Cotton - spinning
Separating and cleaning the fibres
Before cotton can be spun into yarn, the raw fibres are separated from the seeds - a process known as ginning. Today it is done by machine but traditionally women used small hand or foot gins. The cotton fibres can then be cleanes ready for spinning.
|Image: Cotton ginning and carding in India.|
Cotton is cleaned by pulling out bits of dirt, while carding pulls the fibres to make them parallel and ready for spinning. A stick is then rolled by hand over a thin layer of carded cotton mass to make tight cylinders about 15 cm long. It is now ready to be spun into thread.
Spinning draws out the short fibres from the mass of cotton and twists them together into a long, apparently continuous thread. Most Indian spinning machines are types of charka, which means wheel. A portable version of the charka, still used today, was designed by Mahatma Ghandi as part of the khadi movement to develop Indian self sufficiency. The finest threads used for muslin are spun on a hand spindle called a takli.
Spinning machines have a metal spike called a spindle which the thread winds around. The spindle is turned by attaching it with a pulley to a larger wheel (or several wheels) which is rotated with one hand. One complete turn of the large wheel makes the spindle turn many times, just like gears on a bike. Each spinning cycle takes only a few seconds and involves turning the wheel clockwise, anticlockwise and then clockwise again. This cycle pulls fibres from the cylinder in the left hand, twisting the thread and then winding the finished thread onto the spindle. After spinning, threads can be dyed and or treated with chemicals to prevent shrinkage or creasing, before weaving into fabrics.