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Welcome to the world of cotton spinning!

Joan with a Takli Spindle

Hello Fiber Friends,

When I was first introduced to spinning in 1971, it was in New Zealand, and of course the fiber to spin was wool. However, after returning to the USA and having the opportunity of taking Persis Grayson’s class in Jacksonville, Florida where she introduced every fiber imaginable, I realized the sky was my limit of fibers. When she handed me a handful of cotton, I knew right then that this was the fiber I wanted to learn all about and be able to spin it with ease.

Cotton at that time had the reputation of being “hard to spin” but no wonder, wheels were designed at that time for long staple fibers and cotton was just about a inch, or if lucky, an inch and a half. The fiber was also hard to get as it grew only in the southern states and was not processed for spinners. Harry and Olive Linder from Phoenix, Arizona had purchased a bale of cotton (480 lbs.) from a local gin and began teaching how to process and spin the ginned cotton. A phone call to Linder’s shortly after returning from my workshop, changed my life for forever.

As I learned about cotton and was able to go out and teach spinners all over the world how to spin cotton and convince wheel makers to increase the ratio on their wheels, cotton began to become accepted by spinners. Having cotton properly prepared into “easy to spin” sliver for the spinners and having fiber shops, all over the world making it available, opened up a reborn fiber for hand spinners.

With the 2018 Farm Act removing hemp from the controlled substance act, I knew it was time to begin teaching spinners about this ancient fiber that can be so beneficial for the world. Why is it that it is so important to learn about hemp and how you can use it as part of your spinning? Like cotton, the fiber is new to many and it is in the “baby stages” again here in the USA.

Join me on this web site as we explore and learn about these two ancient fibers and how they are playing such an important role again in this new world of ours.

Happy Spinning!

Joan Ruane


Recently I received a question from Linda Holt, an astute cotton spinner, who noticed a subtle difference between two types of cotton she was working with. She wrote:

"I was recently spinning some Sea Island Cotton from Cotton Clouds and switched to Acala, also from Cotton Clouds and both listed as “Easy to Spin”! I was surprised that it took me a few minutes to make the switch! At first, I thought that the Acala cotton must have a shorter staple length. But, I tested what I had and they basically seem the same. That, of course, got me to thinking of the ‘fineness’ factor of cotton! Was cotton measured in microns, like wool?

According to Cotton Inc., "Micronaire (MIC) is a measure of the air permeability of compressed cotton fibers. It is often used as an indication of fiber fineness and maturity.” In the spinning world, however, I’ve never seen cotton listed with a micron (or, micronaire) count like you would wool! Just curious to know if I’ve missed something or is the difference so small it’s insignificant? Yet. . .I did notice a difference! In fact, the Acala reminds me of bunny fur!!"

Yes, Linda, they do measure the micronaire of cotton. Each bale has two samples taken from the bale and sent to classification stations. There are 12 around the USA to measure and evaluate each bale of cotton...(read more)


2018 has been such a busy teaching and traveling year, I did not have time to weave all year. So, when a friend asked me to house-sit for her last month, I thought what a great opportunity to take my little rigid heddle and get some weaving done. It has been several years since I had touched my rigid heddle so I started practicing with some Brown Sheep wool yarn that I had from years ago. After making two wool scarves I was ready to use my handspun cotton. So, I moved from a 7.5 epi to a 10 epi heddle as my cotton was equivalent to about a 4/2 size commercial yarn.

Purple Handwoven Scarf

The purple yarn for the first scarf was spun from some sea island sliver that was solar dyed in a jar one day in May (see photo below this article). I did not scour the sliver before putting it in the jar with the dye, salt and water but did put a few drops of Dawn soap on top before closing the lid. It only took the Arizona afternoon sun a few hours to dye the sliver. Since I did not scour the sliver before immersing it in the jar, some of the cotton fiber did not take the dye. This gave me a heathered look when I spun it into yarn. I threaded it five and a half inches wide and using just one heddle, did tabby weave except for accenting each end with Brooks Bouquet lace pattern.

Handwoven White Scarf

The narrow white scarf with green highlights was carded using Upland White cotton lint with some natural green lint and a touch of brown lint from cotton I had grown. I carded it lightly and made punis before spinning it into yarn. This I used as the warp with my 10 epi heddle and threaded it four inches wide. I knew it was a little wider spaced than I wanted but I did not have a 12-dent heddle. Thus, I counted on it drawing in when I washed it, ending up with a three-inch-wide scarf. The weft was from Upland White sliver spun Z and plied S. As with the other scarf, I finished off the fringe by twisting groups of 4 threads each. Since the narrow scarf is more for decoration, I found a lovely little stick pin to hold the scarf in place.



Recently I have begun doing some experiments with solar dyeing. Living in the Southwestern United States, there is ample opportunity to use the sun to help dye cotton fiber. Read more...

Solar Dyed Sliver


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!

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


Click here to read Joan's interview with Spin Artiste


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...



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...