Everything you need to know about cotton fabric

Luftkuss Atelier

Cotton fabric is one of the most used fabric types in the world. This textile is chemically organic. That is, it does not contain any synthetic compounds. Cotton fabric is obtained from the fibers surrounding the seeds of cotton plants, which emerge in a round, fluffy formation after the seeds have matured.

Since the early days of cotton cultivation, cotton fabric has emerged as everyone’s favorite product for its exceptional breathability and lightness. Cotton fabric is incredibly soft. However, it has a heat retention property similar to a silk and wool blend.

While cotton is more durable than silk, it is less durable than wool. This fabric is relatively prone to pilling and tearing. Yet cotton remains one of the most popular and most produced fabrics in the world. This textile has relatively high tensile strength. Its natural color is white or slightly yellowish.

Cotton can absorb large amounts of water. But it also dries quickly. This gives it the ability to absorb moisture at a high rate. You can wash cotton at high temperatures. Cotton fabric covers your body well. However, cotton fabric is relatively prone to wrinkling. It shrinks and shrinks when washed unless it has been pre-treated.

History of cotton fabric

The earliest evidence of the use of cotton fibers in textiles is from the Mehrgarh and Rakhigarhi plants in India, dating back to approximately 5000 BC. The Indus Valley Civilization, which encompassed the Indian subcontinent from 3300 to 1300 BC, thrived thanks to cotton cultivation, which provided the people of this culture with ready-made clothing and other textile resources.

It is possible that people in the Americas used cotton for textiles as long as 5500 BC. But it is clear that cotton cultivation had been common in Ancient America since at least 4000 BC. While the ancient Chinese relied more on silk than cotton for textile production, cotton cultivation became popular in China during the Han dynasty, which lasted from 206 BC to 230 AD.

While cotton cultivation was widespread in both Arabia and Iran, the textile mill did not reach Europe with its full potential until the late Middle Ages. Before this point, Europeans believed that cotton grew on mysterious trees in India. 

However, the Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula introduced the Europeans to cotton production. In this process, European countries quickly became major cotton producers and exporters along with Egypt and India.

How is cotton and cotton fabric is produced?

To produce cotton fabric, the cotton seed must be first separated from the cocoon. In the past this was done by hand. However, in 1794, American entrepreneur Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, a mechanical device that greatly speeded up the cotton sorting process.

Today, automated forms of cotton gins are available that make the process even easier for workers. Machines can collect bolls from agricultural fields. Other machines can then separate the seeds from the cocoons.

Cotton production begins in the spring when cotton seeds are planted. In most cases, automatic machines can plant cotton seeds in 10 or more rows at a time. Seedlings emerge in about seven days and mature bolls in 55 to 80 days.

Human workers are often required for defoliation, the process of removing leaves from cotton plants prior to machine harvesting. Next, a single machine harvests the amount of cotton 50 people can pick, and this same machine removes major contaminants from the cotton fibers and bales them.

The highly efficient automatic cotton gins can process 60 bales of raw cotton, each weighing 500 pounds, in one hour. This gin removes the seeds from the cotton bolls and also removes any dirt or debris from the cotton.

After the cotton is cleaned to the extent that it consists of pure cotton fibers without seeds or dirt, it is transferred to a textile production facility. In this facility, raw cotton is combed by carding, which is the process of turning cotton fibers into long threads. These threads are then spun to form threads.

At this stage, the basic material used in cotton fabrics is completed. This cotton thread can then be subjected to various chemical treatments and dyed. It is then woven into a specific type of textile material, such as a sheet, T-shirt, or a pair of blue jeans. All the cotton clothes you see today go through these processes.

Cotton fabric manufacturers around the world

India and China are interconnected as the world’s largest cotton producers. India produced around 6,000,000 metric tons of cotton between 2017 and 2018, surpassing its East Asian competitor. China produced 5,900,000 mt of cotton fiber in the same period.

The USA is the next largest producer of cotton at 4,550,000 metric tons. While these three countries produce the vast majority of the world’s cotton, other countries such as Brazil, Pakistan and Australia produce more than 1 million metric tons per year.

Where is cotton fabric mostly used?

About 70 percent of the world’s clothing products contain at least some amount of cotton. Cotton is the most widely used textile fiber in the world. Manufacturers can transform this fabric into countless different types of products.

With cotton fabric, you can produce clothes and other textile origin products. You can use cotton fabric in home textile products such as quilts, pillowcases, sheets, pouches as well as clothing products such as tunic, hijab dresses, shawls, shorts, t-shirts, trousers for men and women, dresses, coats, shirts, gloves and more. 

Seat covers and chair covers are produced with upholstery cotton fabric and are highly preferred. Cotton fabric is also used in canopy-sunshades, hammocks, labels on the collar and waist of clothes.

Scarves and headscarves are produced with cotton muslin fabric, and the fabric type provides comfort to individuals wearing hijab, especially in summer, compared to other fabric types. 

Because cotton is highly breathable and absorbent, it is often used to make clothes to be worn in hot weather. Its softness makes it a good option for formal and business wear. The remarkable draping abilities of the cotton fabric variants make it an ideal fabric for women’s dresses.

Manufacturers use cotton to make medical supplies as well. This fabric is also used in making industrial yarn and awnings. In summary, cotton can be used to make practically any type of textile for consumer or industrial use.

What are the environmental effects of cotton fabric production?

Cotton production, by its nature, has no impact on the environment. Since this type of textile is a natural fiber, it is biodegradable. It does not fill waterways or contribute to other types of pollution.

But the practices used by manufacturers to make cotton can be harmful to the environment. Cotton farming requires large amounts of water. The production of cotton-based textiles also requires land reuse.

Because most cotton producers focus on growing the greatest amount of fiber possible at the lowest cost, they do not properly care for the land they use for cultivation. As a result, cotton cultivation frequently depletes the soil in the regions where it is grown.

Most cotton producers in the world rely on agricultural chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers to grow their crops. These harmful chemicals get into the surrounding water, poison the soil and are present in potentially dangerous concentrations in final products.

However, it is possible to grow cotton by organic means. Organic cotton growing processes do not contain any artificial pesticides or fertilizers, which reduces the environmental impact of the production of this textile fiber.

To be certified as organic, cotton growers must also promote sustainability in the communities in which they operate. Workers producing organic cotton should be compensated fairly and environmental degradation should be kept to a minimum. Certain types of cotton, such as Supima cotton, are only available in organic forms.

What are the certificates required for cotton fabric manufacturers?

Various certificates are available for cotton producers. For example, organizations such as the European Union’s organic standards body or the US Department of Agriculture can certify cotton as organic.

Some independent organizations may also provide organic certification for cotton products. The most important among these is the “Global Organic Textile Standard”, an organization established to provide consumers with access to safe and sustainable organic fabrics.

Other private companies are also authorized to certify organic textiles. Also, all Supima cottons are organic. An organization called the American Supima Association should recognize cotton as Supima. Otherwise, the certificate of supima cotton cannot be obtained.

How to recycle cotton fabric?

Most of the recycled cotton is in demand through mechanical recycling. First, fabrics and materials are sorted by color. After sorting, the fabrics are passed through a machine that separates the fabric into yarn and then into raw fiber. This job is usually done by the artisans dealing with the textile recycling trade. 

Those who buy and sell waste fabrics supply these fabrics to large recycling factories. These large companies also recycle fabrics, often into regenerated yarn types. Regenerated yarn prices are slightly cheaper than normal yarn prices.

What is organic cotton?

Both organic and conventional production systems offer us the advantage of providing natural fiber. Breeding practices are similar. Traditional cotton yields tend to be higher than organic production. It provides a better return on land and water investments. Currently, organic cotton accounts for less than 5% of global cotton production.

The fact that cotton comes from a plant distinguishes this fiber from man-made materials such as polyester and rayon. Cotton was not created in the laboratory or from crude oil. It is naturally grown on farms.

Unlike synthetic fibers such as polyester and rayon, cotton is natural. It is grown from the ground. Polyester is derived from crude oil, the same oil used to make fuel for cars. Rayon, another man-made fiber, undergoes so many chemical modifications that it no longer bears any resemblance to its source material, wood.

Most common types of cotton fabrics

There are many types of fabrics with cotton. These can be formed by knitting or weaving cotton fibers differently, or they can be formed as a result of mixing them with different fibers. We have listed the most used cotton fabric types below.

Cotton silk fabric: It is a type of blend fabric created by a mixture of silk and cotton fibers, both of which are of organic origin.

Cotton jersey fabric: Jersey fabric is a type of fabric that is formed with rib knit on one side, and the back side is filled with loops. While this fabric was initially produced using wool, it has been produced using cotton and synthetic fibers in recent years.

Flamed cotton fabric: Flame fabric is produced with flame threads. Flamed yarns are produced by air-jet texturing methods. The yarns placed between the drafting rollers are transferred to the air jet. Cotton fabrics in which the yarns produced by this method are used are called flamed cotton fabrics.

Cotton mesh fabric: Fabrics made using cotton yarn knitted with mesh-shaped spaces are referred to as cotton mesh fabric.

Cotton aerobin fabric: It is a type of fabric that is a mixture of polyamide and cotton, is resistant to wrinkles and does not sweat, and is mostly used in summer. It is very popular in the women’s clothing industry.

Self-printed cotton fabric: It is a type of cotton fabric that has been printed with various printing technologies and added visual effects.

Cotton lining fabric: It is the form of the lining fabric used in most jackets and coats, produced with cotton fibers.

Cotton acrylic fabric: It is a type of fabric created from a mixture of synthetic acrylic fabric fibers and cotton fibers.

Cotton interlock fabric: It is the form of knitted interlock fabric with ribs on both the front and back, produced using cotton fibers.

Cotton lycra fabric: Although lycra is basically a fabric brand, it is now accepted as the name of the main feature of the lycra fabric. Lycra is a chemical that provides extra flexibility to fabrics. When this component is combined with cotton fibers, the fabric formed is cotton lycra fabric.

Cotton chiffon fabric: Chiffon is a type of fabric created with single-layer, thin and highly twisted threads that can transmit light as well as softness of fabric. This fabric can be woven with threads obtained from different fibers. Although the use of synthetic fibers has increased in recent years, it is quite common to knit this type of fabric with cotton fibers. Such fabrics are called cotton chiffon fabric.

Organic cotton fabric: Cotton is already an organic fiber type obtained from nature. But not all cotton is produced organically and many chemicals are used. If production is carried out without using chemicals in the cotton production process, such cotton fabrics are certified as organic. In this way, cotton fabrics that have gained organic certification take their place in the sector as organic cotton fabric.

Nylon cotton fabric: Nylon fabric is completely synthetic in its pure form and does not contain organic components. The rate of preference of 100% nylon fabrics produced in this way in areas such as clothing is low. As a result of this situation, manufacturers have started to produce nylon cotton fabric, which is a mixed fabric type, by combining these two fiber types in order to get away from high cotton fabric prices and to increase the preferability of nylon fabric.

Insprad Creative Agency

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