Sunday, November 29, 2020

The How And Why Of A Cotton Gin

Last night, I began seeding my cotton bolls. I started with my Red Foliated because I like it the least and it was in the worst shape of the three. I figured I'd learn with that and then do things the right way with my Mississippi Brown and Nankeen.

What a pain, both literally and figuratively. My fingers still hurt. Here's a video showing the crudest way to do it, which was the way I did it.

Note that her thumb is bloody. I can understand that. The seeds are like little rocks and the cotton clings to them for dear life. Imagine that you had a bowl of cotton balls into which you had poured pebbles with glue on them. Once the glue dried to the cotton, your job would be to get the pebbles back out. That's what seeding cotton is like.

It's even worse if you do it while watching the 2020 LSU - Texas A&M game. Good Lord, that was terrible. Both teams could have put their punters in to play quarterback and it couldn't have been worse.

I digress.

The next step in technology is to realize that the cotton is soft and the seeds are hard. It turns out you can roll them out of the cotton by hand, like, oh, I don't know, pushing the folds and lumps out of the bedspread, maybe? Dig this.

I thought this was ingenious. Give yourself something round and hard and something flat and hard and voila!, no more bleeding thumbs! After I watched this and then saw lots and lots of videos of women showing me how to seed cotton by hand, I couldn't figure out why they didn't tell me to do it this way.

Oh well. It's all one to me. This is all about learning by doing, so I didn't mind.

Another thing I noticed was that many of the YouTube tutorial videos were Indian. A lot of cotton comes from India, so it's no wonder they're a treasure house of knowledge on the subject.

Finally, we get to the cotton gin. I had imagined it as a thing with metal tines that somehow combed or teased out the seeds, but no, it is just a machine version of what the lady above is doing with her metal pipe and chunk of 2x4. Here's a hand-cranked version.

I want to build my own, of course. Mine won't be nearly as beautiful. All I need is the functionality. To me, it looks like it's a frame, two gears, two rollers and a hand crank. That looks pretty straightforward.

I hate to say it, but I'm already starting to think about raising Nankeen again next year. While the Mississippi Brown was my sentimental favorite, the Nankeen produced beautiful bolls as well and many more of them.

One Last Thing

After you seed the stuff, the cotton teases up to a much larger volume than what you had with the harvested bolls. I would estimate the ratio is about 3:1 or 4:1. I had read that a pound of cotton will make a t-shirt and I had scoffed at that. "Ha ha!" I said. "That is so scoffable!"

Well, the science of scoffology is pointing back at me now. I consider myself fully scoffed.

A bowl of seeded Red Foliated cotton. Fluffy!

On the plus side, I think I will have enough seeded and teased* cotton to deliver to my daughter-in-law and demand that she spin it into gold**.

* - These days, we're inundated with weak-spined progressives demanding that we not tease our cotton. It's part of their anti-bullying campaign. This is nonsense. Teasing cotton makes it stronger. You don't want weak cotton, do you?

** - I think that's what you do with cotton. I know I read it somewhere. In any case, the details of the procedure will be left to her. I'm more of an idea cat.

Update: Someone on Etsy is selling made-to-order wooden gears. I love it when a plan comes together.


tim eisele said...

Well, I suppose a quick reality check on whether a pound of cotton can make a T-shirt is to weigh a T-shirt.

It sounds like the average T-shirt weighs somewhere around 1/3 to 1/2 pound. So your pound of cotton should be able to make about *two* T-shirts!

K T Cat said...

Quantities are limited, so place your orders now!