Are you looking for a new hobby?
Have you ever wanted to learn how to turn cotton into fabric by hand?
This is the perfect guide for anyone who wants to try their hand at sewing and crafting. It’s easy, fun, and will teach you all about fabrics!
To turn cotton into fabric by hand, you need to:
- Find your cotton plant
- Dig it up
- Place it in a bin for four weeks
- Roll it up like a rug & submerge in water for 24 hours
- Tie off the fibers into knots and let them dry for 24 hours
- Start making fabric by hand on a spinning loom
In this way, you’ll be able to make your own clothes, quilts, or anything else that comes from the fabric. And it doesn’t matter if you’re an expert or just starting – this tutorial has something for everyone.
So what are you waiting for?
Keep reading if you want to turn your cotton into the fabric right now!
How Is Cotton Made Into Fabric? (Beginner Friendly)
- Find your cotton plant. It’s the most critical step in the turning process and can take up to three years, depending on which plant you are using. You must be sure that it is disease-free because if you use a tuber that is suffering, it will spread throughout your whole crop!
- Once you have your tuber, dig it up. Take care not to disturb the roots or kill your entire plant and become useless. The best time to do this is in the spring, when the soil is moist and easy to work with.
- Once you have dug up your cotton plant, place it in a bin that can hold water at least 3/4 of the way up the tuber but not deep enough to cover your entire root system.
- Cut off any excess roots to just stick out of the water and leave it there for four weeks. Make sure you change out the water every day because this wash will turn your cotton into fabric by hand.
- After four weeks, your plant should be ready to become fabric by hand. You will need to roll it up like a rug and secure it with a string, so it doesn’t come unraveled. Tie tightly and then submerge the whole thing in water for 24 hours. The excess water will drip out through the weave of the cloth, which can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how tightly you tied it off!
For a better understanding of the process, you can watch the video below!
- Once all of the excess water has dripped out, tie off your fibers into knots, leaving an inch or two between each knot, and allow them to dry in direct sunlight for at least 12 hours per side (24 total). If you do not have access to direct sunlight, use heat lamps instead.
- Once your cotton has dried, you can use it to make fabric by hand on a spinning loom or in a loom made from PVC pipe! If using the PVC method, be sure not to push the frame together too hard because this will cause the yarn to be uneven and weak.
How Does a Handloom Work (in 10 Steps!)
The basic ingredients for correctly using a handloom for cotton fabric are a bit of practice and lots of patience!
If you have several fabrics left and want to make a t-shirt quilt you may use them with a sashing, as we broadly explained in this article!
However, here are the steps:
1) Start with two poles placed at either end of the loom. The length of these should be about six to eight feet for adults, four to five feet for kids.
2) Tie a long piece of string to each pole, so they’re at least three feet apart (or six inches if it’s an adult loom). This will give you room on both sides to tie the warp threads so you can make a square or rectangular cloth.
3) Cut two pieces of string about five feet long and tie them to the poles above where they’re tied off for the warp strings. These will be your heddle strings (they’ll be what you lift to create the weave). Tie them thirty inches apart at a height that works best for your comfort and arm length.
4) Get some yarn, twine, or heavy thread that’s suitable for weaving, pick your colors (and if you want an even number), then cut twenty-five one-foot strings for every yard of fabric you want to have woven into it. It helps to know how many yards are in the rod before cutting all those strings!
5) Tie the string to the bottom of your loom, at least three feet apart. Leave about three inches between each knot so you can tie it off when you’re finished and cut the excess off. If you want a pattern that’s more than one color, pick some for the warp strings and one or two colors for your weft.
6) Tie the first warp string to the lowest heddle string using an overhand knot.
7) Repeat with each of the rest of the warp strings, alternating sides to make a square/rectangular piece of fabric.
8) Tie another string to each pole. Start lifting the heddle strings one by one until you have all the weft strings in-between them (making sure they’re not twisted). Once you finish, tie a knot on top of each heddle string so they won’t come undone.
9) Pick the first set of weft strings (the ones on the left side), grab them with your right hand, and start weaving! Alternate which direction you weave until the end —it doesn’t matter which way you go first as long as you keep alternating. You can go over one, under one, over one, under one, etc. When you reach the end of the warp string, tie it to itself with a wooden dowel or knot. Repeat this process with each weft string and alternate sides (right side then left, left then right).
10) Once you’re done weaving a row, tie the loose weft strings together at each side (but not on the ends). Trim off any excess string.
How Do You Spin a Cotton Spindle?
At first, we must wet the cotton. Then spread it out and allow it to dry to separate the fibers. There are generally two methods of spinning a cotton spindle: Charka (aka Stationary Spindle) and Treadle (aka Traveling or Driving Spindle).
- A charka is a device that holds the spindle and provides an axis around which it can rotate. The charka is usually a stick with a disk at one end or a large disk itself. It may be pushed by hand to rotate and then caught mechanically again to keep it spinning.
- A treadle-driven spindle has the whorl attached to the pedal. The spindle is usually driven by a large wheel that is spun to keep it in motion and then stopped periodically to maintain the whorl’s momentum. You may also push along a treadle-driven spindle, and thus the term “traveling spindle.”
What are 2-inch Drop Spindles?
2-inch drop spindles are the traditional way to spin cotton and other short-staple fibers. It is different from most other spinning forms in that the thread is spun onto itself, creating a continuous strand known as sliver or roving.
The resulting fabric has a wonderfully soft hand while being easier to maintain than woolens.
For a better understanding, please watch the video below!
What are the 4 Types of Cotton?
There are four types of cotton grown globally, either classified as Upland, Pima, Egyptian, or Acala.
- Upland cotton (Gossypium Hirsutum) describes the four varieties of mid-western American cotton. It’s characterized by an angular shape and long staple length. The fiber diameter varies from medium to fine, averaging about 21 microns in diameter.
- Pima cotton (Gossypium Barbadense) is grown commercially only in the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico. Its name derives from the Pima Native Americans living near the Gila River in Arizona, where it was first discovered. The fiber is soft, very long (averaging more than 36mm), refined with a silky luster. This type of cotton is popular in making high-class apparel and home furnishings or furnishings for luxury cars because of its superior hand and drape characteristics.
- Egyptian cotton (Gossypium Barbadense) has an extraordinary length staple (average 35mm) but only moderate fineness (15-18 microns). It’s known strong body yet soft feel. It has a low elasticity compared to most cotton, and it is more wrinkled. This type of cotton is used for high-end bedding, sheets, and shirts where the extra length provides durability while maintaining comfort.
- Acala cotton (Gossypium Hirsutum) is grown in the USA, Mexico, and some Caribbean islands. It’s characterized by a fine to medium staple (18-27mm) with superior strength and elasticity. American Upland Cotton is less wrinkled than Egyptian cotton but not as soft or lustrous. Its applications are industrial fabrics, heavier apparel, blankets, or carpets made from coarse yarns or blended with other fibers such as polyester.
In the past, cotton was typically turned into fabric by hand. Even though machines are available to do this faster (today, you can even print on fabric with 3D printers, as we explained in this article!) and more efficiently than our fingers and hands can, many people still enjoy the process of turning their raw materials into a finished product themselves.
The best way to learn how to turn cotton into fabric by hand is through hands-on experience. We recommend taking a workshop, enrolling in an online course, or buying a book to get the best resources on this topic!
We hope you have enjoyed reading this article, and we wish you good luck in your learning process!