Loops, Plies, and Binding? Oh, my!

We’re delighted to have Rachel Anne MacGillivray back at the blog today! If you’ve been intimidated to try to spin a Bouclé yarn, you are not alone! In today’s post Rachel takes us through her beginner’s attempt at spinning this type of yarn.

My first, finished skein of boucle, after a go in the dye pot

My first, finished skein of boucle, after a go in the dye pot

I’d like to share with you all my deep, dark, spinning secret.  *deep breath* Ok. Here goes… I’ve never spun bouclé.  I’ve never even ATTEMPTED bouclé before and it’s not because I’m not into texture. I LOVE texture! I love playing with different thicknesses and tensions when plying; I LOVE using different fibers together, wild batts, and throwing in add-ins.  I love spirals and coils and knopps and bibs and bobs and springs and things… but bouclés? Teeny tiny sweet little loops? I dunno, they were always overlooked by my pinch and draft. 

Maybe I’m being deliberately misleading here… I implied I don’t know why I’ve never spun bouclé but I can tell you exactly why: It’s intimidating. It always seemed very technical, challenging, and time consuming. Then, the bouclé issue of PLY came out and, feeling inspired, I decided now is the time. I would attempt the most mythical (to me) of yarn structures: The Bouclé.

 First thing I did was gather my resources (I’m a book hound and having new reasons to go leafing through books fills me with glee). 

After some research, I started to understand how bouclé works:

Two plies: one high twist, one low twist and spun in opposite directions, then plied together in the same direction as the low twist yarn.  Some fancy handwork to make loops from the high twist yarn, then ply it all again in the direction opposite the first plying to bind it up with a fine yarn.  Uh… simple…. Right?

 On to materials: Wensleydale top for the loops because it’s long stapled, lustrous, and gorgeous; a wild carded batt for the core; and a fine, commercial spun silk noil for the binder because, well, it was purple.  Instead of the batt, I should have used something easier to draft consistently so I eventually switched to BFL top.

 Books & research? Check.  Materials? Check.

 *inhales and holds breath for a minute*

 OK. Go.

My first loop!

My first loop!

I spun my first bouclé ply VERY high twist and fine, and did the core ply exaggeratedly slowly to add little twist to that ply.  After awhile I started to doubt my definition of low twist and gave the second half of my core yarn a more medium twist.  I didn’t dive in and fill bobbins with these because I wasn’t sure how they’d work out.

On to plying.

The first note I made? “Whoa. This is tough.” But you know, lots of things are tough, especially when you first start, so I gave my hands some time to settle into a groove and start to understand the new motions.  I found I had to go rogue from what the books told me in terms of how to move my hands and got into this funny trick of passing the bouclé ply from one hand to the other and pinching it with the core.  It worked for my hands and I just trusted my body and went with it.  Refining technique can always come later. 

Well, I tell you, I was starting to feel like bouclé was overrated when then, like a tiny, bright, shining star, my first bouclé appeared! My hands must have made the right motion and timing worked out and there it was: a perfect little circle sitting on top of my yarn.  I was delighted!  Also hooked. Definitely hooked.  That tiny loop stole my heart.

After my first round of plying, sitting on my bobbin. I admit, at this point I was petty skeptical.

After my first round of plying, sitting on my bobbin. I admit, at this point I was petty skeptical.

Let me clear – it was not all sunshine, rainbows, and perfect little loops from there on in. My medium twist core really wasn’t loose enough, but the barely spun core worked quite a bit better.  My bouclé ply was too fine and highly twisted so I tried thicker and looser. It worked better, but still not quite right.

As I practiced I got more loops and they are totally darling!  I let out a little squeal with each one that appeared, but I wasn’t loving the yarn as a whole.

I set it down for awhile, busy with life and not convinced I’d done a good job. Finally, I decided to come back to it and plied it with the binder. Well, if I have any advice here, it’s don’t wait to add your third ply! All of a sudden I was totally in love with my yarn! Yes, it needs some work and I’ll learn more and make it better, BUT something completely magical happens when you do the final ply. Everything seemed to bloom and standout, and say “hey, here I am! I’m a bouclé!”

(Technical tip: I did a slight spiral ply here and loved the effect.)

So, I can finally say I’ve spun bouclé.  Was it perfect? No way! Was my yarn even all that good? Probably not. But, that’s what learning is! Trying things, making mistakes, trying new things, and having thrilling moments that get you closer to what you want. It was fun, and challenging, and I’ll keep at it – letting those little loops shine their light into my life.


In love with all things Textiley, Rachel Ann MacGillivray teaches spinning & other things at the New Brunswick College of Craft & Design in Fredericton, Canada.  A farm kid, spinning and wool are in her bones (well, not literally in her bones, that would be just a bit too wobbly).  Oh yeah, and she loves drinking tea.  Like, a lot.

Rhinebeck Sweater?

I’m leaving for New York in less than a week. It’s the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival. I’m excited to see the festival. I haven’t been able to see the festival on my own terms for years and I’ve written myself a little schedule. I did leave some open spaces in case somebody wants to meet up with me for a snack or something.


Anyway, I’ve been thinking for many months that my favorite sweaters are looking a little ratty. My two favorites have been repaired several times. The one called Hiro has ripped at the neck a coouple of times and I just do a bit of a crocheted edge and put her back together. The one that I made from a Jacob fleece has gotten several holes and so I have started embroidering flowers over the holes; a sort of visible mending.20161006_080641_001

Those repairs are working but for crying out loud I need a new sweater. Yes I have other sweaters…but another one of my favorites, Tappan Zee, also has a hole that I have yet to repair. Hiro is about 3 years old, the Jacob is probably 4 years old and Tappan Zee is maybe 5 or 6 years old. Even without the holes and things I would still need a new sweater. And it’s not like I haven;t been spinning! Lots! But that’s all for weaving the next skirt.

So, anyway, I was digging around in my stash and I came across a cotton project bg from Cooperative Press. When I looked inside there was a handspun sweater that was well under way! I totally forgot about it. I immediatley remembered why I had put it aside. I was looking for a sweater with certain attributes a couple of years ago and my friend, Amy King, offered to design a sweater just for me. And she did! And so I started knitting but then I was a bit confused about an instruction on the left front…and I stopped.

20161006_081022I called Amy! She found her electronic copy! She answered my question. Now I’m moving forward. The body of the sweater is finished and I’m working on the first sleeve. But I have another issue. The yarn is made from BFL/Silk that was specially dyed for me – also by Amy King (Spunky Eclectic) I have no more to spin and I think the sleeves are going to be tight and I still have edgings to do…

After all of that explanation, here’s the question, if I knit faster, will it make the yarn go further?

Spinning Confession: I Write On My Bobbins


bobbins PLY

Yes, you read that right. I take a brand new piece of equipment that costs between $30 & $50 and write on it. With a Sharpie. And it keeps me sane. My spinning tools are just that, tools that I use to make yarn.

It took me a long time to finally break down and write on a bobbin. I remember exactly when, too. It was at SOAR in a Kathryn Alexander class on energized singles. We had to spin some singles Z and some singles S. I tried to keep S on one side of my chair and Z on the other, but they kept rolling together.

Kathryn sees my struggle, comes over and says, “Just write on them, with a pencil, S or Z”.  I did and have never looked back.

All of my bobbins have been weighed and marked with their empty weight. With that information I can weigh my bobbin mid-spin, subtract the empty weight and know how much yarn I’ve spun so far.

I mark my bobbins for direction of spin, especially when I’m making crepes or cable yarns.

The orange sticker on the Schacht bobbin in the photo is a note to tell me where in a multi-color, multi-ply, multi-yarn project this bobbin belongs.

Storage bobbins get all of the writing love. The one in the photo reminds me that it weighs .65 ounces empty, the yarn on it is Vegetable Medley (from Into the Whirled) and I spun it to chain ply. When I pull it out of my spinning basket I know exactly what it’s for.

I often mark my bobbins with the name of the project, article, sample that the yarn is destined to be since I work on several projects at the same time.

Writing on my bobbins saves me so much time, stress and mental space. I rarely  have to play the ‘what’s on this bobbin’ game.

Now I just have to get better at erasing all the project info off of my bobbins when I’m done with the yarn!

My Hero – Mabel Ross

I’ve been thinking lately about my spinning heros. The people who have pushed me and educated me and made me a better spinner

Of course some of them are alive and I actually get to talk to a few of them. Some of them are no longer living, but I have their books and videos. mabelross

One in particular has been on my mind a lot. Her name is Mabel Ross. Maybe you have never heard of her. If you haven’t, please look up her work. Her methods may not be for everyone but I love the way she speaks and teaches. The reason I’ve been thinking about her is because when I was at the Palouse Fiber Fest in Idaho in June, one of my other spinning heros, Sarah Swett, gave me a Mabel Ross lap cloth that was signed by Mabel herself! I don’t think that Sarah had any idea how much that little gift would mean to me when she gave it to me.

Mabel’s style can be a little rigid but she has a lot to teach you. She’s very precise. As you can see from the markings on the lap cloth, those lines are there to help you have each draft be a precise length. Mabel loved the math of spinning and she didn’t mind telling you.

There are several books written by Mabel Ross as well as a video which is the first thing I bought of her’s (my first copy was VHS). The video is called Handspinning; Advanced Techniques. This one you can still find at some retailers. The books, as far as I know, are all out of print. But let me give you the titles in case you want to go searching for them.

The Encyclopedia of Handspinning

The Essentials of Handspinning

The Essentials of Yarn Design for Handspinners (this is the most expensive one)

Handspinner’s Workbook: Fancy Yarns (This one is also usually pretty expensive.)

Just keep your eyes open. Sometimes you come accross these books at a bargain. But i feel like they are worth every penny.

Hand Prepping the Itch – All the Mistakes

rolags batts editedI am not a very patient person. I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve shied away from hand prepping fiber. But now that I want to learn to hand prep I have to slow down and be patient. I knew that somewhere along the way it was going to be a struggle, and I just found the spot. I enjoyed washing the Bond fleece, didn’t mind the mess or all of the water; I loved the smell. It went pretty quickly, or seemed to because I could do other things in between washing and rinsing.


Not so open and opened. Guess which carded easier?

Not so open and opened. Guess which carded easier?

I assumed I would put the Bond fleece on my drum carder and zip, zip I would have lovely fluffy batts to spin. Not exactly. I made a bunch of errors, all because I rushed. First, I didn’t open up the fiber enough before I ran it through the carder and I got neps, lots of little tangled fibers. After sighing like a teenager denied car keys, I spent more time teasing open the fiber and applying it in thinner layers to the drum carder. There were fewer neps, but there were still neps. More sighing and maybe I stomped my foot. I will shamefully tell you that I tried both original carding techniques multiple times before admitting that they didn’t work.


Neps, gross!

Neps, gross!

I sat; I hated on hand prepping; I thought about what causes neps. Neps can happen when a fine, crimpy fiber is treated poorly. If it gets stretched too far, too fast, some of the fibers spring back and wrap around themselves forming neps. I had been operating this prepping expedition with the idea that Bond is like Corriedale. It is, but it isn’t. I went back and looked at my fiber. I pulled out a bit, I held it up to the light, I twanged it and watched it spring back. Then I petted it and apologized. It was finer and more crimpy than Corriedale that I would zip through my drum carder. I dug out my hand cards.


Not so many neps with the hand carding.

Not so many neps with the hand carding.


Hand carding made the Bond much happier, but really tested my patience. It takes a long time! Granted I don’t practice much, so my technique is, well, saying it’s wonky wouldn’t be too far off. But I am going to persevere and hand card the rest of the Bond. I suspect by the end of these couple of pounds of fiber I won’t be eye-rolling and head shaking anymore, but just enjoying the ride.



women spinning on a spindle

Spindles – They are for everybody

I’m primarily a wheel spinner. Actually it’s been that way since I learned to spin. I love my wheels. I love how they look. I love how I imagine I look when I’m using them (don’t laugh). Many of the classes I teach are wheel focused classes.

But I like spindles too. I have plenty of them. Don’t ask how many. It’s not important.

When I learned to spin I began on a spindle but it was slow going and I was convinced that my lack of progress was because of the tool I was using and I needed a wheel. So I bought myself a used Ashford Traditional. Needless to say, the tool was not my problem. But that’s another story. Anyway, I took some lessons and got to be decent on the wheel. When I was satisfied that I was learning and improving I picked up the spindle again and magically I could do it! From then on I was a fan.


Let me tell you why I think you should like spindles too – beyond the fact that they can be beautiful.

For the last couple of years I have been immersed in a couple of projects that needed a wheel to complete so I hadn’t picked up a spindle in a while. Then, last month I was teaching at the Palouse Fiber Festival in Moscow, Idaho and I was there with my friend Esther Rodgers who was also teaching. Esther had been told several times by Abby Franquemont that her arm problems when she used a spindle were because she was using a spindle that we lovingly refer to as a boat anchor. What that means is that is was too heavy. I was able to drag Esther to the table of Greensleeves Spindles. I own at least 10 of their spindles myself and I know that they are super good spindles. Well, Esther began to spin IMG_20160702_182904and try some out and she chose one to buy. Well, she didn’t stop spinning on that spindle for the whole weekend and I think she’s still spinning with it! I also think she may have visited the Jenkins table and bought a second one before we left Idaho.

So I was inspired and last week we were headed to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan just to spend the day with all of our kids and grandkids and on the way out the door I grabbed a spindle and an illusive Abby Batt to work on while we walked around. I got pretty much done in the midst of semi chaos. and I began to think about what I learned from spinning on a spindle. all of the things I’ve learned translate to wheel spinning and make me a better overall spinner.

I learned to better handle live singles. I rarely have tangles. I learned this by butterflying the yarn onto one hand to raise the spindle rather than reaching for the spindle when it is hanging by a super long thread. If you are unsure what I mean by butterflying the yarn you can see it here at around the 5 minute mark. (yes, that’s me a few years ago.)

I learned that sometimes it’s better to take some time with a project rather than always trying to be in production mode. Please don’t mistake me, spinners all over the world spin pounds and pounds of yarn using only spindles but I am not as practiced at it as they are since my focus has been a different tool. I am thoroughly convinced if I made yarn exclusively on a spindle and carried one with me all of the time I would be able to do it too. but since that isn’t the case, I like to use a spindle for special fibers that I only ahve a little of so that I can savor the experience.

I learned (again) that the right tool for the job is often key to getting the results that I want. spindles can add twist extremely quickly and with very little tension on the yanr being made so they are perfect for spinning super fine/gossamer type yarns that spinning wheels may not be as good at.

I’m sure there is more that I’ve learned but it’s all in my hands and not in my brain right now.

Do you spin on a spindle? What have spindles taught you?

Maximizing Yardage for Spinning Cotton

Susan Hector visits the blog today with an explanation of how she maximizes her yardage when spinning cotton on spinning tools that don’t have a lot of storage capacity for singles. Thanks so much for being here, Susan!

I spin a lot of cotton.  Living in sunny and warm San Diego, it makes sense.  I spin Sea Island cotton, Arizona short and long staple cotton, and naturally colored cotton from California and South America.  I even grow my own cotton and spin it – I have over a dozen Acala cotton bushes in the back yard, watered with washing machine rinse water and fertilized with our compost. I dye cotton that is white and brown into the most astonishing range of indigo shades.  I generally weave with the cotton I spin and dye, although I have done some knitted lace collars and scarves.

Singles on a driven spindle wheel. A paper straw quill was used on the spindle to hold the spun singles yarn.

Singles on a driven spindle wheel. A paper straw quill was used on the spindle to hold the spun singles yarn.

I spin the cotton on a variety of tools: charkhas/driven spindle wheels, Akha spindles, feather weight top whorl spindles, a tahkli and other supported spindles – and also on fast flyer wheels.  With the variety of tools I use to spin cotton, I needed to come up with a way to organize and maximize the plying process.  My observation has been that when using a handspindle or driven-spindle wheel the amount of cotton you can get from one “spindle-full” is rather small.  I was constantly emptying the spindle and had to manipulate relatively short lengths to store and ply.  I had lots of quills and bobbins hanging around with resulting small skeins that were difficult to knit or weave with.  Tangles and poor singles quality were also common when trying to ply from quills or spindles.  I found a better way to do it.

Preparing the Singles

Removing the singles from the quill onto a ball. I use an old knitting needle to hold the quill.

Removing the singles from the quill onto a ball. I use an old knitting needle to hold the quill.

First, I have to prepare the singles that I spin for the plying process. I (almost) always wind off from the spinning tool onto a bobbin or other holder before plying cotton to maintain tension, distribute the twist, and find weak spots.  That’s easy enough from a handspindle.  But when using a driven spindle wheel, such as a charkha, it is not practical to wind off a spindle directly when it is full of cotton yarn.  Although some charkhas do allow the spinner to use interchangeable spindles, trying to ply directly from these has resulted in a nightmare of tangles and lost twist.  If I am using a spindle wheel that does not have an interchangeable spindle system (such as a Great Wheel), I use a traditional method of putting a wrapper onto the spindle, and spinning onto that wrapper.  The wrapper can be a piece of corn husk, sturdy drinking straw (with the base cut and slit to fit your spindle width as needed), or a firm twist of paper.  Then, when ready to remove the singles, you just carefully pull off the wrapper.  You have effectively created a quill full of singles yarn that you can wind off from without fear of tangling.  I put mine on a knitting needle to wind off from the side of the quill.

For more detail on how to unwind cotton yarn from various sources, including a handspindle, refer to Stephenie Gaustad’s book, The Practical Spinner’s Guide to Cotton, Flax, Hemp (Interweave Press 2014).  Ms. Gaustad included handspindles, charkas, and bobbins in her thorough and reasoned discussion.

Making a Plying Ball

OK, we have managed our singles so on to the plying.  Whether it’s a driven-spindle wheel, a flyer wheel, or handspindles I usually have two or more spinning tools going at the same time and multiple projects underway.  So I create a plying ball composed of singles from the various tools and projects to get the most yardage in my skeins (within reason, of course; you don’t want a huge skein with fine yarns).  Then I ply from the ball, either on a larger handspindle or on a wheel.  Thus I can combine several or many small batches from one or more spinning sources into a nice length skein which I can use for weaving or knitting.

Hector 3-

Singles successfully removed and wound onto a ball – this was one quill’s worth of singles.

Abby Franquemont discussed the use and value of plying from a multiple stranded plying ball in her book, Respect the Spindle (Interweave Press 2009).  While not referring directly to cotton, she noted that this plying method, used by Andean spinners, reduces tangles, manages the yarn, and allows the spinner to carry the plying ball anywhere to use.

The methods described below keep the yarn safe, sound, and under tension until it is plied.  If you try to ply directly from two spindles or quills you will have a nightmare of pigtails, kinks, and tangles – and breaks.  Been there, done that.  I tried two-end plying from a ball winder but I have found that this method does not keep the yarn under sufficient tension to retain the integrity of the yarn twist.  I might use that method, which is somewhat like the Andean plying bracelet, for the small amount of yarn left at the very end of the spinning project.


Plying from 2 or more handspindles

A. Keeping the singles on the spindles.
Spin one spindle-full of cotton yarn.  Set aside.  Spin a second spindle full on another spindle.  With one end from each, create a plying ball.  One will run out first.  Keeping the one that did not run out still attached to the plying ball, start again on another spindle.  When it is full, join to the end still attached and ply.  The original one will run out, and can be started over again.  This can go on forever but don’t make your plying ball too large.  Remember to overlap the singles while winding onto the ball and join firmly and securely when plying.  You will need to make sure this join is secure by twisting the two ends together.

B.  Wind off from 2 or more handspindles onto 2 separate balls.
Keep overlapping and joining the singles until you have a couple of ounces on each ball.  Then, with a third ball and the two singles balls in bowls, wind a plying ball being careful to join the ends as you encounter them; give them a twist and a good overlap.  Rewinding from the spindles first, before creating the plying ball, helps to distribute the twist and find any weak spots that are under twisted.

Plying from a driven-spindle wheel/charkha

Partially full ball (left) and full ball of singles; I would add at least two more spindle’s worth of singles onto the partial ball before I create a plying ball.

Partially full ball (left) and full ball of singles; I would add at least two more spindle’s worth of singles onto the partial ball before I create a plying ball.

If the wheel does not have interchangeable spindles, put a quill on the spindle (see above). Spin one quill full.  Wind this off onto a tennis ball or some other source under tension.  Spin another spindle, making sure that there is a little more on the second spindle than the first.  Using the yarn on the ball and the yarn still on the spindle, create a plying ball.  There should be some left on the spindle to join and begin again.  You can also use Method 1 with a driven-spindle wheel; just keep adding to the ball as the spindles fill up, making sure to create a good join.


Using a flyer wheel

In this case, I can put a lot more singles yarn on the wheel bobbin. I fill up one bobbin, then wind it off onto a ball or a spare bobbin.  Setting that aside, I fill up another bobbin at least as full as the first one.  I can then create a plying ball using the first bobbin and the second one still on the wheel or wound off as well.  As with Method 2, there should be some left on the wheel’s second bobbin to start up another batch.


Plying balls of various cotton yarns ready to ply. Notice double strands on the balls. It is critical to wind the singles together onto the balls with even tension, removing any pigtails or tangles as you wind. Uneven tension between the two singles will result in poor plied yarn.

Plying balls of various cotton yarns ready to ply. Notice double strands on the balls. It is critical to wind the singles together onto the balls with even tension, removing any pigtails or tangles as you wind. Uneven tension between the two singles will result in poor plied yarn.

I put the balls in a bowl when I am winding or plying.  My son made several shallow heavy ceramic bowls that are perfect for this purpose.  I use tennis balls for winding off and plying but you could use felt balls.  I recommend that the ball have a fuzzy surface to hold the layers of cotton yarn in place.  When you are making the balls, either from singles or with two singles held together for plying, make sure you keep even tension and open up any pigtails or tangles.  Hide these from your cat, by the way!







SusanHectorSusan Hector is an anthropology professor at a local community college, and a consulting archaeologist for an environmental studies company.  She and her husband spin in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park in period attire, as part of the park’s Fiber Arts Guild, which is a living history program.  She has been spinning and weaving for over 30 years and can be found at SanDiegoFiberArtist@gmail.com.    

How to Spin

So early last month my new book came out. It’s by Storey Publishing and it’s called How to Spin. The title is right to the point I think.

Here’s what I know about learning to spin:

  1. It takes some time
  2. It takes some practice
  3. It takes some patience
  4. It’s best if you can have an in person teacher

Really, you can learn on almost any wheel. Consider all this years ago when the family had whatever wheel was available and whoever was learning learned on that wheel.

If you can’t get a wheel get a spindle. You can learn on any spindle.how to spin

You can learn with any fiber. People all over the world learn to spin with cotton or silk or cashmere as their first fiber.

As with everything, once you learn and begin to try things you can figure out what you love the most or what works best for you.

Stop worrying and wondering and thinking and just start trying. And if you already know how to spin, start trying new things and brooadening your horizons.

As far as the book goes, I think it’s good for most spinners. Sometimes you just forget something or there is some basic thing you never really got. Maybe check out How to Spin and see if I can answer your question.


Growing and Spinning Florida Native Cotton

Today we’ll hear from guest blogger Caroline Tacker, who tells us about how she got started in the fiber world with a spur-of-the moment purchase of some inexpensive cotton plants!

I grow and spin Florida Native Cotton, which at its best has a ¾-inch staple. I currently use an Ashford Kiwi and Traditional for my spinning, but I can also use a Tahkli spindle. This cotton was grown in my front yard.

The Cotton that Almost Wasn’t

The bloom from a Florida Native cotton plant

The bloom from a Florida Native cotton plant

Florida Native Cotton is part of the Hibiscus family, as are all cottons. It is an endangered plant in Florida. In the early 1940s a new bug was found on the cotton that resembled the boll weevil. Fearing another boll weevil-like attack, they decided to systematically destroy the plants. It just so happened that World War II broke out and those men left this project to join the armed forces. Hence some of this cotton survived… and NO new boll weevil was ever verified. There is an original strand of this cotton behind a synagogue at mile marker 31 on the way down to Key West. I can verify it’s there as I have seen it!

Florida Native Cotton grows much like our hibiscus: if left unattended it gets gangly and out of control. I do prune my plant back, to try and make it ascetically pleasing, and also to make it look like it belongs in the yard/garden. It is not cold tolerant; it prefers to grow below the subtropic line of Florida. I did lose all my plants to a freeze 5 years ago. Since then, a “volunteer” showed up.

The use of Florida Native Cotton in History

Caroline's cotton plant

Caroline’s cotton plant

There is limited information about Florida Native Cotton; the one thing I haven’t seen about it is whether or not it was ever really used for anything. I’m sure people used it because that would be in our nature as pioneers: use what you have. As to what they used it for or on, I have not found any information. As to spinning it, my thoughts are it would be too labor intensive and not a good use of time for people who made everything from scratch, but I cannot find anything confirming they did or did not.

My Fiber Journey

My start down the fiber path started over 11 years ago in the spring when I attended a Florida native plant sale in St Petersburg, Florida (where I live). There I found Florida Native Cotton seedlings which they were selling at 3 pots for $1. I thought… if they live great, if they don’t I’m only out $1.

I was told that cotton liked full sun and carbon monoxide, so I planted my seedlings in the easement of my front yard, next to the road. As they grew over the next several months, they bloomed and then I had this white beautiful fuzzy cotton! Now that I had this lovely fiber… I had to figure out how to process it.

harvested Florida Native cotton

harvested Florida Native cotton

I did several web searches – how to clean, gin, etc. – and after a year of not finding much about how to process cotton, other than commercially. I’d kind of given up. Then someone suggested I go to Heritage Village (our local living museum). I contacted them and asked if they could teach me how to process my cotton and in exchange I would become a volunteer. In March of 2006, I met Wendy who taught me how to “gin” my cotton by hand and spin it on a tahkli spindle. I had the process down in about 45 minutes.

While volunteering at Heritage Village during their County Jubilee Festival, I met Judy of the Pinellas Weavers Guild. She was spinning on a lovely spinning wheel. We talked for awhile and she invited me to come to a guild meeting. I did and joined the Guild in December of 2006. Have loved being around other “fiber” minded people, I am currently still a member… and I am their curre

Caroline's cotton ready to spin

Caroline’s cotton ready to spin

nt president. I have also been the past Secretary and Vice-President.

So to sum it up… almost 12 years ago I purchased three Florida Native Cotton plants for $1. I have since learned to spin on a tahkli spindle, purchased 2 spinning wheels, a drum carder, a loom and other associated small equipment. I “play” with lots of different fibers, and I do sell some of the things I make, but I ALWAYS come back to cotton. I just love it.



Samples of Caroline's cotton spinning projects

Samples of Caroline’s cotton spinning projects





Have you ever tried to grow or spin cotton straight from the plant? Tell us about your experiences & ask your questions in the comments!







crt bio pic for PLY 2016



Caroline Tacker is a Florida native born in Orlando, living in St. Petersburg for the past 25 years. She volunteers with Heritage Village as a living history docent (spinning cotton by hand) and is a member of the Pinellas Weavers Guild, Bay Area Knitting Guild, and Florida Tropical Weavers Guild. Find her on Facebook for more information.