From Farm to Fabric
As soon as winter starts to fade away, the Southern half of the United States begins their cotton growing season. Places such as Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico have hot and dry weather, which is great for cotton growing. By mid-October, fluffy white cotton will bloom from their bolls and will be ready to be plucked.
PreparationCotton initially starts as just a sprout and then grows between 2 and 5 feet tall over a month. After a few weeks, yellow flowers blossom and eventually fade to pink and then maroon before falling away, leaving a cotton boll.
Inside the boll is where the magic happens. The cotton fibres start to form inside the boll, strengthening and thickening over time. Eventually, the fibres get strong enough to put pressure on the boll from the inside and will explode - revealing white puffy cotton plants, ready for harvesting.
Harvest time is typically in late October, where farmers either pick the crop by hand or use high-power machinery to grab the entire boll from the plant for better efficiency. After harvesting, the cotton goes to the gin, which separates the fibres from the seeds and removes any stems, leaves, and dirt. Afterwards, the cotton is packed into modules that will compress the cotton into square bales.
Fibres are shaved from the loaves of cotton and sent through another series of cleaning and drying machines. The newly washed cotton goes into a carding machine which straightens the fibres, turning them into a soft rope called a sliver. Multiple slivers come together to create the foundation for cotton yarn. The spinning device takes fibres from the sliver and rotates it up to 2,500 revolutions in a second that transforms fibres into a yarn.
From there, the yarn will either be woven or knitted into fabric. Weaving the yarn creates a tight, more structured fabric, whereas using needles to knit yarn together results in a softer, stretchier feel. To get an idea of the differences - your jeans and dress shirt are woven, your favourite t-shirt and hoody are knitted. These fabrics will be given life dyed, cut and sewn into clothing.
The applications for cotton are countless, and as the harvesting season comes to a close, the seeds will be deposited in clean conditions that will ensure mould and insects don't claim them until next spring when it's time to plant another year's crop.