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Joan S. Ruane


Welcome to the world of cotton spinning!

Joan Ruane with local cotton harvest 2017

Joan Ruane in a local freshly-baled cotton field, Autumn 2017

Joan with a Takli SpindleSpinning cotton has been a decades-long passion for me, and I am so glad that you have come to explore more about this exciting fiber.

For millenia, humans have had a close and vital association with cotton, but during the 20th century much of the knowledge about hand spinning cotton fell from general use and cotton became a fiber that spinners shied away from.

I have included a variety of articles on many aspects of working with cotton - you can find tips on spinning, dyeing, and weaving with cotton (see articles located under "Spin") as well as information on growing your own cotton from seeds (see "Grow") to help you along your journey with this interesting fiber.




Recently, former student Peggy Mitchell sent me an inquiry asking me to clarify the differences between a puni, sliver and rolag and whether it is possible to make a cotton sliver using hand carders. What great questions! Here is a short overview of cotton terms to help you "talk cotton" with ease.

  • Cotton is first described as a boll, that is when then it is ready to pick from the field.
  • After the seeds are removed at the gin, then it is called lint.   
  • Spinners take the lint and card it into a puni in which the fibers are rolled.    
  • Sliver is lint is processed at the spinning mill on a huge drum carder, lining up the fibers, and putting them into a narrow strip.     
  • Roving is made when a slight twist is put on the cotton sliver but so slight that you can still draft it out to spin it into a yarn. 

Because cotton fiber is so short, it is almost impossible for us to make a cotton sliver by hand. With wool, the fiber is long and we can comb it and make something similar to sliver - the fibers are then all going in the same direction.


Now available as streaming videos!

Takli DVD Cover

Joan has partnered with TAPROOT VIDEO to make her popular cotton spinning videos available to watch on-line. They are available as either streaming video by itself or a combination DVD/streaming package at


Have fun spinning cotton!

Fall is in the air when the local cotton harvest is baled - here are a couple of pictures from this weekend before Thanksgiving, 2017

Cotton flower 2017 harvest

All the bales in a row...but one has to be different!

Bales Cotton from 2017 Harvest




"Stranger in a Crowd" cotton photo

"Stranger in a Crowd" grown by Christine Saunders in SW France, 2016

We had some very inspiring entries in our 2016 Cotton Harvest Photo Contest which ran from October 31st - November 24, 2016. Our 2016 judge, Cary Ann Ely, works with the USDA-NRCS in Arizona assisting cotton farmers to improve crops through soil management practices.

After reviewing the beautiful entries, she had this to say about her selection: "The beauty of a producers final product! Just really nice clear and beautiful picture. I would like a copy for my office." Chris recieved a $75.00 gift certificate to use in our on-line Shop, where you can find all of Joan's cotton spinning DVD's and books, as well as cotton spinning kits and equipment.

Hoping these photos inspire others to try growing their own cotton at home - and sending pictures for next year's contest! The magic of growing a plant from seed, nurturing it and watching as gorgeous flowers emerge and turn into fat bolls that spill open their bounty in a delicate array of subtle color or brilliant white is a wonderful experience in itself.

That bounty is the basis for hours of spinning, dyeing, and weaving fun that lets you take your cotton from seed all the way to clothing and an array of household items, leaving one deeply connected to both the Earth and the process of personal creation. I hope you get the opportunity to share this experience!

See all the photos received in the 2016 contest here...

Blending Colors on Your Carders

Using dyed colored lint you can create your own designer yarn easily. One thing for sure, it will be yours alone and it can't be bought in the yarn shops. To review how I card, click here to go to the article "Carding Cotton Lint & Making a Puni".

To get creative colors I usually start with a little white lint on my carder before adding the colors I want.

White cotton lint on carders Dyed cotton lint on carders

Following my directions for carding, you do the same except you might like to shift your top carder a little to the left or right, helping to blend the colors a little better.

Blended cotton lint on carders

When you are happy with how much you have blended the colors then remove them with a thin dowel, rolling it into a puni.

Colored cotton lint rolled into a puni

Note that the more you card, the more the colors will blend together.

Colored Cotton Lint Puni



Joan's New Vest




Joan wove the fabric for this vest and her friend Donna Sebastian of Silver Silver, NM was the seamstress.

Vest Detail

Vest Trim



When I was asked to teach cotton spinning in the UK, I was thrilled as I knew it was a “dyed in the wool” wool spinning country.  Since I had taught in New Zealand the year before and had such a wonderful response from the New Zealand spinners, I was anxious to spread the word that “cotton was easy to spin” to another predominately protein fiber spinning country.   Read More...





Singles Scarf

Weaving with handspun cotton singles presents its own challenges and rewards! Over the summer I wove up a scarf using handspun singles and wrote up a description of my project step by step as I worked it through.

I was able to create a completely handspun and handwoven cotton singles scarf that I'm very happy with! When it was finished, it was wonderful to see and FEEL this scarf in my hands and thought I would share my experiences. Here is a review of what I did. More...




All Handspun Natural Cotton

For many parts of our country, the summer of 2013 has been a difficult one for weather. Here in the Southwest it has been brutal at times.

Cotton is so light-weight that I don't mind spinning it during the warm summer months. And of course, it was the perfect pastime for me as I traveled around giving classes and vacationing with friends in many parts of the United States and Canada this summer.

I took all my handspun cotton yarn in a variety of natural colors and put it on the loom and thought you might like to see.



Are you frustrated with your cotton spinning? Most cotton preparations are carded for machine spinning and difficult to spin by hand, especially for novices. Joan's Easy to Spin sliver has been prepared with handspinners in mind. Make your life easier and try this wonderful fiber.

Due to the extensive amount of travel involved in my teaching schedule, early in 2013 I accepted the gracious help of Jill and Lura from Brookmore Creations to handle the demand for Easy to Spin cotton sliver. They now handle the wholesale distribution of Easy to Spin cotton sliver so that many shops around the country as well as Canada and New Zealand can have this luxurious cotton sliver available for hand spinners.

Click here for more information and the updated U.S./Canada and New Zealand vendor list.



The takli is a small support-style spindle that is easily carried from place to place. Because of the high whorl speed it can attain, it is the perfect tool for spinning cotton - you can spin a much finer diameter yarn on the takli than is possible to spin using a wheel. And don't let the small size fool you - you can spin a great deal of yarn in a short time. Joan used takli-spun yarn for the warp on the green blouse described in the article "My Green Blouse"! More...



Cotton Flowers 2010Joan has been growing cotton in her home garden for the last 5 years. Cotton flowers first open as a pale yellow and then turn pure white. After the flower is pollinated, the dying blosson turns a deep shade of pink or dusky purple. That is why you often see different colors of flowers on the same plant - you are seeing the varying stages of development. More...