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Making Your Own Cloth

Making and weaving your own cloth might seem like a huge project, and though it takes a bit of time and effort, the process isn’t that difficult. Many people today prefer to spin and weave their own cloth because they feel that the price of clothing is too high or they have extra sensitive skin that reacts badly to the chemicals used to treat many mass-produced clothing. Many people also just enjoy the accomplished feeling of being able to make something useful with their own two hands, much like the satisfaction a gardener gets from eating home-grown fruits and vegetables. There are a couple of different ways to get the materials you need to weave your own cloth, and there are also several different methods of using the materials to make cloth.

Growing The Fibers

One way to get the materials you need to weave cloth in your own home is through about five different kinds of plants. In some of the plants, you use the stems and leaves to make cloth, and in others, you use the seedpods or the fruit. The plants that can be made into cloth are cotton, flax, ramie, hemp, and jute. Depending on where you live, some of these plants may be more familiar than others. If you want to, you can actually grow some of these plants in your yard or on your property, but many people just buy the crucial parts of the plants wholesale and then process the raw material themselves.

The most familiar plants on the list tend to be cotton, flax, and hemp. Usually these plants are grown in large quantities and then harvested for companies to make into clothing and other products, but it’s also possible to buy them from farmers directly or through programs set up by textile farms that sell to individuals. If you’re in the areas where these crops are grown, try looking at farmer’s markets or check online for local farms that will sell to individuals.


Cotton is an example of material that is harvested from the seedpod or fruit of the plant. The cottonseed eventually bursts open when the plant has reached maturity, and people can harvest the fluffy white “fruit” of the plant to spin into thread and yarn. Cotton is spun on a spinning wheel, and there are many different kinds of spinning wheels today. You can still get a wheel that is propelled by a foot pedal, or you can buy an electric one that doesn’t require a pedal at all. There are different thicknesses that you can spin the cotton thread into. You can spin very fine thread to use later for weaving, or you can spin it into a slightly thicker thread to use for knitting and crocheting.

If you want to make your cotton thread into a sheet of cloth, you need to use a weaving loom. These are much larger than spinning wheels, and they take many lengths of thin cotton thread and mesh them together at different angles before pushing it tightly all together so that they make one seamless piece of cloth. If you’ve ever had a cotton handkerchief that’s worn out to the point of fraying a little around the edges, you can see how the threads are put together so that they intersect and bind together to make a single piece of cloth. This is how you generally make cloth, though it’s also possible to knit fine enough to make shirts and pants if you feel like it. Crocheting is a little more bulky, so usually people stick to making things like hats, gloves, and bags out of homespun cotton crochet thread.

Hemp and Flax

Hemp and flax are examples of plants where you use the stems and leaves to the make thread. The process of harvesting these plants is a little different than cotton. First off all, you shouldn’t try growing hemp yourself unless you have a permit. Hemp comes from the cannabis plant, which also yields the drug marijuana. It’s possible to grow hemp that contains very little THC – the active ingredient in marijuana – but to be on the safe side, you should probably just buy your raw hemp from a hemp farmer with a valid license.

When you get the raw material, you need to go through a process called “retting”. This means that the solid flax or hemp fibers have to be soaked in water until they are soft enough to fall apart into individual fibers. Different kinds of water produce different colors of hemp and flax. Pond water, depending on the temperature of the water and the microbes in the water can turn the hemp and flax grey or other dull shades. It’s also possible to ret hemp in snow, which turns it golden.

After the retting process is done, you have to use a special tool to sort of comb the bundles of relaxed fibers so that pieces of the hemp and flax are separated from the longer fibers. These bits and pieces are then collected to be used later in spinning it into rope and thread. Hemp and flax don’t usually make the softest clothing materials, but they can be useful for making rope and also bags and jewelry.  Unlike cotton, the fibers from flax and hemp don’t stick together, so you need to make a compound that allows the fibers to stick to each other in order to be made them into thread and rope. This is where the bits and pieces you collected while combing the fibers comes in handy. Water could technically be used to hold the fibers together during the spinning process, but spit works best. However, no one wants to cover all their fibers with spit while they spin, so fortunately they discovered that all these trimmings from the fibers can be combined with a little oil from the plant seeds and it makes a spit-like substance that glues the fibers together during spinning.

Raising The Wool

Wool is another material you can use to make clothing and cloth. Wool comes from sheep, which you can raise on your property to provide an unlimited source of raw material. When you shear a sheep for fleece, you have to go through the process of washing the fleece and making it ready to be spun into wool yarn. After washing the fleece, it needs to be carded. Carding gets rid of all the extra junk that can get stuck in sheep wool, like bits of bark. If you’re preparing to spin the wool from home, you need to hand card all of your wool so that it becomes soft and all the fibers are mingled together. Once you have all the wool carded, you can decide what you want to do with it. Carded wool can be used as batting, felt, or worsted yarn for knitting and crocheting. The felt and yarn will be of the most use to you if you are making your own cloth. Felted wool becomes a single large piece of material, like cotton that has been woven on a loom. This felted wool is used to create wool pants like you would use for hunting. Wool clothing keeps you warm even when it gets wet, so it’s a valuable clothing material.

Making your own cloth is a rewarding process and it’s fun to do if you like activities like crafting, cooking, and gardening. Also, it’s a step in the process of becoming self-sufficient, which is a valuable lifestyle to learn, and it could potentially save you and your family’s life during emergencies that cut you off from civilized society.

©2012 Off the Grid News

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