Spotlight On: Cotton

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

They don't call it the Fabric of our Lives for nothing...
Cotton is the most popular fiber in America today, outselling all man-made fibers combined. Spanning 17 states, the 'Cotton Belt' stretches across the southern US from Virginia to California. Worldwide, China and India are the largest producers. Cotton is a versatile, durable, and comfortable fabric available in a variety of qualities, mediums and price points. Let's take a look...

Cotton quality is determined by fiber length and strength. Though the information is not readily available to consumers, names such as  Pima (aka Supima) and Egyptian Cotton are associated with high quality due to their length/strength properties. Their fibers, about twice as long as other cotton fibers, allows them to be spun into very fine yarns producing soft, lustrous as well strong and durable fabric.  Since all cotton produced in Egypt can be termed Egyptian cotton, look for this logo and a '100% Egyptian Cotton' label to guarantee authenticity. 

  • Inspect the Color - Is it dyed evenly? Does it look rich and saturated?
  • Purity - Is the garment free of nubs, bumps and lumps? Any additional lint or specs?
  • Fiber Quality - How does it feel - smooth and uniform? Sandy or dry?
  • Treatments - Any fabric treatments or washes that will affect life or care of the garment?

Most cotton fabrics can be laundered in the washing machine. They should be washed frequently, since they
tend to absorb moisture and pick up dirt. Cotton can withstand high temperatures but will shrink more in hot water than cold, unless pre-washed/pre-shrunk. Items with detailed stitching, embellishments or internal treatments (like shoulder pads) should be hand washed or dry cleaned.  Steam or iron according to label instructions, cotton can typically withstand 200-400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the fall of 2010, due to decreased demand from the recession as well as damaged crops from flooding and bad weather in China and India, cotton prices soared to a record high. As a result, retailers were forced to respond - some in the form of fabric substitution and scaled down designs, others in the higher retail prices passed on to the customer in the coming seasons. Only time will tell how the market will react, rejecting the higher price points and/or accepting more synthetic fibers.

Though these are just a few highlights of cotton, there is sooo much more I could share but:
A: I didn't want to bore you.
B: I'd love to know what you want to know! My goal is to share facts and opinions for being an informed consumer.  Did I leave something out, are you curious about a certain something? Please comment below and share your thoughts!

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Spotlight On is a weekly series featuring a fabric, design treatment or construction method and sharing facts and ideas for being an informed consumer. For further questions please comment or email.


  1. Who knew that there was so much I could learn about cotton?!

  2. This is so cool - I feel smarter already! Great idea for a feature.

    xoxo ~ Courtney

  3. I loved this post especially since most of my clothes are mainly cotton. I will feel so much more knowledgeable the next time I shop.

  4. I learned a lot about cotton, and I like that you mentioned what age cotton would be to become gin. This was so interesting, and not something you see anywhere else, which is what makes it so cool.

  5. I love that you shared this with us...takes me back to the textiles classes I used to take in college.

    I am now following you, hope you can stop by and support.


  6. Ashleigh, this is amazing! I love being educated on aspects of fashion that aren't necessarily high glamour, but very real. How clothes become clothes, as it were. This was such an enlightening read!

  7. holy crap. i feel like i just got a degree in textiles after reading this. just bought a pima sweatshirt not knowing wtf that meant, and now i DO ;) xoxo


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