A stash-busting resolution


Just a small sample of the cotton fiber Linda loves.

Rita Buchanan spinning cotton while reading a book, from her DVD How I Spin.


Stephenie Gaustad demonstrating one of her cotton spinning techniques in her upcoming DVD Spinning Cotton.

Can I conquer cottonphobia? Read on.

Here's the truth: I have long harbored a fear of spinning cotton. I love the fiber and have a considerable stash of it—from suave Pima top to natural-colored sliver to cute little punis to piles of bolls. I have cotton cards, a book charka, a Bull Pup charka, a tahkli. I have acquired all these tools and materials with the intent of spinning lovely fine yarns that I can weave into lovely fine fabrics. The reality, though, is that I have maybe a few hundred yards of cotton—a very few—that I have spun over a couple of decades. I think cotton spinning falls into the same category for me as getting into shape (i.e., exercising regularly). I want to do it, I really do, but somehow I always veer off to something that my lower brain thinks will be easier.

How to avoid procrastination

I think 2011 will be my year of overcoming avoidance. First, I watched Rita Buchanan spin cotton mindlessly and happily while reading a book. She was using an electric spinner, which I don't have and don't particularly want, but still. Then I had the fun of spending a whole day with Stephenie Gaustad  while she went through every reasonable form of cotton and every likely tool. It just looked like the most natural thing in the world, and she probably produced as much cotton yarn in that one day as I have in my whole life. Humbling and inspiring.

String and a door key

The real kicker for me is her good trick for modifying a double-drive spinning wheel for cotton spinning. It's not her tool of choice for the job, but it would be mine. And without her special trick, which involves nothing more than a couple of pieces of string and a door key, it would be almost impossible. I know, because I've tried. And maybe after I've mastered making a good yarn on my double-drive wheel, I'll go back and discover the joys of my spindle devices. After all, that's the way cotton has been spun for a few thousand years.

Cotton with real purpose

I was once cruising through the stacks in the Colorado State University library and was stopped cold by a set of maybe twenty volumes of the writings of Mohandas K. Gandhi, he who advocated achieving world peace through universal daily cotton spinning.

These books were all bound in handspun cotton cloth, or khadi, each piece obviously spun by a different spinner. Some were exquisitely fine and even, some were a bit slubby and primitive. They told such a story of idealism, dedication to nonviolent social change, and the power of the humble act of spinning to promote peace and harmony. That memory gives me a much better reason to spin my cotton than mere stash reduction. Although to tell the truth, for me it will be about stash reduction, and fulfilling a personal challenge. I'm seeing a gossamer handspun cotton handkerchief with a dainty handspun cotton tatted edge. . . .

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