A trip to Holden Beach took us through the country with beautiful views of farms and fields. We rounded a curve and there was a field of cotton so beautiful it looked like it had been painted.
Even in that passing moment, I could see the open blossoms a bright white against the landscape and sky. Thus, my inspiration for this week’s article.
The word cotton comes from the Arabic word “quton”. The earliest production was in India dating back to 5,000 B.C. Arab merchants brought cotton cloth to Europe around A.D. 800, and when Columbus discovered America in 1492, he saw cotton growing in fields on the Bahama Islands and along the east coast.
The history of cotton spans more than 7,000 years. About 3000 B.C., cotton was cultivated in the Indus River Valley, and about 2500 B.C., Chinese, South Americans and Egyptians began wearing cotton fabrics. Cotton spread west to Egypt, Turkey, Central America and the Caribbean.
Cotton is soft and fluffy, and the United States is the largest producer of cotton as an export. The production is a lengthy and involved process from planting to picking. It is not easy to grow and prefers warm and humid climates.
Historically, cotton was picked by hand, which took hours to process and separate. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1794, which revolutionized the process.
Today, cotton pickers are machinery that picks the entire plant, and a cotton stripper is used for separation. After it is picked it is baled and stored before going to a gin. At the gin it is cleaned and fluffed to separate the cotton from seeds and lint, then it is compressed and ready to ship to textile mills.
When it is cleaned and fluffed it is put into a carding machine which cleans the material again and forms short fibers into long untwisted rope for spinning and weaving
There are four types of cotton.
Pima is the finest because the fibers are extra soft and long. Egyptian cotton has similar qualities but is grown in the Nile River Valley in Egypt. Upland cotton makes up about 90% of the world’s total cotton production in Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean and southern Florida. Organic cotton is cotton grown without chemicals.
Cotton is indeed the fabric of our lives, and its uses are in the hundreds. There are some traces of cotton in almost everything we wear or use daily. Cotton is used to make all types of clothing because of its versatility and comfort, and it is used in making industrial products. It is used in making fabrics such as flannel, velvet, velour and corduroy. It is used to make fishnets, book bindings and coffee filters. It can be used as food for cattle because it is edible, and cottonseed oil is in high demand as an alternative to vegetable oil. It is used in the production of cosmetic products and soaps. It is a key ingredient in beauty products such as sheet masks, makeup remover wipes and cottonseed oil to nourish the skin.
When purchasing sheets 100% cotton is always a go-to for comfort and durability. Thread counts should range from 200 to 500 and anything above that is not necessarily better quality. Labels that read cotton rich are less than 100% cotton. Bamboo sheets become rayon once they are processed with chemicals that change the composition and texture. The Oeko-Tex certification on a textile signifies that all the product has been tested for toxins.
Live, love, life and cotton.