Working With Plant Fibers

Laura K. Thompson Dr, Furman University


This laboratory is one in a series that I use in Biology 401: Applied Plant Science. This course is designed for students who have had at least one introductory Biology course, either for a major or a non-major. The goal in the course is to give the student an appreciation for the importance of plants to human society. Each laboratory session is designed to give the student an appreciation for how plants contribute to society and an experience in original processing of plants for their use. In this laboratory session the students get a feel for the processes that are used to produce yarns for use in fabrics. In the summer I obtain a license for growing cotton that the students harvest at the beginning of the laboratory session. The students gin the cotton by hand, then we go through the process of spinning the cotton. The students start with twisting the cotton threads as they roll the fibers on their thigh. Then the students progress to using a “spinning stick”. The spinning stick is a wire rod about the size of a coat hanger with a hook on the end. The cotton fibers are attached to the hook, and the rod is rolled on their thigh. This is a much faster way of producing the thread. Once the students master the spinning stick they progress to the Takli. If students wish, they can take a turn spinning the cotton on the spinning wheel. We finish the session by dying cotton items that they have collected over the term with Indigo.