Facts About Cotton

- and its journey from field to fashion

Cotton Field

Discover all the facts about cotton here...

Facts About Cotton - What is Cotton?
Cotton is a natural fibre that is harvested from the cotton plant. The fibre is soft and it grows around the seeds of the cotton plant. The silky fine fibres are spun into a thread, which can then be woven or knitted to make a soft, breathable textile.

Cotton Field with Blue Sky

Cotton fibre possesses many unique properties such as strength, durability and absorbency.

In fact cotton is the most popular fabric and best selling fabric in the world.

It is used across the fashion industry to make designer clothing as well as more main stream clothing for both adults and children.

You can read more about the properties of cotton here.

Facts About Cotton - The Cotton Plant
The cotton plant is in the mallow family. It is a shrubby plant that produces delicate, lovely flowers. The cotton fibre forms around the seeds of the plant and is designed to help carry them long distances on the wind so that the plant can distribute itself.

Facts About Cotton - Its Journey from Field to Fashion
There are several steps in the process, turning a little cotton seed into a cotton garment:

1. Planting and Growing Cotton
Growing cotton is not an easy process, as cotton requires a long growing season, sunny and warm weather, plenty of water and dry weather for harvest.

In early spring, cottonseeds are planted in rows. About two months after planting flower buds appear on the cotton plants. A month later the blossoms open and their petals change from creamy white to yellow, to pink and then finally dark red. Shortly after they wither and fall, leaving green pods which are called cotton bolls.

Ripe Cotton Boll

Inside the boll, which is shaped like a tiny football, moist fibres grow. As the boll ripens, it turns brown. Meanwhile the fibres continue to expand under the sun. Finally they split the boll apart and the fluffy, downy cotton fibre, which has formed around the seeds of the plant, appears. It looks like white cotton clouds.

2. Harvesting
Harvesting is either done by hand or by machines. In developing countries cotton is more often than not hand picked.

3. Cotton Processing
After harvesting, several major processes take place; cleaning, spinning, knitting or weaving, dyeing, cutting and finishing.

First of all cotton is combed to remove the seeds. This used to be a labour intense process until the invention of the cotton gin, which quickly separates the seeds from the fibre and combs them for spinning.

After cleaning the silky fibres are spun into a yarn, which is then woven or knitted into a soft, breathable textile.

Textile Mill

Cotton is easy to dye and has a good colour retention. In addition it also blends well with other fibres such as elastane.

Cotton processing has been perfected over many generations and the result is the quality that we enjoy today.

Facts About Cotton - Common Uses
Cotton is extremely versatile and is used to make a number of textile products such as bath towels, socks, underwear, shirts, sweaters, t-shirts and jeans - the latter being the one clothing item that none of us can live without!

In addition to textile products, cotton is also used in fishnets, coffee filters, tents and in book binding. In fact the first Chinese paper was made of cotton fibre.

The cottonseed, which remains after the cotton is ginned, is used to produce cottonseed oil, which, after refining, can be consumed by humans like any other vegetable oil. The cottonseed that is left generally is fed to livestock.

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