An Afternoon Spent Ginning

No, it’s not what you think.  I spent an afternoon picking the seeds out of cotton bolls.  And while I picked and picked and picked, I thought about Eli Whitney a lot!  I learned my lesson last year when I waited until I had harvested all of my cotton to pick out the seeds.  It took me two days to “gin” just four ounces of cotton.  So this year I decided to pick out the seeds as I harvested the cotton.  So what’s involved in ginning cotton?

Each cotton boll has four or five segments.
Each cotton boll has four or five segments.
First, I pull apart one segment to make the seeds more visible.  There are seven or eight seeds per segment.
First, I pull apart one segment to make the seeds more visible. There are seven or eight seeds per segment.
Next, while holding the seed, I fluff out the fibers and slowly pull the fibers off the seed.
Next, while holding the seed, I fluff out the fibers and slowly pull the fibers off the seed.

While that might sound easy, let me tell you, those fibers are super glued to the seed!  Pull too hard and you’ll get a piece of the outer skin of the seed.  Pull too easy and you won’t get the fibers off!

Repeat this procedure many, many times until you have a pile of seeds and a pile of fluffy cotton fibers.
Repeat this procedure many, many times until you have a pile of seeds and a pile of fluffy cotton fibers.

The fibers are ready to be carded and spun into yarn.

Ginning is very labor intensive.  Without the modern cotton gin, I’d hate to think what the cost of a cotton garment would be!

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