Sunday, November 23, 2008


I'm in love with handspun cotton. I've been spinning cotton one and off for a few years now, and the sweater's I've knit from handspun cotton are some of my favorites. I've been looking at Foxfibre cotton for years now, and finally bought some a few months ago. I don't think as many people spin cotton as other fibers, so I offered to teach a cotton spinning class at my local shop.

To get ready for class, I pulled the Foxfibre out of my stash and started spinning for some colored washcloths. I had a very early version of the color "breeder's green," so when the roving looked more mustard yellow to me, I figured it just wasn't perfected yet. But then I remembered reading something about the color getting deeper with washing in hot water. I looked it up and discovered that it's a matter of boiling the cotton for an hour with something alkali, like washing soda. I boiled my finished skein in a gallon of water with 1/4 cup of washing soda and the results were amazing.

At the bottom of the picture is the original roving, at the top is a washcloth knit from the yarn after treating it. Look at the color difference! Now that's green! Man, better living through bio-chemistry. I wish I knew how and why that happened. I'll try to get my Dad the chemist on it. I got a little more foxfibre in two other colors to use in my class. I can't wait to see how much they change.

The story of how Foxfiber was created is fascinating. You can read about how Sally Fox crossbred wild brown cotton with domestic white cotton to create a sturdy viable colored cotton. She was even able to breed several different colors out from that original brown. And she grows all of it organically. I think I need to buy enough to make a dress.


courtney said...

I just got some of this in Brown and white. I've never spun it before, do you have any suggestions?
I'm recently new-ish to spinning, but i really like the plant fibers more and more than wool as i've been going along. the only bad thing is there really isn't the same sort of elasticity with plants that wool has...

knitica said...

Have you ever spun cotton before? If so, it's pretty similar to any other cotton I've spun. If not, I would suggest finding a class on cotton spinning, but if none is available, never fear. You want to turn down the "take up" of your wheel to be very low so that when you hold the yarn the wheel is barely pulling it in. Also, you'll want to use some sort of long draw, like the ones people call "point of twist" or "double draw/draft." That's the best way to draft something as short and slippery as cotton. Also, cotton needs lots of twist, so really let it acumulate, and tug on it to test it before letting your yarn wind onto the bobbin.