Surprising story of cotton fabric that will amaze you in

by | Oct 19, 2022

Cotton is also called ‘Staple Fabric.’ Cotton fabric has been around humankind for over a thousand years. It had a political, economic, social, and industrial impact on the history of civilization. Today we use this specific fabric from underwear to nightgowns and everything in between.

In the history of India, Cotton played an important role. For the British empire and the United States, Cotton has made a long history. However, the history of the domestication of Cotton is very complex, and very few know about it. 

After reading this article you will know all about Cotton Fiber and Fabric. The basic of this amazing natural material that we use everyday.

I am Sadia from Muslin Dhaka team.  With 26 years of cumulative experience on fashion marketing experience sharing the most interesting facts about Cotton Fiber & fabric!

The history, the enriched culture this fabric belongs to is unbelievable. Several isolated civilizations involved the new and old world independently domesticated and converted Cotton into the fabric.

Cotton Trade

The cotton trade started in ancient India, nearly back in 4000 BCE. Indian farmers first domesticated Cotton as wild plants. On the same day, it was domesticated in Mexico. As a result, some of the earliest fibers of Cotton have been found in Mexico and parts of Egypt.

They used Cotton, grew Cotton, and also dyed Cotton.

Fabrics made from Cotton were traded throughout the Mediterranean and Europe in the Middle ages.

Then during the Renaissance. The oldest cotton textiles are found on many civilizations’ graves and city ruins.

Cotton fiber holds color very well. So, you can boil flowers and leaves to make different colors. Can boil some raspberries to make raspberry color to your cotton fabric or indigo or do indigo to have blue or purple color. Cotton is a fantastic element to do all kinds of experiments. So if you are looking for a fabric to have some fun with, Cotton is the best option. 

Because it is an adorable fiber, people worldwide have been using it for a long time. Many species of Cotton are grown all over America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Now, China is the first to produce Cotton. But they are not the leading country in exportation. Although, as we know, China holds the largest textile manufacturing market in the world, they use their Cotton for their garments. Other leading cotton fabric-producing countries today are Uzbekistan, India, Turkey, Pakistan, and Brazil.

If you look at the tag of your shirt or dress right now, you’ll find at least a portion of it is made with Cotton. Cotton is everywhere. In our regular clothes, curtains, blankets, and so many other things, we don’t even realize. 

Cotton Fiber & Fabric

Cotton Fiber & Fabric

What is cotton?

Cotton is a fabric derived from the fibers surrounding the seeds of cotton plants, which emerge in a round, fluffy formation once the seeds mature. 

Cotton’s scientific name is ‘Gossypium.’ Now different types of Gossypium grow in other areas of the world.

 Overall, there are four types of Gossypium species grown commercially worldwide. These are 

  • Gossypium hirsutum :

 They grow in the upland area of the world. They are native to Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. About 90% of today’s cotton production is this type. They are widely used in various consumer products where manufacturers look for quality and purity. For example, Gossypium hirsutum is commonly used in several nonwoven products in feminine hygiene and baby care essentials.

  • Gossypium barbadense: 

It is known as extra-long staple cotton. Grows in tropical South America. Though it is the second-most produced type of Cotton, Gossypium barbadense covers only 8% of global cotton output. 

  • Gossypium arboretum:

These kinds of Cotton are native to India and Pakistan. It is named tree cotton. They are widely used in cooking as a filter, as well as medical utilities we know as ‘Gauze.’

  • Gossypium herbaceum:

They are grown in Southern Africa and Arabian Peninsula. Gossypium herbaceum, famously known as ‘Levant Cotton’, comprises less than two percent of the global market. It is primarily spun into yarns to make a variety of fabrics. 

There are a few rare Cotton grows in Bangladesh from which special fabrics are made. Muslin and Jamdani have been very famous all over the world for centuries. Muslin has a great history as one of the Royal fabrics on this planet! To know more, read. “The Myth of muslin.”

Early history of Cotton

To understand the cotton market’s value, you must know its history. I know sometimes histories are boring, but you will not regret knowing it.

Cotton was first found as a textile at the Mehrgarh and Rakhigarhi sites in the Indian Subcontinent, which was approximately 4000 BC. The Indus Valley civilization, which spanned the Indian Subcontinent from 3300 to 1300 BC, was a flourishing cotton civilization. Some say people in America started using Cotton for textiles in 5500 BC. But cotton cultivation was widespread throughout Mesoamerica in around 4200 BC. 

The interesting fact is we all know that the ancient Chinese relied more on silk for the production of textiles. A part of China, especially the Han dynasty, made cotton cultivation and cotton fabric famous, lasting from 206 BC to 220 AD.

Before the middle ages, the Europeans believed that Cotton was a mysterious fabric that only grew in India. When Cotton started to grow in the Arab world and Iran, they eventually introduced cotton production to the Europeans. Let me stop you here. If the information is making you a bit confused, get the help of the world map.

Middle age

Cotton has become famous throughout the late 1600 across Britain and Europe. Mainly for easy care in comparison to wool. People liked the printed Cotton imported from India, through the East India Company. In cinemas we can find some visualization of that period. The British women are wearing beautiful printed dresses that symbolize the period. Movies are also quite a history book, right?

So, by 1721, Britain was using raw Cotton to build their textile empire. Textile manufacturing in Britain led to increased wealth in the country and also led to the colonization of India. This wealth later triggered the start of the industrial revolution. During the revolution, textiles took hold of Britain and allowed it to become a textile hub. During the industrial revolution, multiple types of machinery were re-produced to increase the production of cotton fabrics in England. However, the success of the British industrial revolution relied on low wages, child labor, and fatal working condition. 

Increased demand for raw Cotton in Britain impacted the amount of Cotton being grown in America along with the increasing slave trade. Combined with the invention of the cotton gin, America produced most of the world’s raw Cotton. People hoped that the invention of gin would eventually reduce the need for mortal slaves to be brought to America. But the exact opposite happened. The gin was 1600 times quicker than hand, and the production exploded. 

Sea Island Cotton

Cotton has a very long history in Georgia. Europeans first grew Cotton in Savanna. This type of Cotton is called Sea Island cotton. 

I will talk about ‘Sea Cotton’ later in the classification area.

It is still very famous all around the world. The fiber is quite long. So people could easily turn that into textiles. But what bothered the Georgians who lived on the other side of the state was they were interested in growing it in large amounts but couldn’t do it for the climate and the soil. So the fiber wouldn’t come out as best as it grew on the island part. 

After a long experiment, the farmers finally started growing cotton, which was different from the sea island cotton. The fiber was not very long as it was before. But they were happy with the product because this type of Cotton grew more quickly. 

Where is Cotton grown today?

Cotton is grown particularly in six different continents of the world. Three of the largest producers of Cotton are India, America, and China. Cotton farming varies on the geographical area. In countries like the USA, Australia, and Brazil, cotton is cultivated with more mechanized technology and systems. In other parts of the world like India and Mali, production is more likely labor intensive. People still use hand weeding and picking over there. 

Characteristics of Cotton

Characteristics of Cotton


Characteristics of Cotton:

  • Cotton is a natural fibre or cellulose fibre.
  • Basic color of Cotton is white, cream or light brown.
  • It is dull in appearance but lustrous when starched.
  • It has good alkalis and organic solvents but poor resistance to sun and acids.
  • Cotton can be easily attacked by fungus and mildew.
  • The length of cotton fibers varies from 0.5- 2.5 inches.
  • In wet conditions, the strength of the fabric increases up to 20%.

Cultivation of Cotton:

Cotton comes from the cotton plant. It is almost 7000 years old. This means Cotton is one of the oldest fibers of fabric that men have been introduced to. Growing Cotton or getting Cotton all the way through into a fabric that we still wear every single day is quite a great process. 

Cotton needs lots of sunshine and warmth to get maturity and full growth. 

To get Cotton as a fabric, we first need to grow the cotton plant and get to the point where it has an organic cotton boll that goes for further processing. 

Let’s have a look at the farming process. 

  • First, the farmers prepare the land and sow the natural cotton seeds. Then the seeds become seedlings, grow leaves, and get the first bud, then the cotton bud. It takes about 60-70 days for the first flower from seedlings. 
  • A cotton boll only appears 50-70 days after the blooming of the flower. During this time, soil fertility, watering, managing pests and weeds are necessary. Forty-five days after the boll appears, they are ripe for harvesting.
  • During this 15-20 day of ripening stage, the cotton boll goes from green to brown. The whole process takes a cycle of 5-6 months. 


Making Fabric from Cotton Fiber

Making Fabric from Cotton Fiber

Making cotton fabric from cotton fiber:

The cotton bolls can either be picked by hand or by machine. Through the centuries, cotton fiber was processed by hand. However, from the early 18th century, the industrialists started to process Cotton by machine. First, the cotton picker machine plucks fluffy seed cotton out of the plant’s boll. Then, it empties the plucked Cotton into a tractor-drawn buggy. 

After that, they go for further processing. The boll that is picked from the plants is quite dirty. So the farmers remove the sticks, leaves, and anything else that might be stuck into it. After that is removed, the bolls are combed. After that, it goes through a different process when it becomes yarn and then to the fabric we wear.

Cottons are turned into threads by spinning in a spinning wheel. These threads made Cotton to the fabric on a weaving machine called the loom. 

Processing of Cotton:

  1. Ginning: In the first part, gin removes capsule walls and soil from the cotton bolls. Gins can be of two types. One is roller gin, and the other one is saw-type gin. Cleaning with saw-type gin is faster than roller gin. But roller gin is less harmful to long fibers. It is specially used for Egyptian and sea island cotton. What is the specialty of these two types of Cotton, which we will discuss in a bit? 
  2. Bailing- the Cotton processed by ginning is converted to bales. It is packed into bales with the help of a hydraulic press. Approximately these bales are 226kg heavy. Then the bales are transported to mills. 
  3. Picking: After the bales reach the mills, they are beaten and then fluffed. This removes the foreign matter from the fibers through a scutcher. Then Cotton is condensed in sheet form called ‘Lap.’
  4. Carding: in this stage, the remaining lumps of the fiber are separated into individual fibers in the carding machine. By doing it, immature fibers and impurities like trash material or vegetable matter get removed.
  5. Combing: Combing separates the small fibers.
  6. Drawing: finally, drawing straightens the fiber. 

With the help of specialized funnels, Cotton forms the shape of a thin sheet.

Advantages of Cotton fabric:

Cotton has become famous for its exceptional breathability and lightness. This fabric is incredibly soft, but it has heat retention properties. 

  • The fabric is more durable than silk but less durable than wool.
  • It is very water absorbent.
  • Dries quickly. For this, it makes the clothes highly moisture wrecking.
  • You can dry it in high heat.
  • Finally, Cotton drapes the body very well.
  • Good for all types of skin.
  • Easy to carry and care for.
  • Blends with other fabrics easily.
  • Organic cotton is eco-friendly.
  • Easy to dye.
  • Cotton is a biodegradable and renewable resource.
  • The fibers can be reused and recycled.
  • With the right technology, cotton fabrics can be broken down and recycled into new yarn or writing paper.

Disadvantages of cotton fabric:

  • The fabric is relatively prone to wrinkling.
  • Cotton shrinks when washed unless the material is exposed to a pre-treatment.
  • After dyeing, the color fades over time.
  • During the harvest, the plants need a huge amount of water. 
  • Majority of the cultivation & production uses chemical fertilizer, GMOs, and pesticides.


Types of Cotton Fabric

Types of Cotton

Different types of Cotton fabric :

By the 1500s, Cotton was being grown and sold throughout the world. In today’s world, we have so many options around us. I’ll make this simple for you. So Cotton is a highly in-demand crop. 

Today, it comes in two basic forms. One is traditional Cotton and the other one is organic Cotton. 

● Traditional Cotton: 

Traditional Cotton is the type of Cotton that farmers repeatedly cultivate in the same soil. When Cotton is grown in the same soil, the product quality gets lower over time. This is because farmers use more chemicals like herbicides and pesticides. 

Machines are usually used to pick traditional Cotton, because they are faster and more efficient. Sadly, using a device can damage the fibers, and the Cotton does not remain as pure as it should be. The lower grade of Cotton lowers the price.

● Organic Cotton:

Organic cotton fabric is made without any synthetic fiber. Natural fiber is free from harmful chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides. The crops are rotated to different soil each season, which increases the quality of the Cotton itself. 

Most of the time, these are handpicked. For this, the purity of the Cotton is intact. Handpicked organic Cotton is less damaged. The fibers are usually longer as a result. 

Cultivation and the fabric-making process are free of dangerous chemicals. It makes organic fabrics more sustainable and eco-friendly. Organic Cotton is more durable & softer than traditional Cotton.

For all these reasons, organic Cotton costs more to produce and purchase!

You might think that when you search for Cotton, there is not only 100 percnt Cotton fabric found. There are numerous options to look at. I can tell you about at least 50 types of Cotton, but the telling process will be quite boring.

Let’s get a piece of knowledge about the various kind of kinds of Cotton that is found most commonly around us:

  • Quilting Cotton: 

First, let’s talk about quilting cotton. They are a light to medium-weight woven fabric that makes them stretch. It is also called craft cotton, patchwork cotton, or printed Cotton. Quilting cotton is a pretty closely woven fabric. It looks very pretty. This Needs a little more high maintenance.

It is great for structured items like shirts, tops, aprons, blankets, and skirts. The thing is you probably need to iron it. But quilling cottons are not very comfortable for regular wearing. It does not feel very well to the body. You can use it to make drapes. They are fantastic for little summer dresses, though!

  • Brushed Cotton:

Brushed Cotton is also referred to as flannel or flannelette. It feels slightly fluffy on one or both sides, and it is brushed Cotton. It is brushed through the manufacturing process. So basically, what happens is the Cotton is made as it is normally made. But the fabric is here that goes to another machine. The fabric gets brushed like a comb. So the combing process keeps going until the flat surface gets fluffy. That fluffy texture stops air and allows it to heat in. if you put that fluffy surface on your skin, it will hold the heat of your body and give you warmth. So, brushed Cotton is very, very good for winter. There is a small difference in brushed and flannel. When the Cotton is brushed on both sides, it is called flannel. 

If you are looking for something to make for the cold months, brushed Cotton is one of the options you may choose. 

  • Pima cotton: 

Pima is considered a higher-end type of fabric. It is more robust, silkier, and smoother than regular Cotton. Pima fibers are called extra-long staples. Cause the length of Pima cotton is longer than regular Cotton staples. The minimum length of a Pima yarn is 34 mm. As a result, you end up with a much smoother and silkier fabric. Pima fibers are specifically sourced from a special type of cotton plant. It only grows in tropical areas. That is why Pima is only found in Peru, Australia, and the US. Only 3% of growing Cotton all over the world is Pima. It also has less pilling because of the length of the fiber. 

People use Pima cotton in luxury clothing because it is a high-end, prestigious fabric. It is resistant to wrinkles. It usually uses in bed sheets and underwear. It can be machine washed, tumble dried, or washed on high heat. These fibers can be spun into threads as thick or as smooth as 300 threads per inch. That is why you will love to wear Pima Cotton.

  • Egyptian Cotton: 

It is known as the best quality cotton fabric. The Nile valleys of Egypt are the only place where this Cotton is grown. Therefore, it is called the white gold of Egypt!

Unlike other species of cotton plants, this Cotton provides at least 2 inches long fibers. Farmers pick them by hand to keep the fiber straight and stop them from breaking. The long straight fibers are the key to Egyptian Cotton. So you can tell Pima is very identical to Egyptian Cotton. But to achieve authenticity, Egyptian Cotton still has its prestige. 

Egyptian Cotton is used to thread count bed sheets. But it is a bit more expensive than the other types. Famous for its silky texture and ability to get softer with every wash, Egyptian Cotton has been a global demand since it was first developed in the early 1800s. 

  • Cotton Twill: 

Cotton twill is distinguished by its weave pattern that places diagonal lines in the fabric. It is very strong and durable. It drapes well and is very much wrinkle-resistant. For this, fabrics like linen, denim, chino, and gabardine are created from twill cotton.

  • Muslin Cotton: 

Muslin is one the most unique, finest cotton fabric, which was famously produced particularly in south-eastern Bangladesh during the 17th-18th century. Back then, it was part of the Indus Valley. But, as mentioned earlier, it was ancient India where Cotton was first traded. So muslin is one of the earliest cotton fabrics in the world.

Muslin cotton is specially made with fiber obtained from the cotton plant called ‘Phuti Carpas.’ This specific Cotton produced the finest version of Cotton. Muslin needed that certain environment certain period and only a few people could make the fabric. Not only this, the finest muslin demands the thinnest fingers as well. The thread count of muslin was so high that we cannot even imagine this type of fabric now. Scientists are still searching for the mystery behind muslin cotton. The luxury of muslin was unbeatable. 

  • Cotton Lawn: 

Lawn cotton is a plain weave, lightweight cotton fabric with a crisp and smooth feeling. It is thin but reasonably strong due to the fine weave. It is often used for blouses, children’s clothes, tablecloths, and blankets.

  • Knitted Fabric: 

Knitted fabric is made with one single yarn that is looped continuously to create a braided look, and these multiple yarns are used to make a woven fabric. Examples include button-up shirts, trousers, jeans, and denim jackets. Multiple yarns are used to make button-up shirts, jeans, and trousers. On the other hand, single yarn includes women’s leggings, t-shirts, sweaters, and some underwear.

  • Levant Cotton: 

Levant cotton comes from the levant seeds of the Gossypium herbaceum cotton plant. It is also used for feed, oil extraction, and food. The Levant is considered old-world cotton and is used by many commercial cotton procedures.

  • Wool fabric: 

Cotton and wool make the best fabric for a user. The blending of these two can get you the comfort of Cotton and the resilience of wool. This type of fabric is used all around the world. Mixtures of Cotton and wool are normally used in higher-end clothing, including tweed and velvet.

  • Poplin: 

Poplin is also known as cotton broadcloth. It is a medium-weight, plain weave cotton fabric that is tightly woven and easy to work with during sewing. This fabric is extremely versatile and is often used to produce blouses, dresses, and shirts.

  • Linen Fabric: 

Linen cotton is a blend of 50 percent linen and 50 percent cotton. This mixture of fabric is very soft and light to medium in weight. Linen cotton is mostly used in shirts, sheets, jackets, and dresses.

  • Silk Cotton Fabric: 

Are you looking forward to bringing a touch of luxury to your clothes? Well, then, silk cotton is the best you can find around. It is usually a blend of 70% cotton and 30% silk. This blend is such a popular textile in high-end and couture fashion design. The garment will give you the beautiful feel of silk with the functionality of Cotton. That is Two in One you are getting, right? 

Silk cotton is quite a bit the same as ‘Cotton Voile.’ These fabrics are lightweight, breathable, and look beautiful. I recommend silk cotton if you are searching for a fabric that will give you a summer-friendly, sexy look. This fabric has easy wash capabilities. The basic advice is to dry clean, but as it has only 30% of silk, you can hand wash it with a silk cleaner.

  • Sea Island Cotton: 

It is the rarest type of cotton fabric type in the world. Sea Island cotton is known as the finest version of cotton fabric, which especially grows in the coastal area. It has a uniform texture and offers a silky luster that feels amazing on the skin. Normally this type of Cotton is used in making underwear garments.

  • Voile: 

Voile is the lightest of all Cotton. It is named after the French term veil. It is a very soft and very thin type of fabric that is typically made of 100 percent cotton. It can also blend with linen or polyester. This fabric is mostly used in hot, tropical climates. It is specially used for mosquito nets and sheer curtains for windows.

Cotton voile gets softer as you wash it. 

  • Poly Cotton: 

Poly Cotton is usually a blend of 50% polyester and 50% cotton. The ratio sometimes can be made 65:35. The mixture of two fiber create a very lightweight plain-weave fabric that is very strong, durable, and resistant to the crease. But on the other hand, this product is less breathable than other cotton fabrics. So it is quite hot to wear and makes the person sweatier during summer. Still, it is famous for using children’s clothes, shirts, and aprons.

  • Cotton lace: 

Lace is a delicate, decorative fabric that is created by looping, knitting thread in elaborate, open web-like patterns. Back in the 15th century, lace-making had developed from embroidery and became an art of its own. Since then, cotton fabric has been used in making laces. It is used for everything from trim and tablecloths to curtains, camisoles, underwear, and dresses to its finest in the wedding gown. But you have to take special care in cleaning cotton laces. Spot cleaning and washing may be sufficient for most of the laces, but sometimes delicate laces require dry cleaning. Make sure you check your item’s care label for specific instructions.

Cotton Fabric Dye:

Humans have a colorful minds. The color of my dresses always speaks to my personality and mood. While I am in a good mood wear dark colors, if going casual prefer light colors. Fabrics, dresses, and their colors have always been a way of representing period and culture.

When ancient humans figured out the advantages of fabrics and clothes, the first thing they did seeing what kind of interesting colors they could put into them. All dyeing ingredients are made with natural substances. Plants, rocks, insects, animals, nothing was left to experiment.

Red, brown, and orange were the earliest colors that were dyed across the Levant, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Europe. Later on, they started making blues, yellows, and green. 

Looking at the history of growing civilization, you can find how colors represented different classes during times and periods.

Cotton is a cellulose fiber. If you differ in the dyeing ability between the cellulose and protein fiber, it is easier to dye cellulose than protein. But the protein fiber has more longevity in keeping the color. The most common method to dye cotton fabric is to do tannin first, then apply an aluminum salt. This is the basic method to prepare your fabric.

The basic formula for dyeing Cotton is quite the same, but it has modernized over time. 

how Cotton is dyed?

In simple words, you need to put your dyeing material, the color, into a pot of water. Then add your piece of fabric there. Next, heat the water and stir it until the color has transformed your textile. Once it is done, remove your Cotton from the water and dry it properly. This method is both used for natural and chemical dyes.

Natural dyes are colorants derived from plants, insects, animals, minerals, or earth oxide.

If I go a little back in history, the first clothes made of Cotton fabric were not dyed. Ancient people used to wear garments in their natural colors, which were white or pale grey. The earliest evidence of dyeing was found was the civilization of the Middle East, Egypt, and Asia.

Before the industrial era, cotton only died from natural ingredients. As Cotton is a cellulose fiber, cotton was only dyed in two colors in India. That was – indigo and madder. 

I can keep talking about the coloring and the dyeing process of cotton fabrics all day long. But I stopped here today, I will say fabric dyeing details in another story! 

Cotton fabric prints:

Printing is the process of applying color to the fabric. The color is bonded with the fiber, which resists washing. Printing has become very common for dyeing cotton yarn and fabric nowadays. Although, as mentioned earlier, Cotton is a wash-friendly fabric, a vast amount of experiments have been done after industrialization. 

You can print cotton fabric with cold brand reactive dyes in block and screen printing or combination methods. Reactive dye is a dying process capable of reacting chemically to form a covalent dye subtraction linkage. It contains a reactive group, and this reactive group makes covalent bonds with the fiber. This method is used for cotton fabric most of the time. 

Now, let’s talk about block printing. It is the oldest printing method used for cotton printing. Blocks of different designs and patterns are used in this method. Block prints are mostly used in sarees, curtains, handkerchiefs, etc.

Another type of printing is screen print, which is used to print Cotton. A very small screen made of glass fiber is used in this process. 

One of the most famous screen printing processes is ‘hand screen print.’ For example, if you are dyeing a saree, you can use 14-16 colors at a time. 

Cotton fabric by the yard:

A yard is a measurement of a cloth. The Standard of 1 yard is equal to 0.9144 meters. Like other fabrics, Cotton is also sold in continuous lengths. When you buy fabrics, you must have noticed a tag saying, ‘Sold by the Yard.’ If not in meters, 1 yard equals 45” wide and 36” long. For example, if you order 3 yards of cotton fabric, you will receive a 45” wide and 108” long fabric, Not Three pieces of 1-yard cloth. 

There is no set price for a yard to buy cotton fabric by the yard. But the average price is between 15 USD and 50 USD for high-quality fabrics, with luxury fabrics costing as much as 1000 USD per yard. 

The price varies according to the quality of the fabric. The type of material, and based on the manufacturing cost. Price variation can also happen for fabric weight, color, and type of fibers. If you are looking for higher quality or organic cotton fabric, surely it will cost you more money.

Another thing you should keep in your mind is Any Fabric or Cotton can sale as fabric by the bolt. A bolt consists of 100 yards of fabric. So if you are planning to make multiple of one item or have a large sewing project in your hand, you may wish to consider buying a bolt of fabric instead of purchasing the fabric by the yard.

I am suggesting this because the fabric is usually cheaper when you buy it in bulk. 

GSM of Cotton:

So, if you are with me this far, you probably know that Cotton is a vast area to talk about. It is used in almost every type of fabric. I have tried to discuss the diversity of Cotton. Now let’s do some calculations about these fabric’s density or thickness. This thing is called GSM. 

GSM is a unit of measurement which describes the weight and density of a piece of a material or a piece of fabric. This unit of measurement is widely used for different types of Cotton. For example, suppose bed sheets, bath towels, and blankets. 

You may have the question, what is GSM?

GSM stands for ‘Gram per Square Metre’. It is the parameter to inform customers about the weight of the fabric. GSM has become an international standard for most fabric types. A square meter is equal to 10.7 square feet. In America, the standard is measured by oz per square yard instead of GSM. But the basic idea is the same.

 How is GSM counted? 

There are a few ways to count the GSM of a fabric.

First, a GSM over 350 falls is the heavyweight category of fabric. This type of material people uses in making canvas, brocades, and most outdoor used fabric.

Then the weight of between 150-350 GSM is a medium-weight fabric type. These often make excellent clothing because they drape over the body really well. They are used in clothes like velvet, denim, and some jersey knits.

Finally, the lightweight fabric weighs between 30 to 150 GSM. They are used in linen, Cotton, different kinds of silks and laces, etc.

In Cotton, various GSM is used for different types of Cotton. Therefore, I try to explain some of the GSM of cotton fabric.

● 140+ GSM is used for quilting cotton.

● Flannel sheets made from brushed Cotton are good quality if they have a GSM over 170.

● 100 to 200, 180 mostly used for cotton jersey knit.

● 150 to 200 GSM is used for stretch denim.

● 200 to 400 GSM is used for percale cotton.

● 130 to 550 GSM is used for denim.

● 300 to 900 GSM is used for cotton towels.

You can tell every type of clothing needs its preferred type of fabric. That comes in a range of GSM weights. Cotton fabric with a higher GSM feels heavier and denser than fabric with a lower GSM. Low GSM products provide more warmth, durability, and absorbency.

Cotton fabric grade:

At this point, let us know about the grading of cotton fabric. The grade is determined by color, trash content, and ginning quality. Different types of cotton plants produce different types of cotton fabric. Each has its demand.

Grade by color:

White Cotton is the best type of Cotton. It has huge demand all over the world. The more it is exposed to the weather, the more it changes its color. According to the color, Cotton is graded & companies use different codes to specify that.

● Lt Sp codes Light Spotted White.

● Sp codes spotted white.

● Tinged Cotton is Tg.

● Yellow Stained cotton is called YS.

● Light Grey cotton is Lt Gy.

● Grey is coded by Gy.

Grade by Trash Content :

When Cotton is collected from the field, most of it contains trash such as leaves, stems, seeds, grass, sand, oil, and dust. After ginning, cotton, which contains minimum trash, has the highest spinning value. Depending on the trash content, Cotton is graded in these names –

● Strict Good Middling – SGM

● Good Middling- GM

● Strict Middling- SM

● Middling- M

● Strict Low Middling- SLM

● Low Middling- LM

● Strict Good Ordinary- SGO

● Good Ordinary- GO

Quality of Ginning:

On the processing of the cotton section, I give you an idea about ginning. When the cotton fibers are separated from the seed, there is a chance of the formation of entanglements of fibers. It is called ‘Neps.’ 

Neps are small knots of fiber visible to the Cotton as small dots. The more neps are present in cotton ginning, the less grade a fabric gets. 


Cotton & Sustainability

Cotton & Sustainability

Environmental impact of the Cotton Industry:

● The growth of the cotton industry has increased rapidly. The demand for Cotton has always been at the top reach. To fill up the demands, the industrialists have done many experiments. However, the experiments to create various types of Cotton, caused huge amounts of waste. The massive use of plastic-based materials by the textile industry is still one of the world’s greatest environmental issues. 

In the last few decades, attention to material recycling has become a concern for scientists. They are searching for every possible way to mend the level of industrial pollution. On the one hand, the clothing industry impacts both domestic and global economies. But on the other hand, most textile waste is non-biodegradable and non-recyclable.

● Cotton production demands a significant amount of water. The plants are either rainfed or irrigated from groundwater or surface water. You will be astonished to know that the global average water footprint of seed cotton is 3,644 cubic meters per tonne. The world is already concerned about the risk of a freshwater scarcity problem. If the cultivation process and water management are not done properly, Environmental disorder will increase the risk for the world’s most productive Cotton growing regions. 50% of cotton-growing regions will be infected. It will add extra pressure on the farmers. They might start digging deeper to reach the groundwater, which impacts drinking water sources for people, animals, and aquatic life.

● According to sustainable practices, pesticides and petroleum-based fertilizers will increase if cotton grows. Though usage of pesticides has decreased all over the world, It includes the cotton production process too. Still, 10% of all agricultural chemicals have been used in cotton farms in recent years.

If this continues, serious pollution of water resources and soil fertility will decrease.

● Talking of soil fertility, Natural cotton production can improve soil health. It can even reduce greenhouse gas emissions through sustainable practices. But on the other hand, if soils are poorly managed, it will cause problems like soil erosion, contamination, and loss of biodiversity.

Few Distinct Cotton fusion

Let us jump a few cotton fusions that have become popular nowadays. 

  • Hemp Cotton: 

I am sure you read the word hemp at least twice when I added Cotton to it. We know hemp comes from one of the most controversial plants on this planet. But it is a magical plant that can be transformed into almost anything!

Hemp has started to make a huge market in the textile industry. Hemp has antibacterial properties, and it is quite resistant to moths and insects. Moreover, as Cotton is biodegradable, the fusion of Cotton and hemp gives a luxurious finish.

Both of the fabrics are made from organic fiber. If you mix 45% cotton with 55% hemp; the resulting fabric offers a superb fluid drape.

  • Bamboo cotton: 

Bamboo cotton is also known as Indian Cotton. It is made of a special cotton weaving by an old process. The surface of the fabric has regular yarn but the grains of the surface are similar to bamboo. That’s why it is called bamboo cotton. 

Bamboo cotton is softer and more comfortable than common cotton clothes. It has better moisture absorption ability. Bamboo cotton goods are very, very comfortable in all temperatures. Bamboo cotton is one of the best options for you if you are sensitive skin and allergies.

  • Cotton Fleece: 

Around 1970, people started experimenting with different things that would imitate wool in the textile industry. So they were finally able to invent the fleece fabric. Fleece is made from polyester, for the most part. However, when the makers want to make a fabric with a better look and more breathability, they add natural fibers (such as Cotton). This blending helps to make up for polyester’s weaknesses. Cotton fleece is a warm cloth. It is used to make sweatshirts, sweatpants, and other similar clothing articles. 

Recycle of Cotton

Recycle of Cotton

Recycling Cotton:

Cotton is an eco-friendly fabric.                      

Recycling converts used products to new materials. For example, in the process of cotton recycling, the recyclers break down the waste fabric and turn them into new materials. Recycled Cotton is also called upcycled Cotton. They are usually made of post-consumer or postindustrial cotton waste.

Now the main question arises, why does Cotton need to be recycled?

We know the fashion industry is one of the world’s largest polluters. It creates a large amount of waste, carbon emissions, pollution, and water and energy consumption. However, you will be astonished to know that recycling 1 ton of Cotton can save 765 Cubic meters of water.

As Cotton is a cellulose fiber, it is very easy to recycle. The fiber is extracted from renewable resources, cotton waste gathered from second hand clothing, and the textile waste of leftover cottons collected from cotton production.

Recycled Cotton is used in numerous products. For example, many renowned fashion brands use these fabrics to create sustainable, earth-conscious products, such as clothing, shoes, bags, trims, and accessories.

The first step to recycling Cotton is the collection of used cotton. After collecting them, the fabric is sorted by color and type. Then it is sent to be mechanically chipped and pulled apart. Then the fibers are sorted, washed clean, and spun into new yarns. These processes make the fibers shorter than the original material, which is harder to process.

To increase the strength of recycled Cotton, companies often blend regular cotton, polyester, nylon, acrylic, or spandex types of fiber.

Wrap up

That’s all for this reading Cotton. I will catch up with you in the next story. Knowledge sharing is a beautiful thing. Human civilization has awesome stories hidden in them. Who thought the bed sheet we sleep on, the jacket we wear every day, or even the small hand towel hanging in the very corner of our house, has come a long way to be here? 

There is a beautiful saying by Michael Crichton :

‘If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is a part of a tree.’’

Cheers !!


Shariful Alam

Shariful Alam

Shariful Alam Pavel, A fashion lover, passionate marketer. Love to share wisdom based on real life experience to enrich knowledge.
Founder of Muslin Dhaka, a brand, speaks the truth about royal muslin and fashion. Explore the digital fashion universe with organic cotton muslin and much more!


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