Although I can and did have some success skipping the carding process, it was more difficult to attain quality work without breaks than it is when I diligently comb my cotton into punis. Perhaps with practice I can find my rhythm and consistently spin from cotton seeds, but in the meantime, I will make punis.
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Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.