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Cotton: From Plant To Fabric

“Cotton is family.  We sweat in cotton.  It breathes with us.  We wrap our newborns in it.  In fact, we pay cotton the highest compliment of all, we don’t go out of our way to be nice to it.  Look in your closet.  The crumpled things on the floor are most probably cotton- soiled shirts and khakis, dirty housework clothes and muddied socks that rise up in dank mounds ready to be baptized with detergent and reborn in the washer, fresh and clean as new snow.  ……Cotton is the fabric wool would be if it were light enough for summer and didn’t shrink to toddler-size in the dryer; it’s what silk would be if it gracefully absorbed sweat; and what linen might aspire to if it didn’t wrinkle on sight.”

                            —–Cotton The Biography of a Revolutionary Fiber  by Stephen Yafa (Penguin Books, 2005)

       Twenty Five children from  Grace Academy  and their parents learned how cotton goes from plant to fabric.  Under the shade of the Gardens’ white and brown cotton plants, they saw cotton growing on an actual plant, removed some seeds from the cotton bolls by hand, and watched a demonstration on how cotton is spun on both a tahkli hand spindle and a book charkha cotton spinning wheel from India.  Each child got to pick and take home their own cotton boll from the Garden’s plants and were reminded that as recently as 105 years ago sharecropper children, no older than themselves, worked in Dallas County’s cotton fields from dawn to dusk, enduring hardships that we can not imagine today.  

Grace Academy Students Learning About Cotton At The Demonstration Garden


Cotton Spinning Demonstration

Cotton Spinning Demonstration For Field Trip

Left to right:

      • Cardboard box that the book charkha spinning wheel came in from India.  It is covered with khadi cloth, a handspun, hand woven cotton cloth, and sewn with handspun cotton thread.  The address label is written on the fabric.
      • Bowl with tahkli hand spindle
      • Cotton carders (red) to comb the cotton to straighten the fibers
      • Book charkha cotton spinning wheel from India.   In 1947 Mahatma Gandhi in his non-violent campaign for India’s independence from England said “Take to spinning to find peace of mind.  The music of the wheel will be as balm to our soul.  I believe that the yarn we spin is capable of mending the broken warp and woof of our life.  The charkha (spinning wheel) is the symbol for non-violence on which all life, if it is to be real life, must be based.”


This was one of four learning stations visited by our Grace Academy visitors on September 11, 2012.  Keep following our blog to see more pictures and descriptions of this field trip to our Demonstration Garden.

About Dallas Garden Buzz

Dallas County Master Gardeners growing and sharing from The Raincatcher's Garden.

One response »

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