|Cotton bolls can be bought at flower shops or through
the U.S. Cotton Council located in Washington DC. Cotton
bolls with husks and seeds in tack offer students an
excellent hands on activity.
A) Ginning: removing the seeds from the cotton.
Supplies needed: 1 cotton boll per 6-10 students
Pass one entire cotton boll with husk and seeds in tack around table seating 6-10 students/ discuss feel, weight, geographical origin, climatic conditions, growth, etc.
Gently pull all cotton lint with seeds from the husk;
B) Finger and Spindle Spinning the Ginned Cotton
African spindles are made from the rib of a dried palm leaf and the whorl, a weight, is made out of a piece of round clay. You can make your own with the following supplies: one chop-stick per student and one round radish or small round potato.
Preparation for spinnning with spindle: pierce the radish as close to the center as possible with the pointed end of the chop stick; slide the radish up, allowing approx. 1/2-3/4" of the point to show through.
To spin the cotton lint into a piece of thread, first gently spread apart the cotton into a thin cloud like structure, very gently spreading but not pulling apart, allow it to remain one piece; hold this in your left hand.
To finger spin now, with the index and thumb of your right hand pinch a very small amount of the cotton and while pinching give it a twist (in either direction), but continue twisting in the same direction. Twist and twist and then pull this twist away from the cotton cloud in you left hand. You will be making a piece of thread. Keep twisting in the same direction, gently pulling on the twisted end away from the left hand which is still holding the cotton lint. Do not release the twist but keep it pinched as you pull and twist. The gentle tension between the left supply hand and the right twisting hand will keep the thread from unwinding.
Take the piece of newly spun thread and tie it around the chop stick directly above the radish (serving as a weight or whorl). Roll the entire piece of newly finger-spun thread onto the chop-stick. Now try SPINDLE SPINNING holding the spindle up right with your right hand and giving it a sharp twist to the right (clockwise) allowing it to spin upon itself. Hold the beginning thread coming from the piece of cotton lint with your left hand as the spindle spins, pull the cotton lint up and away from it to allow it to make a continuous thread. Practice by repeating the same movement again and again. When your arm is not long enough to hold the continuous newly spun thread, wrap it around the spindle directly above the radish (whorl), and continue spinning by joining a new piece of cotton lint to the thread.
From cotton boll to thread!