“Who’s ready for an adventure?” Maria announced as she danced into the workroom of the Surrey Fringe Factory with two letters held high. “Grandpa, I found the perfect Extra Long Staple cotton for that fancy shirt fabric you want us to weave for you. It’s Sea Island cotton! That’s a variety of Gossypium barbadense, the Extra Long Staple (ELS) cotton species“ Maria explained to her sisters as they ran over to hear the news. “It is super soft and has amazingly long fibers.”
“These two letters are from growers in South Carolina and California who both claim to have crops of Sea Island cotton ready to harvest this fall!” Maria continued breathlessly. “I am going see their crops to determine if the cotton lint would meet up with our standards. Who wants to come with me?”
Sea Island Cotton
“Hmphh,” grumbled Grandpa, preparing to pontificate. “I heard about that variety a long time ago. Old William Elliott down on Myrtle Bank Plantation on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina developed some fine Sea Island cotton in the early 1800’s. They called it Elliott Cream Cotton. For many years, the best Sea Island cottons were grown there on the Sea Islands off the South Carolina coast. But, those darn Boll Weevils wiped ‘em out in the 1920’s. Why even with all the free labor during the Great Depression they couldn’t revive the Sea Island industry in the U.S. That cotton is dead and gone. Pima and Egyptian cotton are the best ELS varieties of cotton in the world now! No need to rush off around the country tilting at windmills again. We have a good supply of those cottons.”
“Oh Grandpa, don’t be afraid to explore new things!” Maria said resolutely. “And we won’t know until we have looked. I am leaving today; who is coming with me?” There was a great deal of foot stomping, handwringing and worried looks passed between the other two sisters. “Maria,” said Tia “you know we have to finish the big order of surrey fringe. We can’t leave until that order is filled”.
“Kidstuff!” said Maria. “We have those cute little looms in the back of the shop, don’t we? Let’s wrap them up and take them along with us. They are perfectly portable, and fold up into those darling bags. We can take along a suitcase full of yarn for the project and while we sit on the train to South Carolina and California. We might even find some fun yarns to include in the fringe along the way.”