A Spinners Milestone: Weaving with Handspun Yarn

I have been spinning yarn since 2005. My first experience with the luxury of working with natural fibers was after winning a gift certificate to Evelise’s Yarn Shop at the Berrien County Youth Fair . An Afghan that I had crocheted with acrylic yarn won Reserved Grand Champion.  With the gift certificate I bought my first designer yarn, a black cotton, and a pattern for a beaded crochet handbag. The bag was a success and I was in love.

learning-to-spin

My first bag made with fancy commercial cotton yarn. Still sparkling after 16 years.

 

Unfortunately I could not afford to buy more natural yarns. I was over the cheapo acrylic and so I stopped crocheting. At college the following year I gained new hope of acquiring “good” yarn when a professor at my university did a show and tell with spinning equipment. I became fixed on the idea of spinning my own yarn.

Online I ordered a kit that came with a book , Spin It by  Lee Raven and 1oz of roving. The book had instructions on how to make a spindle out of a CD. With a pencil, CD, and the small bit of sliver I became a spinner. Shortly afterwards I learned to knit.

spinit-book

The book that started it all.

I knitted a lot of lace shawls with my handspun. I love making them but that was all I would do with my yarn.  After a while I had way more yarn than projects I wanted to knit up. I kind of got bored.

For the longest time (12 years!) I was so afraid that my yarn wouldn’t be strong enough to weave with, especially my cotton. It was only safe to crochet with it.

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Crochet shawl made from hanspun cotton dyed with tumeric. The pattern is Moondrop by Lori Carlson published in Interweave crochet Winter 2016

A few years ago I had crocheted a ruffled throw with my natural colored cotton  See it here that I wasn’t all that happy with. I just kept crocheting in a round until I had used up all of the different colors of cotton in my stash. After a while it started to come apart  where I doubled the stitch count. I decided that I had nothing to lose by unraveling the throw to reuse the yarn for weaving.

I warped random colors on my Leclerc Dorothy table loom that I bought in my college days. With a simple plain weave I slowly but surely realized that my worries were unfounded. Without any special treatment I was able to weave an eclectic little scarf. Oh the new possibilities!

This week I met a new milestone. I am now using my handspun to weave!

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Finished handspun, handwoven natural colored cotton scarf. I’m in love!

Not wanting to lose momentum I decided to unravel a shawl I knit from handspun wool. I alternated a painted handspun with a natural gray that proved to be scratchy against my skin. The pattern was just mindless, uninspired blah. I wouldn’t miss it. Finding a darker grey rambouillet yarn in my handspun stash that was nice and soft  I began warping my Dick Blick Art Craft table loom. Sadly the loom sat untouched for 6 years. I found it at a garage sale in Amish country for $125 and thought it was too fine of a machine to pass up.

So far so good. I am looking forward to doing more with my handspun.

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Handspun wool weaving in progress. I am using stick shuttles because they give me more weaving space on a table loom.

 

Getting My crochet On

I had an itch to get some crocheting done. It began this summer and I ended up making some hats from one of my favorite books Get Your Crochet on by Afya Ibomu.get your crochet book They work up really quickly and the design possibilities are endless. My hats are a variation of her pattern since I decided to be cheap and substitute elastic for a drawstring.

My fuchsia Kinky Reggae hat with bib variation from the book Get Your Crochet On! The shawl is self-knit from too long ago to remember what the pattern was. I made 2. This version is knit from Noro yarn.

My fuchsia Kinky Reggae hat with bib variation from the book Get Your Crochet On!
The shawl is self-knit from too long ago to remember what the pattern was. I made 2. This version is knit from Noro yarn.

My fuchsia Kinky Reggae hat with bib variation from the book Get Your Crochet On! Holds back the hair lika Pro!

My fuchsia Kinky Reggae hat with bib variation from the book Get Your Crochet On! Holds back the hair lika Pro!

My version of the hat called MC from the Book Get your Crochet On! with drawstring in the back.

My version of the hat called MC from the Book Get your Crochet On! with drawstring in the back.

turqu hat 1

My crochet hat collection

My crochet hat collection

A Gift: Putting My Handspun Cotton to Use

It has been a long time, like 5 years since I’ve done more time consuming needlework such as shawls. Once upon a season I was a knitting fiend and I knit about 30 shawls and scarves over the course of a 2 year span. Many of them were done with yarn I spun myself.

My crochet itch came back this winter and I found myself pouring over my crochet magazines looking for a shawl to crochet. It just dawned on me that I had never actually crocheted a shawl before this latest project. The majority of my projects were afghans and purses during my high school years. 13 years ago!

The material used for this project is extra special. I was on the SpinOff Magazine website about 4 years ago and found myself chatting with a cotton farmer from Texas. He emailed me last summer and offered to send me cotton and seeds from his farm. What a gift!!! I was so excited when 10 pounds of some of the best quality cotton I have ever worked with arrived at my home. Thanks Jack!! You’re my hero!

Gift from an awesome cotton farmer from Texas. 10lbs of premium cotton

Gift from an awesome cotton farmer from Texas. 10lbs of premium cotton

I immediately got to carding it up and spinning. I just spun a little here and there, only finishing a 2-ply lace weight skein this past  December.

Carding the Texas cotton

Carding the Texas cotton

Nice and fluffy, reading to spin after a little carding

Nice and fluffy, ready to spin after a little carding

Finished skein ready to wind into a ball

Finished skein ready to wind into a ball

winding the cotton yarn into a ball

winding the cotton yarn into a ball

I decided to crochet my first shawl, the Dragonfly by Lisa Naskrent. My version has a HDC border instead of the lace border that comes with the pattern. I didn’t have enough yarn for it and I did not want to halt my project while I spun more. Keep going while you have the steam! I like how it turned out. I think I will dye it eventually.

Dragonfly shawl variation of Lis Naskrent pattern (not blocked) natural cotton color

Dragonfly shawl variation of Lis Naskrent pattern (not blocked) natural cotton color

wearing the hand-spun cotton Dragonfly shawl..with pajamas;-)

wearing the hand-spun cotton Dragonfly shawl..with pajamas;-)

I enjoyed working this simple pattern so much that I started in on another one using a hand-dyed seasilk skein I spun years ago.

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My 2nd Dragonfly shawl in progress using a hand-dyed, hands-spun soysilk lace weight.

2014 Cotton Finale

It’s been a long growing season (February to November). My 2014 northern Indiana cotton crop is finally in.  This year I tried a few different things in hopes of increasing my yield, like well, planting twice as many plants and fertilizing. It didn’t work. I did not get as much as last year . This probably should not be called a crop (false advertisement right?). The huge yield I had last year amounted to less than 4 ounces 🙂 All the same I enjoyed watching it grow. However small the amount it is still useful. Next year I will most likely need to replace the soil on the side of the house where I grow it and plant less. I think poor spacing and depleted soil caused me to get less yield.

I ended up picking the cotton at the end of October, earlier than usual (mid November) because it kept raining and I didn’t want the cotton to rot. I already had a few casualties at this point.

Too much rain. This cotton boll rotted

Too much rain. This cotton boll rotted

The cool thing is even if you pick the bolls early while they’re still green, they still open up just fine on their own as they dry. It takes about two weeks but they will open. It’s actually kind of cool to watch.

I like the cool, finger-like leaves that cover the bolls

I like the cool, finger-like leaves that cover the bolls

My little nephew Waymel was glad to help.

My little nephew Waymel was glad to help  with the bucket

 

Cotton Bolls picked early

Cotton Bolls picked early

This boll is starting to split

This boll is starting to split

 

I potted two plants and brought them inside. I'm curious to see what they look like next year. Cotton tree maybe?

I potted two plants and brought them inside curious to see what they will look like next year. Cotton tree maybe?

This is it. I haven’t seeded the cotton yet. Right now I’m enjoying the fluffy, cuteness in a bowl on my mantel.

My tiny little cotton crop

My tiny little 2014 cotton crop

Update:2014 Indiana Cotton Crop

I am still obsessed with the idea of growing my own fiber for spinning and weaving. Living on a small city lot leaves me few options. Sheep  won’t work  here and flax needs special tools to process. Last year I was given a single cotton boll with seeds intact. I planted them in my kitchen that February. They grew!! Read here

I decided to plant more seeds this year. Read here.

The little cotton patch. There are about 26 small plants

The little cotton patch. There are about 26 small plants

When I put the seedlings outside in June they were very weak and spindly from lack of sunlight. They have since really perked up. There are plenty of blooms (by northern standards like 6 per plant) and 4 bolls of natual brown cotton have opened up so far.

The nodes where the cotton flowers bloom are forming underneath the leaves

The nodes where the cotton flowers bloom are forming underneath the leaves

A newly opened cotton bloom. It will only last 1 day then turn pink and fall off. The cotton boll forms underneath.

Here is a close up of one of the cotton bolls. It could be white or brown cotton when it opens up. I didn't mark the plants

Here is a close up of one of the cotton bolls. It could be white or brown cotton when it opens up. I didn’t mark the plants

I spotted the 1st boll open last week. It’s brown cotton

Close up of the 1st brown boll

Close up of the 1st brown boll

I found 3 more cotton bolls opened today. More brown.

I found 3 more cotton bolls opened today. More brown.

I’m looking forward to seeing how much cotton I will get this year since I planted twice as many seedlings.  At this point I can only grow them on the east side of my house so they do not get much space. The odds of me growing even 1 pound of cotton in northern Indiana are pretty slim. Nonetheless I will just as happy if I grow 3 ounces.  I should have enough to make a spectacular shawl when I combine the 2 years crops.

Cotton Seeds Sown, They know what to do

Last year I planted my first cotton seeds in my kitchen one frigid February, Indiana winter day. View Post. It was a lot of fun to watch the plants mature. I learned so much and at the end of it all I had useful fiber.

It took me a while to get around to spinning it up but I did finally get to it. I’m really happy with the result. The brown skein is especially interesting because there was a lot of shade/color variation in the crop that occurred naturally. To think they all descended from one gifted cotton boll with 21 seeds inside. Now I’m debating what to make with it.

Spinning  Cotton on my Ashford Traveller Wheel

Spinning Cotton on my Ashford Traveller Wheel

Bobbin full of white cotton yarn

Bobbin full of white cotton yarn

Winding Cotton Skeins

Winding Cotton Skeins

Skeins from 1st Crop

Skeins from 1st Crop

Finished skeins from first cotton crop

Finished skeins from first cotton crop

I found a straggler! It must've opened up over the winter.

I found a straggler! It must’ve opened up over the winter.

Of course I planted a new crop for this year. The kids from the youth ministry helped. Then my niece wanted to plant some too, so we planted more. I’m sure a gardener would cringe at our methods, those poor seeds.  The cool thing that I’m finding with cotton plants is they’re really hard to kill. Those seeds just know what to do! Even if you put too many in a whole and forget to cover them.

1 week old seedlings in my kitchen. Baby nephew is loving the new hiding place

1 week old seedlings in my kitchen. Baby nephew is loving the new hiding place

These cute little guys know just what to do.

These cute little guys know just what to do.

It's been pretty cloudy so far this spring so they are stretching for the sunlight.

It’s been pretty cloudy so far this spring so they are stretching for the sunlight.

My niece helped me pot the 2nd batch of seedlings

My niece helped me pot the 2nd batch of seedlings

About 1 month in, some of the plants have adult leaves coming in.

About 1 month in, some of the plants have adult leaves coming in.

 

So far so good

My Cotton Crop is In…Indiana

That’s right,
There was a cotton crop growing on the side of my home in Northern Indiana this summer. I planted some seeds in my kitchen this past February and 17 plants survived. I transplanted them outside in June and Eureka! I’ve got 1.75oz brown and 2.75oz white. Never mind the small yield, I grew some cotton ya’ll!! Now I have to get it carded up and ready to spin. I’m not sure what I’m going to make yet. We’ll just have to see.

First cotton crop grown in northern Indiana

First cotton crop grown in northern Indiana

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white cotton boll and brown cotton boll

So how did this all begin?

I bought some cotton roving about 2 years ago and found it rather finicky to spin. I kept at it. I would spin mostly sliver in the colored cotton because I thought it was cool. I started to crochet the cotton handspun in the round and by the time I felt like I’d gotten the hang of it I had made an eclectic looking throw. The throw shows my progression from the overspun recycled blue jean cotton to the thick, lumpy frustration skein to finally my consistent, I’m sooo In Love with you Cotton, lace weight yarn.

Crochet throw made from various colors of handspun cotton

Crochet throw made from various colors of handspun cotton

…And I’m growing cotton because

Once upon a time, I visited Island Weaver shop in Winona Indiana and was thrilled to pieces when I discovered they had 2 cotton plants with cotton bolls attached growing outside. The owner gave me a boll. The hand picked and processed fiber was much easier to spin than sliver. It is much like cashmere or camel down. I got 21 seeds from that one boll.

handspun single boll of brown cotton and 21 skeins. Background, grandma Arelia's embroidered  wall hanging.

handspun single boll of brown cotton and 21 seeds. Background, grandma Arelia’s embroidered wall hanging.

The stats:1 brown cotton boll 26 seeds 12.83 yards 32 WPI 2 Plys I used the yarn to crochet a rose

The stats:1 brown cotton boll
26 seeds
12.83 yards
32 WPI 2 Plys
I used the yarn to crochet a rose

Single boll yields a 2 ply skein about the size of a candy cane

Single boll yields a 2 ply skein about the size of a candy cane

 

crocheted rose from 1st cotton boll

crocheted rose from 1st cotton boll

I wanted more so I searched out a supplier for handpicked white cotton and ordered a (very expensive) pound to spin up. More seeds. So I decided to plant some seeds and see what happens. They grew.

My first cotton plant growing in the kitchen..who needs the table and chairs anyway:-)

My first cotton plants growing in the kitchen..because who needs the table and chairs anyway:-)

The End

What I learned: Aphids attack cotton plants in June. They thrive even with neglect and aphid attacks. You can harvest the bolls before they open if you live some place where the snow shows up before they open in November. Just open them up manually and let them dry out.

Overall thoughts: Happy, will plant again.