Cotton To say that cotton is as old as the world is not a big exaggeration, as archaeological findings in modern Pakistan and Mexico suggest that this material was used for textiles over 5000 years ago. However, our ancestors had already been familiar with wool and linen before they discovered the enormous potential of a cotton plant. Current leading producers of cotton include India, China and USA. They are followed by Brazil, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Australia. Cotton is also cultivated in such countries as Egypt, Turkey, Israel and Peru. The cotton plant and its cultivation Cotton is normally grown as an annual shrub. It takes between 175 and 225 days from its planting to maturity. It has been already a common knowledge that cotton cultivation requires plenty of water, from 8000 to 10000 litres of water per hectare. It is a great amount, especially if we take into account that another litres of water are required for further processes such as dying or printing of a fabric. According to a report published by Worldwatch Institute (2015), it takes 2,720 liters of water to make a t-shirt and 10,850 litres to make a jeans. Probably this number wouldn’t be so shocking if the cultivation of cotton didn’t take place in the countries with great water shortages, particularly drinking water. This issue has been already raised hundred of times during various conferences and meeting concerning sustainability in textile industry what has helped to develop some important initiatives, such us new irrigation systems. Raising public awareness about the “real” costs of cotton production and promoting less consuming approach is also one of these initiatives. Types of cotton There are three main types of cotton available in stores. They’re differentiated by the length of their fiber (or “staple”), which are fine little strands that make up a raw piece of cotton. The longer the fibre, the better the quality of the yarn and finally the fabric. Specific cotton varieties are typical for certain countries, where they are exclusively grown. Let’s take a look at these specific types. Upland cotton The most common type of cotton all over the world. Around 85% of worldwide cotton production derives from these species. It is made of short-staple fibers that offer reliable quality at an affordable price. This is the most common variety on store shelves. Giza/Egyptian cotton Another name for this type is Egyptian cotton, as it is grown in the hot, dry climate of the Nile River Valley. It’s a cotton of exceptional quality due to very long fibres, which make the fabric extra soft, strong and lustrous. Moreover, Giza cotton is picked by hand to ensure only cotton bolls with the correct maturity are selected. This careful cultivation and the manual harvesting avoids the use of defoliants and chemical products, which are normally associated with mechanical harvesting. Even if you’re not textile engineer or specialist you will immediately notice the difference between standard (e.g. Upland) cotton and Egyptian cotton. It has exceptionally soft and silky handle. Due to the fact that this type of cotton is so rare, so special it is much more expensive and only small number of fashion or home textile brands decide to use it. These usually shirt or bed and bath linen producers with selected, demanding customers. Giza cotton is popular among high quality shirt producers, such as Thomas Mason or Philippe Perzi. Pima cotton This variety also consist of very long fibers making the end fabric extra strong making it extra strong, extra soft and luxuriously smooth as well as resistant to fraying, tearing, pilling, wrinkling, and fading. Generally the properties of the fabric made of Egyptian cotton and Pima cotton are the same, the only difference is the place of cultivation. Pima is mostly grown in the USA, Peru and Israel. Supima® is a registered trademark for American-grown Pima cotton. We can find it in shirts Generally Giza and Pima cotton altogether account for only 10% of world’s cotton production. Organic cotton This is the cotton which is grown from non-genetically modified seeds and without the use of any pesticides and insecticides. The largest producers of organic cotton as of 2018 are India, China and the USA, followed by Pakistan, Brazil and Uzbekistan. Organic cotton is obviously linked to environmentally friendly agriculture. However it is not just the environment that benefits from the ban on the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, but also farmers’ health who not any more exposed to poisonous substances to sprayed thousand times over the fields. Organic cotton is also much more traceable than normal cotton. Although the issue of traceability of all the raw materials is still in its infancy. When writing this post I used the book “Clothing technology” which I generally refer to very often in my “technological” posts and which has been my 2nd (after the studies ) essential guide helping me to discover all the secrets of textiles industry and even more.