Hooters Hall

The cotton project 2017

I always like experimenting by growing different plants. In the past few years I’ve focused on growing different edibles but I wanted to try something different this year. When I’m not tending to my plants in  the polytunnel I’m usually busy with some kind of fibre craft. I spin the wool and mohair from our sheep and goats, knit and weave. So I decided to try and combine growing plants and fibre craft and came up with the idea to try growing and processing my own cotton.

I found some seeds online from Jungle Seeds Cotton needs a temperature of 25C to germinate so I started the seeds of in my heated propagator. I planted them a week ago and they’ve almost all germinated. Here’s a picture

From what I’ve read online the cotton plants will need about 150 days frost free growth to get a harvest. The plants should reach about 3 feet tall and have hollyhock like yellow and maroon flowers after about 45 days. The flowers then wither and form bolls. Once the bolls have formed you stop watering, the plant starts to dry, sheds its leaves and the bolls split open to reveal the fluffy fibre.

The next step sounds the most fiddly. You have to remove the seeds from the fibre by hand or with a cotton gin. I don’t have a cotton gin so I’ll be doing it by hand. Once the seeds have been removed you can either spin the cotton straight from the cloud without further processing or for a stronger, smoother yarn hand card the cotton fibre to make punis and then spin these. From what I’ve read the carding process is basically the same as for carding wool.

There are lots of resources online about small scale cotton growing and processing including you tube videos. If everything goes to plan I’ll be writing some more blogs about growing, harvesting and spinning my cotton. I planted 20 seeds this year. If it goes well I might expand that next year and also explore the different varieties of cotton. There are varieties that produce green and brown fibre

The ultimate goal is to be able to grow enough cotton that I can process into yarn to make some fabric. I’m not sure I’ll get there this year it depends on how much fibre I can harvest but I’ll spin as much yarn as I can and add to it each year until I have enough to make some fabric. Very much a slow textile project and very different from commercial cotton production.

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