The fabric cotton is made from natural fibers (threads) that are harvested from the cotton plant. The cotton plant is a short plant and the cotton grows around the seeds. When in bloom they look like lots of little snowballs on trees.
The fibers of the cotton plant are very fine and silky. These are first spun into thread and the thread is then woven or knitted to make fabric.
The cotton fabric is one of the world’s most favorite fabrics because it is strong, easily absorbs (sweat), lasts long, and very comfortable to wear.
Chemically, cotton has over 90% of cellulose. Water, waxes, mineral salts, fatty substances, and other minerals make up the rest.
Cotton has been cultivated for over 7000 years at the beginning in Asia but slowly spread to the Mediterranean and beyond.
Some of the earliest civilizations to have been involved in cotton cultivation and trade were India, Egypt, china, and the Mediterranean countries.
Over the many centuries, cotton cultivation, and trade has extended to many countries around the world. Today it remains one of the major exports in South America.
Cotton trees are grown on large cotton farms. They need warm sunny and dry weather with lots of water. Looking after the cotton trees is a difficult process.
Once the boll, which has the fluffy cotton inside ripens and finally splits under sunlight, the cotton bolls are harvested either by machine or by hand.
The next step is to process the cotton, which involves cleaning, spinning, knitting/weaving, dyeing, cutting, and finishing.
The cotton gin is a special machine that separates the cotton from the seeds. It combs the fiber so that spinning is easier.
Pure cotton material does not have any other types of fiber mixed in it. Sometimes though, cotton is mixed with other fibers to create different types of material.
These cottonseeds are used to feed animals and cottonseed oil is used for cooking.
Besides being used for clothes (including towels, underwear, and jeans), cotton is used to make fishnets, coffee filters, tents, and even to bind books.
Cotton is used widely in the medical and make up industries too.
There are two main types of cotton production. Genetically modified cotton has been developed by introducing a strong (Bt) toxin into the cotton.
This type of cotton was made so that the plant does not have to be sprayed with pesticides – it produces its own natural insecticide that protects it from insects.
The other type of cotton is organic cotton. This type is grown naturally without any artificial fertilizers or pesticides. It is safer for the environment.
Even though cotton has many advantages and is quite popular, several artificial fibres that have been introduced in recent years threaten the demand of cotton.
In 2011, China, India, and America were the top three leading producers of cotton in the world.
The cotton industry in any country offers many jobs to its workers. Therefore, it is an important part of a country’s economy.
Many measures have been taken to ensure that the environment is protected, that cotton is not wasted (during any part of the production chain), and that energy is conserved at all times.
A process called ‘conservation tillage’ has been introduced to cotton farmers so that soil does not eroded and new soil is created during cotton cultivation.