Written by Jacelyn Teng
If you take a moment to look around where you are at, you might find many products that contain cotton. From tissue papers, notebooks, seat covers to art canvases, cotton can be found almost everywhere. In fact, do you know that the US currency is made with 75% cotton and 25% linen?
Cotton plays such a huge role in the clothing industry that it is the most commonly used material among all natural fibers such as wool and linen. According to Cotton Inc, cotton is found in 60% of women’s clothing and 75% of men’s.
How Does a Seed Become Our Clothes?
During spring, farmers sow brown teardrop shaped cotton seeds into the soil. After 5 months of delicate care in a warm and humid environment, white and fluffy cotton appears, covering the entire field like snow. Traditionally picked by hand one at a time, cotton is harvested by a cotton picking machine today.
Unlike linen which involves complicated steps in extracting its fibres, a huge part of cotton processing is mainly for separating them from leaves, twigs, dirt and its seed. At this stage, the cotton seeds collected are not wasted. They are further processed into feed or cottonseed oil that is needed to produce salad dressing, margarine, soap, candles and makeup.
Carding and Spinning
To make fluffy cotton into strings of yarn, cotton fibres are broken up and combed into long strands while detangling any lumps. Then, through a machine, these long strands are made into a continuous long rope which is constantly twisted and stretched into thin threads. Now, these cotton threads are way stronger than before.
The colour of raw cotton yarn is a mixture of orange and brown. However, it can be dyed into different colours. Here, based on the orders, yarns may be processed to be sold as coloured threads or undergo further processing to form large pieces of fabric.
To make cotton fabric, threads of cotton are weaved into each other. Depending on the weaving pattern, fabrics of different thicknesses, textures and prints can be created. These fabrics are then treated different to form various products such as:
Bath: Bath robes, mats, towels
Bedroom: Cushion, bedsheets
Home: Rugs, curtains, seat covers
Clothing: T-shirts, jeans, sweats etc
Cotton as Clothes
With 350 balls of cotton needed to make 1 t-shirt, over 27 million tons of cotton is produced each year. The demand for this soft and comfortable material has always been high to make clothes such as:
- Summer clothes
- Dress shirts
What is Great About Cotton Fabric
Cotton is often used to produce baby’s clothes and medical supplies such as gauze and bandages. Given its hypoallergenic nature, it does not irritate the skin, making it highly suitable for all to wear.
Being a natural fabric that came from plants, cotton clothes are highly breathable, allowing moisture to leave the surface of our skin quickly and help us feel cooling and comfortable. Hence, they are often used to make summer clothes and dress shirts to cool us down during the hot weather.
Cotton is known for how soft it is on the skin. Stiff fabrics such as linen are often mixed with cotton to produce a softer fabric to be worn with greater comfort.
How to Care for Your Cotton?
Cotton fabrics are generally easy to care for. Here are some pointers to take note of in preserving the quality of your favourite cotton pieces.
- Wash similar colours together to prevent bleeding
- To prevent shrinkage, wash cotton clothings in cold or lukewarm water
- Wash delicately to prevent lints and damage
- Always check the label for washing instructions
Cotton is an important material that our clothes cannot do without. Beyond our clothes lies the effort of thousands to craft beautiful pieces from a small cotton plant. So the next time you look at clothes, take some time to look at what your clothes are made of.
Paradigm Shift Label
At Paradigm Shift Label, fabrics for our garments are mainly a blend of 30% linen and 70% cotton to ensure a balance between structure, comfort and sustainability. Through strong partnerships with ethical suppliers and manufacturers, we aim to bridge the gap between the First and Third World to change the lives of people involved in every step of the production line.
Thank you for reading! Check out our first 100% cotton dress here and keep a lookout for more upcoming news!
See you again!