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Cotton Spinning on a Tahkli Spindle


I was up in Navasota, TX this past Saturday to learn how to spin cotton on a small brass supported spindle called a Tahkli.  I have been a cotton farmer for four years now and that requires me to be able to spin cotton.  OK.  It doesn't really require anything but it feels better if I can talk about spinning my cotton to customers who are buying my cotton.  Plus a good spinner should be able to spin anything, right?

I've tried to learn to spin cotton before.  My very first attempt was during an intermediate spinning class I took back in about 2004 at Hillcreek Fiber Studio in Columbia, MO.  Carol Leigh taught me how to spin on my first trip up there but my attempt at cotton was terminally frustrating and I walked away convinced I would never learn it.  I watched friends who spin cotton.  I learned to cross thread the flyer for slower take-up.  I played with a charkha.  I asked questions but never really sat down and forced myself to learn.  That first several days of complete frustration is horrible.  We tell all our spinning students to just push through it and keep going but it's a lot harder to do it yourself than it is to tell someone else to do it, especially when all I have to do is switch to a different fiber that I can spin without thinking about it.

I took a cotton spinning class from Patsy Zawistoski at the Contemporary Handweavers of Texas (CHT) conference a couple of years ago.  I loved Patsy for both her spinning ability and her teaching ability.  We were vendors at that conference so I was always being pulled in at least a couple of different directions but still I walked out of Patsy Z's class with a sample of cotton yarn that I had spun.  Eureka!  Then I went home and sat down at my spinning wheel to do it again and couldn't make it happen.  Mental memory is so much faster to catch on to a new skill than the muscle memory you need to do it.

Two years ago I signed up for a cotton spinning class at Kid 'n Ewe in Boerne, TX but just as with the CHT Conference, I was being pulled in too many directions to sit down and take the class.  So this past Saturday I was back sitting in a cotton spinning class.  This one was offered by Stephanie Cunningham at her wonderful shop W.C. Mercantile in Navasota, TX.  Stephanie invites lots of great teachers in to teach all sorts of fun things - beginning and advanced spinning, spindle spinning, wheel spinning, making art batts, core spinning, needle felting, photographing your textiles.  I've takes several classes up there including core spinning and flax spinning.  Stephannie always finds great teachers and I have never failed to learn enough that the hour drive up and back is totally worth it.

This time the class was taught by Laurie Schlitter.  Laurie has been spinning cotton for a long time and does it really well.  She also is a great teacher.  I finally felt like this was something I could do.  The other ladies in the class were a hoot.  We had a great time and all of ended the class with some hand spun cotton yarn.  Yea!

As soon as I got home from the class I sat down and kept spinning.  I had to take a break for dinner but sat up into the night spinning on the Tahkli.  I re-discovered that my hands aren't as strong and agile as they once were.  When I started getting tired and my hands started to cramp I switched to my spinning wheel.  This is so cool!  I'm actually spinning cotton!  YES!!  I'll post a picture when I get my first real skein finished.  I'm in the practice, practice, practice stage right now.  I don't want to be away from it for very long for fear I'll loose the touch.  Again.