Cotton is a plant.
It grows on big farms where it is hot.
The part we use to make cloth is the fruit of the plant.
There are 43 types of cotton.
People have been using cotton for more than 5000 years.
How cotton grows
It takes about six months for the cotton crop to grow and be harvested.
First the seeds are planted into prepared soil that is weed free and moist. The seeds sprout in 4 or 5 weeks. Flower buds appear a few weeks later and and soon after that the flowers appear.
The plants are constantly watered and checked for pests.
The flowers fall off, leaving a seed pod that slowly ripens to become the cotton boll. The boll ripens and bursts open as a white puff.
Large mechanical cotton pickers are used to pick the crop.
Cotton is packed onto trucks and sent to the ‘gin’ where it is ginned. This means that the raw cotton fibre called lint, is cleaned.
The seeds are removed and also any other plant rubbish such as leaves and stem.
Some of the seeds will be used for the next crop and the rest crushed and turned into oil, plastic, feed for farm animals and margarine.
The fluffy lint is pressed into bales and shipped to factories where it is spun into thread and then woven into cloth.
Turning lint into fabric involves several processes including carding and combing: cleaning and stretching the lint into long, straight fibres.
Spinning: twisting the fibres into thread.
Weaving: on a machine called a loom the threads are woven together to make cloth.
The properties of cotton
- It is a natural fibre.
- It is light and strong.
- It can be dyed easily.
It is used to make bandages, cotton balls and cotton buds. Getty Images
How we use cotton
Cotton is used to make clothing including blouses, shirts, dresses, swimwear, jackets, skirts, pants, and socks. And in the home we use it to make curtains, bedspreads, sheets, towels, table cloths, table mats, and napkins.
Cotton is grown in more than 70 countries. China, United States, India and Pakistan are the top producers of cotton. The best quality cotton is from Egypt and Australia.