You might be interested in the bi-ennial Fiber Arts Festival, this year (June 10-12, 2011) in the Bitterroot in Hamilton (on the alternate years, they are in Dillon as I remember) http://www.bigskyfiber.com/
I, too, have just gotten into fiber arts. I decided I want to know how to process wool all the way from the animal through the shearing -- cleaning --- dyeing --- spinning --- felting/knitting -- etc until I am able to produce clothing and blankets and such.
I'm using a drop spindle, though so it's a much slower process. Alpaca wool is top-notch. Warm(est) and soft, too! And you get the good energy and love from those amazing animals
My interest is spinning cotton -- which seems to be more hard to come by than spinning animal fiber.
But between being married to a vegan (which means wool is off-limits) and living in Florida (which means cotton is better because it is less warm than wool), cotton really is the better choice for me.
If someone reading this happens to know of a source of online instruction on how to spin cotton, I would very much appreciate a link.
My hope is to be able to spin my own cotton sock yarn (which is very expensive in the stores and relatively hard to come by), and maybe eventually add cotton (grown as a perennial) to my yard.
I already know how to knit socks -- but I use that cheap Walmart cotton yarn that comes on a bolt that is intended for making wash cloths, so they come out more as slippers than as socks (because they are so thick).
I spun (did spin?, was spinning? 'I spun' doesn't sound right) wool on an Ashford wheel for awhile but I couldn't keep up with my weaving. I found it really relaxing though. It was easy then to come up with free whole fleece...sometimes we would help with the shearing. I love it when I hear of folks learning real crafts. we are fortunate to be in an area that is loaded with craftsmen and women and two small craft schools.
Denise, if you spin cotton you might want to find organically grown fibers...there are really bad chemicals sprayed on commercial cotton and none of them food grade. And maybe check into color grown cotton fibers...beautiful natural shades of rusts and greens...cotton before all of the color was bred out of it. I found in weaving and spinning both I was breathing fiber dust from the process. Spinners at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View AR. spin with both cotton and wool and sometimes teach during Folk School in March.
"We're all just walking each other home." -Ram Dass
"Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder."-Rumi
Not all cotton is the same. If you grow upland cotton, it will have a very short staple and be an entirely different process than if you were to grow Sea Island, Egyptian or Pima cotton. They also have vastly different growing conditions, too. The Sea Island plants here grow in really high humidity, fairly even annual temperatures and lots of water. It's about a five foot tall plant and kinda spindly but it's filling in somewhat as it gets older. I don't know if it is all varieties of Sea Island cotton or just this one, though. I may pinch back the next plants to get them to grow bushier. Not sure yet if it's a biennial or a perennial, it's been growing for 517 days and still going strong. It's planted in a raised bed vegetable garden, mostly to keep over enthusiastic weed string trimmers away.
It's also planted in the herbs, I don't know if the rosemary, mint & sage are helping keep bugs away or not but they may be. It started making bolls when it was about 150 days old. It continuously produces bolls, not a whole lot at any one time but a few here and there and all the time. It adds up eventually. The fiber length is over two inches long. Which is a lot longer than upland cotton. It is also very soft and silky feeling with just a hint of shine to it. It pulls easily off the seeds, which are black and the bolls have three lobes to them. The leaves have three lobes, too, maybe it's related? Haven't a clue.
Three ply, a fat fingering weight and I don't know how many yards or even how much the skein weighs. It's been boiled since this picture and is hanging to dry so I can't weigh it yet. This is my first skein of yarn for 2017.
The seeds were picked out by hand and then the fiber was spun. Since the fiber had been pretty well fluffed out when the seeds were picked out, I just spun 'from the cloud' as it were instead of making it into a puni first. Three bobbins half full of a thin single, then those were all plied together. The yarn in the back of the picture was a test skein that was Navajo plied. It wasn't as nice as the true three ply.
The spinning wheel is an Ashford Traditional and it was on the fastest whorl of the standard flyer. I could have put on the lace flyer but I was too lazy. I'd suspect that with a short staple upland cotton, you'd need a faster flyer, but I can't say for sure since the cotton fibers here are much longer fibers.
If I were going to be spinning a lot of cotton, I'd probably get out the Canadian Production Wheel since it is a better wheel for spinning fine and fast. The Ashford can do it, but there's more treadling involved than if the CPW were used.