Memories of Cotton-Picking Kansas

Cotton boll completly open
cotton kansas
As I looked at the bolls I placed them in the order of maturity, I ended with the small knit booty.

In an attempt to minimize clutter in my art studio and going through things as one does, I ran across a black box today. I vaguely recalled putting the items in the box so that “someday I could write about my experience.” Inside are various stages of cotton bolls, or cotton in its original plant form.

I knew I had taken pics of them as they were growing. And when I find the original pics today, I saw the files were dated 2007. As I am writing this, it is February 2020, and this means I have had this darn box for 13 years. (You can see a few of the images below)

Over the years, I have moved it from one room to another as my studio area moved. But not ever did I do as I originally intended, until today, thirteen years later.

At the time of attempting to garden, I knit regularly. So, I thought growing cotton would be an excellent idea. I figured it would be novel and practical at the same time. I had the room to try a patch, and I wound up with a dozen plants or so.

In 2007 it was not common to see cotton growing in southeast Kansas. It was considered too long of a growing period for our area. Although our summers can be scorching, they are just not as long as they are in more southern states of the U.S. Since then, things have changed, and you can almost always see cotton fields in central Kansas. But at the time, I could not get them locally, and I had to send off online on eBay for the seeds. I just figured I would plant them and see what happened.

I can remember coming home from my day job and seeing the fluff of white in my then garden patch. It took me a bit to realize what I was seeing. It wasn’t as if I had not been examining the area regularly, and oohing and ahhing over each step they took toward maturation. But I guess I never actually expected real cotton to show up!

One of the unexpected positives that came experimenting with the plants was that whenever I was on the phone with my parents that summer, they would inevitably ask how those “cotton-picking Humboldt people are doing.” They have sense pass away, but the memory of growing cotton that year and their joy in teasing me about it remain.

Hank of cotton
Cotton hand-combed and spun into a hank.

Thirteen years ago I took the cotton from the bolls of the plants, picked out the seeds, combed the fiber, spun it, and knit it all by hand. There is only one cotton booty because there wasn’t enough for two. It was more about the experience anyway.

For more information on growing cotton in Kansas than I will EVER know, please go here.

Cotton plant bloom
Cotton plant in bloom
Cotton boll open
Cotton boll forming from bloom
Cotton Boll
Cotton boll
Cotton boll dried and opening
Cotton boll dried and opening
Cotton boll completly open
Cotton boll completely open