How do I use raw cotton

Cotton - production, properties and quality criteria


Cotton is a natural substance made from plant fibers. It is obtained from the plant's seed hairs. The cotton plant belongs to the mallow family, there are around 21 to 50 different species. The plants grow mainly in the tropics and subtropics. A distinction is made between long and short fibers in cotton. The fiber hair consists of 95% cellulose. The long fibers are used for yarns for textile production, the short fibers are used for the production of paper, nonwovens for hygiene articles and the like. Since about 6000 BC Clothing is already made from cotton.


History of cotton

As a crop, cotton was grown by different peoples at the same time. The use of cotton to make clothing happened independently of one another on different continents, in southern Africa, India and Indonesia, as well as in Central America and southwestern North America. The oldest evidence (about 3000 years ago) for the use of cotton clothing comes from India. The Greek historian Herodotus (5th century BC) already writes about this in his histories: “There are trees growing in the wild, from whose fruit one can obtain wool that is far superior to the beauty and quality of sheep's wool. The Indians make their clothes from this cotton ”.

Clothing made of cotton was also widespread in the Babylonian Empire, Ancient Egypt and the Hellenistic East. Around the same time (3rd century BC) cotton was being grown and processed in the South American Andes. As is the case with the pre-Columbian peoples in the southwest of North and Central America. Cotton has always been a commodity for trade and exchange. Cotton was considered a luxury item by the Romans.

Cotton was also known in Europe from the 12th century and Venice was the main hub for the cotton trade. In Germany, cotton was traded and processed by the Fugger family in Augsburg from the end of the 14th century. Due to the very laborious work that was required in the manufacture of cotton fabrics, the fabric was traded in a similar way to silk until the industrial revolution.

The first boom in cotton cloth in Europe came from the trade of the English East India Company. But it wasn't until the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century that the big breakthrough came in the wake of the industrial revolution with the invention of the first spinning machine (Spinning Jenny) in England and the invention of the Egrenier machine (Cottin Gin) in the southern states of North America. The raw material cotton thus became a mass commodity. The cotton was harvested by hand, due to the uneven ripening of the capsules, it had to be harvested several times. For the harvest, the cotton pickers went through the plantations and plucked the tufts of fibers from the ripe capsules that had cracked open.

The next work steps were drying, coring (ironing), removing foreign bodies such as capsule remains and leaves and packing the cotton. These work steps were all done by hand. The cotton was pressed into bales and could be delivered to the spinning mills. The trade in cotton cloths developed into trade in raw materials, which were further processed everywhere.


From raw material to yarn to fabric

Nowadays the cotton is picked with harvesting machines. Before harvesting, the bushes are defoliated in order to keep contamination of the cotton as low as possible. The collected cotton is cleaned of the seeds and capsule residues in a ginning plant (egrenier machine). The fibers are then pressed into bales and shipped.