a featured image of cotton material 101

Cotton Material 101: An Extensive Guide

Cotton is one of the most popular materials for several reasons. It is very versatile, cheap, comfortable and its use has a really long history.

So, cotton fabrics is above all a very soft, breathable, light, versatile fabric and of the best materials for sewing. That is why people love to feel it on their skin, and because of these characteristics, it is most often used in the production of clothes for children.

It is also used for other types of clothing, where it has not lost its popularity despite new synthetic materials. Cotton bedding is very popular too due to many its advantages. Very often you can see pillows, duvets or even mattresses that use cotton material as their primary material.

Although it is very light, fabric cotton is also quite durable and one of the best cheap fabrics on the market. Once collected and processed in the right way, this material can stay in a good condition for a very long time.  Therefore, it can be washed and dried in different ways, it will not be damaged.

100% cotton fabric comes from plants of the same name. People have been using it for more than 4,000 years, all around the world. Now, we will try to tell you literally everything you should know about cotton, especially about its different types, as well as about its advantages and disadvantages. Cotton fabric UK readers – prepare for the extensive info!

What is cotton?

Cotton is obtained from special plant fibers of different lengths and it is made of cellulose. The final product is made by coming into contact with this plant. People did this first during breeding, and then during picking and everything else. The cotton fiber is white and puffy, and the plant serves to protect its seeds. The cotton plant grows in the form of a bush. Cotton processing is a process that consists of several activities. Only then does the cotton become completely ready for weaving. The processing process involves picking that used to be done by hand, but today machines are made instead of people. After that, the fibers would be selected and separated, because it is important to remove all unnecessary parts such as twigs.

a close up image of cotton flowers

During this part of the job, the fibers are combed and then straightened. Only fibers that are forwarded for further processing are retained. However, cotton has a number of recognizable characteristics. The source of its popularity may be its softness and durability, but it also has great absorption power. This fabric is very absorbent due to the plenty of space between the cotton fibers. Another feature is the good colour fastness thanks to its absorbent nature. It is important to note that it does not conduct electricity which means there is no static cling.

The history of cotton

The history of cotton is very long, and it starts from prehistory. It comes from the Arabic word quton, and the roots of the earliest production can be found in India and China. The first tool used for the purpose of harvesting cotton was cotton gin, which was used to separate cotton fluff from plant seeds. This tool is exactly an invention that originates from India, and it made the whole production much easier and faster then. Because of this, it was sewn very quickly as a widely-used textile. As times changed, a new invention appeared, like spinning mules and others during the industrial revolution. At that time, Britain was number one when it came to cotton production.
an image of cotton flowers in a field

Soon after, a new tool appeared in the US and Europe. It had an even better system of work that allowed him to separate seeds from cotton faster and more efficiently. During that period, the production of cotton jumped sharply, because the fibers were even longer and stronger. Later in history there have been ups and downs in production, but the US remains one of the leading cotton producers.

What are the different varieties of a cotton plant?

There are several types of cotton fabrics. Each of them has its own characteristics, and the biggest difference between them is in the feeling it provides at hand. Therefore, this difference is visible only after the final product or textile is obtained. However, they are quite similar to each other in other characteristics, they can have the same use and much more. Specifically, there are 4 types of cotton and these are Gossypium hirsutum, Gossypium barbadense, Gossypium arboretum and Gossypium herbaceum. However, there are divisions of cotton according to various criteria. For example, the types of cotton can be determined by: colour, thickness, weight, and even the origin of cotton fibers.

Gossypium hirsutum

Gossypium hirsutum is by far the most popular and most widely-produced form of this textile crop which makes up nine-tenths of the world’s cotton production. Native is for the area of Central America which also includes all the islands in the Caribbean Sea.

an image of Gossypium hirsutum cotton

However, the production of Gossypium hirsutum has spread all over the world because it thrives equally well in all climatic zones. Gossypium hirsutum is a short-staple cotton fiber which means it is not as high quality as some other types.

Gossypium barbadense

Gossypium barbadense is an extra-long-staple cotton variety, so it is used as a sewing material to make soft products that are considered more luxurious. Gossypium hirsutum, which accounts for 90% of world cotton production, is followed by Gossypium barbadense, which accounts for between 5 and 8 percent of world cotton production. Whenever you see a ticket “cotton muslin”, you can be sure that it originates from the Southwest America, meaning it is 100% cotton fabric pure. Native to for South America, but it can also be found all over the Asia.

Gossypium arboretum

What distinguishes Gossypium arboretum from all other types of cotton is that it grows as larger bushes that look more like trees than bushes. All other types grow in the form of a small bushes.

Gossypium arboretum makes up only 1 to 2 percent of the world’s cotton production, so you won’t find it that often. It is often used for quilting needs and if you want to sew a high quality shirt, you’ll want this type of cotton fabrics. Due to its high quality fabric, it is often used for cotton bunting.

Gossypium herbaceum

Gossypium herbaceum as well as Gossypium arboretum has a very small share in world cotton production, less than 2 percent of the total.

It is native for Arabia and Africa, so it is also called Levant cotton. It is mostly cultivated only in those parts, because it needs the climate that is present there and if you search it outside of that region, you will rarely find it outside of the region where it grows.

What are the different types of a cotton material?

Cotton fabric is a fiber that can be woven, knitted or felted and we often find it in skirts, dresses, pants and similar products. That is why a really wide range of fabrics can be found as well as so many different colours. There are a dozen types of cotton fabric. However, the basic division is into short-staple, long-staple, extra-long, egyptian, pima and supima. Different textures, styles and thicknesses are present in the fabric industry. It is important to note that these fibers have a strength that makes it strong, durable and resistant to tearing or tear. However, there is a minimal difference between the previously listed types of this fabric. For example, short-staple is most often used for jeans and similar things, because it has very strong and durable fibers. Long-staples are a softer, smoother variant, etc.

Short-staple

This type of cotton is great for everyday basic needs, which is why it is most often used. So, it is used mainly for making denim jeans, flannel clothing and similar products. The reason is soft and at the same time strong, sustainable fibers. Their price is quite low, it is cheaper and faster to grow than the others. However, it also means that it is of lower quality compared to some other types of cotton – thus the price is low. It is often available in sizes called “per metre”.

Long-staple

With this type of cotton fabric, there is less exposure of fiber ends. These are stronger fibers that make the end product soft, smooth and more durable. For example, such are the luxury bedding on the market made of this material. So, with a longer length of cotton, you get softer, smoother, stronger and more durable textiles. This means that better quality is achieved and long staple is suitable for this type of need.

Extra-long

These fibers of exceptional length are recognized for their strength and better uniformity. However, they are grown in limited quantities and represent only 3% of world cotton production. This is because a significant amount of crop management is required for this type of cotton so many people avoid having anything to do with extra-long cotton because it is so complicated.

Egyptian

Egyptian cotton fabrics are harvested exclusively by hand, with less damage to the cotton fibers. It is made of extremely long cotton fibers and therefore it is often used in sewing projects. This makes it very resistant while allowing it to absorb better. This type of fabric is softer and more flexible compared to some others. They also last longer than any other type of cotton.

Pima

Pima was originally grown on the sea islands of South Carolina and was later named American-Egyptian cotton, which offered high-quality fibers. As a result, a soft and at the same time firm fabric was created. This luxury cotton, highly valued in the global market, is still growing in northern Peru – the place where its origin can be found.

Supima

This type of cotton fabrics is twice as strong as standard. In this way, the product is extremely resistant, because longer fibers resist breaking and tearing. That is why products made of this type of cotton provide greater comfort, longer colour retention and much more. These are very long cotton fibers that are at least 34 millimeters long.

How is cotton made?

Cotton ranks very high among materials and fabrics, especially when it comes to affordable prices, variety and affordability. Since natural fibers are not so strong on their own, they have to go through several stages of processing. Only after that can they become tough cotton fabric. So it all starts with picking a cotton plant. Machines make this process much easier, because they shorten the working time and increase the productivity of the process. In addition to pickers, many other machines are used for various purposes. For example, stripper harvesters use rollers or mechanical brushes to remove the head-ball from the plant. On the other hand, spindle pickers use revolving barbed spindles to pull the fiber from the boll.

This refers to the removal of leaves to facilitate harvesting and prevent fiber damage. This is followed by harvesting, which is done with the help of specialized machines. The next stage is separating, which involves separating the cotton from the seeds. This is followed by transfer. Carding is an additional processing in which, among other things, the alignment of the fibers is performed, as well as the removal of short fibers. Spinning is the pulling out of fibers, twisting and winding on a spool. This is followed by dyeing or applying dye to the cotton. In the end it goes weaving and it refers to the production of textiles which would be obtaining the final product.

an image of cotton manufacturing

The further process involves separating the seeds of the plant and spun into a strong yarn. It can be woven or knitted into fabric. For thousands of years, people have been making fiber for fabrics from small pieces of cotton twisted into threads. This was done manually, using yarn wheels, and later a machine or spinner was used. The spinning process is greatly facilitated by the fact that it is a cotton fabric. It is special precisely because of its practicality, because it is easy to process or produce clothes. The reason is the great durability that this material has. It is very easy to wash, absorbs quickly and releases moisture. However, one of the basic phases that fibers must go through is defoliation.

Defoliation

Once the leaves become physiologically mature defoliation occurs. Removal of leaves facilitates mechanical harvesting. In order to prevent fiber damage and maintain quality, cleaning is kept to a minimum. So, this process needs to be viewed as art because it really is. The reason is to include an intuitive feeling about different aspects of the cotton crop as well as knowledge about the process itself. This refers to having relevant information about conditions that include time, environment, application, and materials.

an image of defoliated cotton plants

Machine harvesting

The collection of cotton has changed drastically in the past century. Thus, harvesting is no longer done by hand, but specialized cotton picking machines are used. They are also used for the purpose of separating cotton fibers from mature grains. In that case, we can talk about several different types of machines. Each type is intended for a certain stage of cotton preparation. For example, there is a cotton picker and many other machines.

Separating

The process of separating the fibers from the seeds is done manually or by machine. This machine is called cotton gin and significantly accelerates the process of separating cotton from its seeds. In this way, much higher productivity is enabled compared to manual work so cotton is not expensive as it used to be when everything was done manually. The separation can be done by colours as well – blue, gold, pink, purple, grey, yellow, green, navy, turquoise, beige or orange and any of these can be printed out easily.

Transferring

The cotton must then be transferred to the facility where further processing will continue. Today, most cotton transport takes place over water, using gigantic container ships where a huge amount of cotton can be placed and moved fast.  All that significantly reduce costs of transferring and later cotton products.

Carding

So, after the picking machine, the cotton is moved to the carding machines. This process involves a mechanical process in which cotton fibers go through various stages in which they are prepared for later processing. In this way, proper separation and separation of fibers is achieved, but also fiber alignment and removal of short fibers.

Spinning

Spinning technique is a technique that involves pulling out the fibers, twisting and winding them on a spool. Before the spinning begins, the cotton fibers are twisted by hand and passed between the fingers. The fibers are then passed until they are finished, but not completely separated. During twisting, it is very important that it flows and that no fibers are released.

Dyeing

This procedure involves applying cotton dyes. Piece dyeing and yarn dyeing are represented. When it comes to the first procedure. dyes are used for fabrics that should be solid. Yarn dyeing is used when it is necessary to dye the fabric before it is knitted. It is mainly used to make plaids, thin stripes and other patterns.

Weaving

Weaving is a method of textile production that uses the same thread weaving technique. This is done at right angles to create the fabric. Weaving is a particularly important technique to get the right cotton material to make T-shirts, blue jeans and similar products. Today, the whole procedure is mostly mechanized.

an image of cotton weaving

Where is cotton used?

Cotton is one of the oldest known natural fibers. Since it is natural, renewable, biodegradable and sustainable, it is used for many purpose including dressmaking. So, it is mostly represented in the production of clothes. Especially when it comes to children’s and men’s clothing. The soft texture and versatile quality are an excellent base for dyeing, processing and producing a wide range of garments that are worn around the world. It is very easy to maintain, can be washed and dried in all ways and it is available in many different colours. This mainly applies to jeans, breathable and comfortable shirts, absorbent and comfortable underwear, pillows, curtains, and towels.

Every retail store has thousands of different products that are made from this material. This is proof of its wide representation. In this case, products such as diapers can also be found on the shelves. The reason is the biodegradability of the material, because billions of disposable diapers are used every year. This is a huge amount of waste in landfills on an annual basis, and in order to influence that, it is recommended to use cloth diapers made from cotton.

  • Jeans
  • Shirts
  • Underwear
  • Bedding
  • Towels
  • Diapers.

Where is cotton mostly produced?

This popular natural material is most often used in clothing. In the form of material, it was first noticed a long time ago in the region that is today known as the Middle East. All commercialized cultivated types of cotton come from 4 types of cotton and they are Gossypium hirsutum, Gossypium barbadense, Gossypium arboretum and Gossypium herbaceum.

Cotton can be of different quality and plays a very important and somewhat hidden role in international trade. It occupies a large part of the world fiber market and is grown on six continents. The plant grows by forming shrubs and grows all over the world, and it originates from tropical to subtopic regions. These are mainly 4 department places and some of the biggest haberdashery regions if we may say so:

  • India
  • USA
  • Egypt
  • Africa.

What is the environmental impact of cotton?

The most significant impact of cotton on the environment is related to the use of agrochemicals. Unfortunately, the pesticide is particularly prevalent. It contributes to gas emissions and pollutes thousands of liters of water. It also exposes the environment to many health risks but significant details were never available for the public. In addition, water consumption is mentioned, as well as the conversion of habitats into agricultural use. In such circumstances, it is harmful to the environment and can cause many problems.

That is why a sustainable solution is needed that will reduce the harmful effects to a minimum. In recent years, hard work has been done to reduce the chemical used to keep pests at bay. Significant efforts have been made to reduce the use of pesticides, and the emergence of organic crops that use neither chemicals nor genetically modified seeds also contributes.

Organic farming takes into account all aspects of cotton production. This leads to a better impact on the environment, but also on the health of farm workers and the surrounding community. In addition to the worse ones, there are other positive aspects. Cotton can be recycled. It is important to note that even if it is sorted incorrectly when thrown in the garbage, it will decompose naturally. Organic solution is also the reason why everyone can wear organic cotton clothes, because it eliminates the risk of allergies.

What are the advantages of cotton?

Cotton is the most used of all other natural materials and it can grow easily in almost every garden. Thanks to its design, it has many advantages. For example, it proved to be excellent in the situation of controlling humidity – thus basketball, football or any sport jersey shirts are made of it. The reasons are the breathability of the fabric, the absorbency and the ability to remove fluid from the skin. So it’s very similar to a towel. That is why a lot of people practice in clothes that are made of this material, because it gives them an additional feeling of comfort that they need. Cotton is also an excellent insulator, which you can discover truly during the winter time.   

an image of a woman sewing a cotton due its versatility

During cold winters or hot summers, cotton retains air between the fibers and the fabric. In this way, it provides excellent insulation from external conditions while at the same time providing comfort. It also very rarely causes allergic reactions, which is why it is recommended for people who have skin allergies. It has exceptional strength which makes it more durable compared to some other natural materials. Also, the majority of items for pets, like carpets of mattresses for dogs, are also made of plain cotton. This material is not aqua friendly, meaning its fill is not waterproof.

In addition, it is one of the most versatile materials and almost every shop that sells sewing items and fabrics must have this fabric in stock, available in different color variations and types. Whether you want stroke width or stroke miterlimit, you can browse the different patches for your project in almost any shop that sells this fabric. Therefore, just bring your Apple Pay Diners club card, add it to your basket quickly and come to the checkout page to complete your first order in no time!

What are the disadvantages of cotton?

Since cotton is a natural fiber, it is a renewable source and is biodegradable. Due to this and other characteristics of natural material, it is quite more expensive compared to some other choices. In that case, they are not the best option for those who are trying to reduce the cost of promotional items. Although it is an excellent insulator which means it retains all the heat and moisture, it can retain too much moisture.

Despite being a very comfortable material when training, the fabric that retains too much water becomes stretched and provides an uncomfortable feeling. Due to too much water retention, the shape can also change. Cotton is considered to be a material that wrinkles very easily and needs ironing, and many consider this a disadvantage.

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