How to Make Cotton Thread

Although fiber spinners have a special skill turning wool into yarn, many proficient spinners have never considered making cotton thread. According to founder Joan Ruane, "between the newly designed wheels, the availability of learning good spinning techniques and the wonderful array of fine quality cotton fiber, the truth is cotton is easy to spin." Cotton fiber dyes well, and with a few adjustments to cotton fiber preparation and the spinning wheel, you can make hand-spun cotton thread at home.

Image Credit: Images

Things You'll Need

  • Cotton fiber

  • Fiber reactive dye

  • Screen

  • Hand carders

  • Spinning wheel

  • Bobbins

  • Lazy kate

Select and Dye Cotton Fiber

Step 1

Select cleaned and ginned raw cotton fiber or precarded cotton already made into rolls, called roving or punis.

Step 2

Use the cotton in its natural state, or color the fiber using a fiber reactive dye that works on plant cellulose, such as Procion dyes.

Step 3

Spread the dyed cotton on screens until the fiber is completely dry.

Carding Cotton

Step 1

Hold one carder in your dominant hand, and add small amounts of cotton fiber across the carder, pulling the fiber down across the carder with your other hand.

Step 2

Hold the filled carder steady on your leg and draw the teeth of other empty carder over the fiber filled carder slowly, part of the way first, then repeat again going the whole way across.

Step 3

Repeat this motion gently four to six times, without pushing the fiber into the carder teeth.

Step 4

Move the whole wad of cotton fiber to the empty carder by grabbing the fiber on the full carder at the bottom with the empty carder's teeth and pull out and up. Repeat the carding process again, with the carders now switched.

Step 5

Pull up on the full carder and remove the carded cotton, or cotton lint. Gently roll the carded cotton into a narrow roll, called a puni, and set aside.

Spinning and Plying

Step 1

Loosen the spinning wheel dry wheel or belt to make the flyer wheel go faster for more twist.

Step 2

Take a cotton puni and draft, or draw out, a small amount of the fiber catching the fiber on the thread lead until it is attached.

Step 3

Start treadling the spinning wheel with your feet slowly at first, opening and releasing a bit of fiber at a time, then closing your fingers over the puni as the fibers twist into thread.

Step 4

Repeat this open-and-release, close-and-twist motion until the puni is almost gone. Then grab the next puni and start the process again.

Step 5

Replace the spinner bobbin when full with a fresh bobbin. After filling two or three bobbins, move them to a lazy kate, or bobbin holder.

Step 6

Ply the cotton thread using the spinning wheel using two or three threads by twisting the threads together in the reverse direction.


Buy premade punis or cotton roving from a cotton fiber supplier if you do not want to go through the carding process.


Follow dyeing instructions exactly when using fiber reactive dyes, which are chemicals.

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