Cotton bolls and one lone plant

Cotton bolls and one lone plant ~

I grew up in a farming community in California. In fact, I lived on a ranch in the middle of cherry orchards for a time. But I had never seen a cotton plant until a few years ago on my first trip to Alabama. I knew that cotton was an integral part of southern history, but I personally wasn't very familiar with this fluffy, white plant and all that it entailed. Lucky for me, during my first class at the Factory of Alabama Chanin, Natalie Chanin introduced us all to the world of cotton, from its raw, microscopic form, through production, and how it related to the beautiful garments that were created at her company.

Frankly, I was enchanted with those soft cotton bolls. Feeling their cushy fibers in my fingers really connected me to this plant, and helped me understand just how important this bit of fluff really was.

When I decided to become an Alabama Chanin sewing instructor, I wanted to get enough cotton bolls to share with all my students. I knew not a lot of people from the Pacific Northwest had ever seen, let alone felt a raw cotton boll. I wanted my students to "feel" the connection like I had that first time I held one.

Recently, I went to visit my parents in Arizona. We were talking about farming there, and it hit me, perhaps Arizona was another cotton farming area. Was it so? Yes, they raised cotton in Arizona! In fact, there was a cotton gin just a few miles down the road from where I was staying. In the car we hopped, and we drove straight over there. The ladies in the reception area were so nice, but they had no cotton bolls left. The season was finished; the fields picked; the cotton ginned; and all that was left were drifts of white fluff along the edges of the cotton fields. Though one woman added, as an aside, that she had just seen a plant, one lone cotton plant, all by itself, somewhere, but she couldn't remember for the life of her where she had seen it.

Wouldn't you know it, but the very next day, as we were heading out of town, along the side of the road, across the highway from the barren cotton fields, amid some tiny drifts of forgotten fluff, there stood a lone cotton plant! Out we jumped, and in the dessert, in the middle of nowhere, we harvested some cotton. I packed it up and shipped it home.

I will be so happy to share this unanticipated boon with my students at Art & Soul in March. I hope they enjoy it as much as I do.