Cotton, a hibiscus family member, is a key plant-based raw material for textiles. Jute, hemp, and sisal are some of the others. Cotton is derived from seeds within fruit that are wrapped with a husk-like receptacle known as a boll. When the cotton has reached maturity, the boll opens to expose delicate, fluffy white filaments inside. These are harvested by removing the stalks and any other matter surrounding the boll. The long, white fibers that remain are called raw cotton.
In Europe, Asia, and North America, most cotton is used to make cloth for clothing and bedding. Some is also made into towels and housewares items. The rest is burned for its heat or dissolved in chemicals to make pulp for paper products such as writing notebooks and napkins.
In South America, Africa, and the Middle East, cotton is used to make rope and fiberboard. It is also used to make soap and incense.
The oil content of cotton affects how it is processed. Low-oil cotton can be spun into yarn without using any lubricants, but this lowers the yield. Higher-yield cottons must be blended with other materials to produce fabrics with equivalent properties to those made from low-yield cotton.
Cotton's popularity as a fiber is due to its strength-to-weight ratio. It is one of the few fibers available in such a wide range of colors.
Cotton refers to the portion of the cotton plant that grows in the boll and serves as the encasing for the fluffy cotton fibers. Cotton is spun into yarn, which is then woven into a soft, long-lasting fabric. There are five types of cotton fabrics: gingham, twill, corduroy, denim, and poplin.
Cotton has many advantages over other fiber materials. It's natural and renewable, doesn't tangle, isn't hot like polyester, and it feels nice against the skin. It can be washed and reused over and over again.
In fact, cotton is so good for clothes that they often say "cotton kills" it does not decay like wood or wool does when exposed to air and water. All cotton fabrics will last longer if they aren't washed too frequently. The more commonly a fabric is washed, the shorter its lifespan will be.
Cotton also makes fine linen from plants similar to hemp. Linen was one of the first fabrics used by humans and remains one of the most popular today. It is usually white but can be dyed various colors such as red, blue, green, and purple. Linen wears well because it is made from naturally durable fibers.
There are different methods for creating cotton fabrics. Some common methods include spinning, knitting, and weaving.
The majority of what distinguishes cotton occurs behind the scenes, inside a protective shell known as a boll. The boll contains seeds that lengthen and create fibers that strengthen and thicken with time. This protection ensures that the seed does not lose its viability over time like some other plants' seeds might do. When harvested, the boll is stripped of its flesh to reveal the cotton fiber within.
There are two types of cotton: lint and seed (also called fluffy). Lint cotton has no seeds; these are found only in black-seed cotton. Although both lint and black-seed cottons are used for clothing, the former is more commonly used because it comes from plants that yield more fibers. Longer fibers mean better quality cloth. However many black-seed cottons are grown for their seeds which are used for food and oil. This type of cotton is called "pickin'" or "picking" cotton because people pick the seeds off the cotton fibers when they spin them into yarn or weave them into fabric.
Cotton grows on trees named cottonwood, willow, or sycamore. It is reported to be native to South America but it is now cultivated in many parts of the world including Australia, India, Pakistan, China, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Israel, and United States.