Nature’s Miracle: Cotton


“Cotton is almost pure cellulose, with softness and breathability that have made it world’s most popular natural fiber” – Herodotus wrote in 400 BC


The word ‘cotton’ is derived from ‘qutun’ or ‘kutun’, an Arabic word used to describe any fine textile.

Everywhere you look, you will find cotton. The use of cotton starts from the morning when we dry our face with soft cotton towels until we slide in the fresh cotton sheets in the night. Cotton is known for its versatility, performance and natural comfort and is an important part of our daily lives.

Cotton fiber can be woven or knitted into fabrics such as velvet, corduroy, chambray, velour, jersey and flannel.  In addition to textile products like underwear, socks and t-shirts, cotton is also used in fishnets, coffee filters, book binding and archival paper.  Most popular bottom wear blue jeans is a cotton product.

Cotton is a fiber, feed and a food crop. The oil content of cotton seeds is about 20%. After being freed from the linters, the seeds are shelled and then crushed and pressed or treated with solvents to obtain the crude oil. In its highly refined state, cottonseed oil is employed as salad and cooking oil, for cosmetics, and especially in the manufacture of margarine and shortenings. Paint makers use it to some extent as a semidrying oil. Less refined grades are used in the manufacture of soap, candles, detergents, artificial leather, oilcloth, and many other commodities. Cottonseed oil is increasingly important to cotton growers as cotton fiber meets competition from cheaper and stronger synthetic fibers.

Cotton is grown in over 100 countries around the world, many of which are newly industrializing countries. It’s estimated that there are 100 million cotton producers in the world, with China, USA, India, Pakistan and Brazil the world’s biggest producing nations

Scientists searching caves in Mexico found bits of cotton bolls and pieces of cotton cloth that proved to be at least 7,000 years old. They also found that the cotton itself was much like that grown in America today.

In the Indus River Valley in India, cotton was being grown, spun and woven into cloth 3,000 years BC. At about the same time, natives of Egypt’s Nile valley were making and wearing cotton clothing.

Arab merchants brought cotton cloth to Europe about 100 A.D. When Columbus discovered America in 1492, he found cotton growing in the Bahama Islands. By 1500, cotton was known generally throughout the world.

Cotton seed are believed to have been planted in Florida in 1556 and in Virginia in 1607. By 1616, colonists were growing cotton along the James River in Virginia. Read more here for cotton history.

Grades of cotton range from low, medium to high quality grades like Egyptian cotton, Pima, Supima, American Egyptian and Sea Island cotton. Today, organic cotton is also available where the cotton plant is grown without the use of commercial pesticides and fertilizers.

Cotton fabrics have a pleasant matte luster, a soft drape and a smooth hand. They are very comfortable to wear due to their soft hand. Cotton fabrics have excellent absorbing capabilities. Cotton garments absorb perspiration, thus keeping the person more comfortable.

Cotton can stand high temperatures and takes dyes easily. Cotton can also be ironed at relatively high temperatures, stands up to abrasion and wears well.

Organic Cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic producers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production.

Major cotton producing countries in 2014/15

  • China: 33.0 million bales
  • India: 27.0 million bales
  • United States: 18.0 million bales
  • Pakistan: 10.3 million bales
  • Brazil: 9.3 million bales
  • Uzbekistan: 4.6 million bales
  • Australia: 1.9 million bales
  • Turkey: 2.8 million bales
  • Turkmenistan: 1.6 million bales
  • Greece: 1.4 million bales

(source: Bremen Cotton Exchange, 2014)

Image Courtesy: http://www.americasfarmers.com/

Cotton Facts:

  • Cotton and its by-products are used in the production of a huge range of products including high quality paper, margarine, rubber, padding mattress, furniture, automobile cushions, and medical supplies.
  • There are 43 species of cotton in the world and some cotton grows on trees
  • Australia and Egypt produce the highest quality cottons in the world
  • The fiber from one 227kg cotton bale can produce 215 pairs of jeans, 250 single bed sheets, 1,200 t-shirts, 2,100 pairs of boxer shorts, 3,000 nappies, 4,300 pairs of socks or 680,000 cotton balls
  • Cotton can absorb up to 27 times its own weight in water
  • The cotton plant requires about 180 – 200 days from planting to full maturity ready for harvest
  • Cotton is a unique crop in that it is both a food and a fiber
  • China is the world’s largest cotton importer and is also the biggest produce
  • Archaeologists found 5,000-year-old cotton fabric at Mohenjo Daro, an ancient town in the Indus River Valley of West Pakistan
  • The first light bulb manufactured by Thomas Edison in the late 1800s used a cotton thread filament
  • American ‘paper’ money is a blend of 75% cotton and 25% linen
  • Cotton is the most abundantly produced natural fiber in the world. Over 82 million tons of textile fibers were consumed in 2013, of which cotton accounted for 30%, chemical fibers, 68.6% and all other natural fibers less than 2%. In 2013, cotton represented 96% of all natural fibers consumed at the mill use level.
  • The cotton plant is indeterminate in nature and can be grown all year round provided that suitable weather conditions exist for the plant to grow.

Read Here for More Cotton Facts

Cotton is the world’s favorite natural fiber. Soften your world with cotton.

“Cotton has been spun, woven, and dyed since prehistoric times. It clothed the people of ancient India, Egypt, and China. Hundreds of years before the Christian era, cotton textiles were woven in India with matchless skill, and their use spread to the Mediterranean countries” – The Columbia Encyclopedia, in The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition

Resources:
http://cottonaustralia.com.au/ 
http://www.cotton.org/pubs/cottoncounts/resources.cfm

https://www.icac.org/tech/Overview/100-facts-about-cotton

http://www.numei.com/
main image: http://www.frankicampbell.co.uk/2014/08/the-concept-of-the-sale/ 

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