This is cotton after it's been picked but before it's been put through a machine to "press" out all of the seeds.

This is cotton after it's been picked but before it's been put through a machine to "press" out all of the seeds.

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend invited me to join her in a cotton spinning workshop. We would be using organic cotton, which was really appealing to me, and the idea of learning more about how to spin your own cotton was intriguing as well. Another benefit was that children were welcome! I thought it would be a great opportunity for my daughters to learn a bit more about where their clothing comes from (other than "from Mommy's sewing machine" where the "magic" happens while they are asleep, haha).

The workshop was sponsored by Tokyo Cotton Village and led by Mr. Tomizawa. Tokyo Cotton Village is locally based, and they have their own cotton fields in Tokyo! They will even lead a workshop if you have enough people who are interested. You can contact them here.  

Before we started, Mr. Tomizawa talked briefly about cotton farming. Although it shouldn't be, it was surprising for me to hear that cotton is one of the most chemically treated crops in the world. He told us that something like 60% of the world's pesticides used on crops are used on cotton. To make things worse, many of the pesticides used in cotton farming are considered "possible" or "probable" carcinogens -- not to mention the cotton defoliants. But even more distressing is that the seeds from that chemically treated cotton (as oil) are used in cooking, and cotton meal is fed to livestock. The question then becomes not just "What are we putting on our bodies?" but "What are we putting in our bodies?" 

There is also the serious question of what this farming is doing to our environment. Pesticides can be harmful to wildlife as well as human life. Because of the pesticide residue in "gin trash" (leaves, stems, fibers), it is illegal in California to feed this to livestock. But it's used in mattresses, furniture, tampons, cotton balls...just think about how many of these things we use on a daily basis!

It's not just the environment, but also the farmers who suffer. I recently learned about the distressing number of suicides in India since 1995 (close to 300,000 deaths), which can be linked to the use of GM cotton. You can read a bit more about it here. Also, if you want to learn more about organic cotton farming in Japan, you can visit the Japan Organic Cotton Association website (in Japanese).

Tokyo Cotton Village grows their own organic cotton, and we were each given a handful of this cotton to spin. The first thing we were told to do was to feel it for the seeds. My daughter was fascinated with the lumps she found in the fluffy cotton. We were told that the end of April into May is the ideal time to plant your cotton seeds. If you're interested in harvesting your own cotton, I believe you can buy seeds and get your own spinning set here or here.

We put the cotton through what I could only think of as a "wringer." It pushes the seeds out as the cotton goes through the two rollers. Mr. Tomizawa told us that even today, with all of our advanced technology, we still use the same method -- just with bigger machines. 

Can you see the little seeds popping out? It's actually harder to turn that crank than you might think. My daughters each had a go, and then they decided it was more effective to work together. 

Once all the seeds were out, the next step was to fluff the cotton. We used the brushes that reminded me of the brush I used to use on my cat. 

For the life of me I can't remember what he was using the bow-like instrument for. Maybe someone more knowledgeable will have an answer!

For the life of me I can't remember what he was using the bow-like instrument for. Maybe someone more knowledgeable will have an answer!

By this time, my younger daughter had lost interest, so my older and daughter and I used the brushes to fluff the cotton.

Look at the difference!

Super fluffy, right? 

So next came the hard part. The spinning and putting it on the spindle whorl. You hold the fluffy cotton lightly in your hand, and slowly (well, in my case, super slowly)  twist the fibers between your fingers, and ideally it will pull out into a single long strand. For the life of me, I couldn't really get the hang of it, and I broke the thread so many times! Eventually I received some help and further guidance, and managed to get it on the whorl. Or should I say, *cough* Mr. Tomizawa put it on the whorl, heh heh. Unfortunately I don't have any photos of this process, as I was too busy sweating it out trying to figure out how to spin the cotton. Sorry!

But I can show you what it is supposed to look like.

We were told that once we got it home, to transfer the thread by winding it around some chopsticks for boiling. We were told that you still need to be careful of the thread unraveling at this point. Once it's been boiled, you dry it in the sun before it can be used. From there, you can dye it or leave it the color it is and use it in whatever project you desire!

And if you have some leftover cotton, you can even pretend that the cotton is wool, haha!!

These are the three colors that organic cotton grows in naturally: brown, green, and cream. I'm no cotton expert, so when I looked into it, I learned that the green apparently comes from the wax layers and the brown from tannin in the fibers.

These are the three colors that organic cotton grows in naturally: brown, green, and cream. I'm no cotton expert, so when I looked into it, I learned that the green apparently comes from the wax layers and the brown from tannin in the fibers.

If you ever get the opportunity to spin your own cotton, I highly recommend it. It's quite a fun activity that you can do with older children, and I'm all for raising awareness of the "where" and "how" behind the things we use in our lives. Thank you for joining me here for Fashion Revolution week!

There is still time to enter the giveaway! 

To enter the giveaway you’ll have to take a photo of yourself or of your kids wearing a garment you made inside out and holding either this handmade Fashion Revolution poster (here) if you’re showing something you made for yourself or this one (here) and post to Instagram { See Friday's post for examples}.

You'll then have to add it to our link party and giveaway widget for extra entries. To add your photo from Instagram, go to www.instagram.com/username - then click on the photo you wish to share and copy and paste the link here. 

The deadline to submit a photo will be Sunday 24th midnight EST. If you share your photo(s) in social media, please use the hashtags #FashRev #whomademyclothes #handmadeinsideout #imademyclothes #petitapetitfashrev so we can make our amazing community aware of the Fashion Revolution Event. You're allowed to share more than one photo.

The 5 winners will be chosen randomly and announced on Tuesday 26th of April.

Along with our generous sponsors we are giving away 5 identical prize packages, each including:

One 100€ gift card from Nosh Organics.

All of Petit à Petit patterns that have been launched to date.

One pattern of choice from the Upcraft Club.

One sewing pattern of choice from the following designers: Titchy ThreadsJennuine DesignSew Much AdoCoffee and ThreadStraightGrainLBG StudioRock the Stitch.

Miss Polly sewing pattern by Sew Pony; Cocoon Dress sewing pattern by Groovy Baby and Mama; Bubble Shorts sewing pattern by Do Guincho.

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