What is Cotton Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (2023)

Fabric nameCotton
Fabric also known asPima cotton, Egyptian cotton, Supima cotton
Fabric compositionOrganic fibers from the seeds of the cotton plant
Fabric possible thread count variations100, 200, 300, 600, up to 2,000
Fabric breathabilityVery breathable
Moisture-wicking abilitiesHigh
Heat retention abilitiesMedium
Stretchability (give)Medium
Prone to pilling/bubblingHigh
Country where fabric was first producedAncient India
Biggest exporting/producing country todayIndia
Recommended washing temperaturesMedium or high
Commonly used inShirts, dresses, blouses, underwear, socks, sweaters, sheets, blankets, bags, jeans, skirts

What is Cotton Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (1)Cotton Fabric Gauze

What Is Cotton Fabric?

Cotton fabric is one of the most commonly used types of fabrics in the world. This textile is chemically organic, which means that it does not contain any synthetic compounds. Cotton fabric is derived from the fibers surrounding the seeds of cotton plants, which emerge in a round, fluffy formation once the seeds are mature.

The earliest evidence for the use of cotton fibers in textiles is from the Mehrgarh and Rakhigarhi sites in India, which date to approximately 5000 BC. The Indus Valley Civilization, which spanned the Indian Subcontinent from 3300 to 1300 BC, was able to flourish due to cotton cultivation, which provided the people of this culture with readily available sources of clothing and other textiles.

It’s possible that people in the Americas used cotton for textiles as long ago as 5500 BC, but it’s clear that cotton cultivation was widespread throughout Mesoamerica since at least 4200 BC. While the Ancient Chinese relied more on silk than cotton for the production of textiles, cotton cultivation was popular in China during the Han dynasty, which lasted from 206 BC to 220 AD.

While cotton cultivation was widespread in both Arabia and Iran, this textile plant didn’t make its way to Europe in full force until the late Middle Ages. Before this point, Europeans believed that cotton grew on mysterious trees in India, and some scholars during this period even suggested that this textile was a type of wool that was produced by sheep that grew on trees.

What is Cotton Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (2)Cotton 1

The Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, however, introduced Europeans to cotton production, and the European countries quickly became major producers and exporters of cotton along with Egypt and India.

Since the earliest days of cotton cultivation, this fabric has been prized for its exceptional breathability and lightness. Cotton fabric is also incredibly soft, but it has heat retention attributes that make it something like a mixture of silk and wool.

While cotton is more durable than silk, it is less durable than wool, and this fabric is relatively prone to pilling, rips, and tears. Nonetheless, cotton remains one of the most popular and highly produced fabrics in the world. This textile has relatively high tensile strength, and its natural coloring is white or slightly yellowish.

Cotton is very water absorbent, but it also dries quickly, which makes it highly moisture wicking. You can wash cotton in high heat, and this fabric drapes well on your body. However, cotton fabric is relatively prone to wrinkling, and it will shrink when washed unless it is exposed to a pre-treatment.

Buy high-quality, low-priced cotton fabric here. If you are UK based, you can buy it here.

How Is Cotton Fabric Made?

What is Cotton Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (3)

(Video) How Cotton is Processed in Factories | How It’s Made

Cotton fabric producers derive this textile from the fibrous protective casing that surrounds cotton seeds, which is called a boll. While cotton seeds themselves are quite small, the bolls that encase them can be larger than the end of your thumb.

To make cotton fabric, producers must first separate the cotton seed from the boll. In the past, this step was done by hand, but in 1794, American entrepreneur Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, which is a mechanical device that greatly expedites the cotton separation process.

These days, automated forms of the cotton gin exist that make the process even easier for human workers. Machines can harvest cotton bolls from agricultural fields, and other machines can then separate the seeds from the bolls.

Cotton production begins in the spring when cotton seeds are planted. In most cases, automated machines plant cotton seeds in 10 or more rows simultaneously. Seedlings emerge within approximately seven days, and mature cotton bolls appear within 55 to 80 days.

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Prior to machine harvesting, human workers are generally required for defoliation, which is the process of removing the leaves from cotton plants. Next, a single machine harvests the amount of cotton that 50 people could pick, and this same machine removes large contaminants from the cotton fibers and forms it into bales.

High-efficiency automated cotton gins can process up to 60 raw cotton bales weighing 500 pounds each in the space of an hour. These gins remove the seeds from cotton bolls, and they also remove any dirt or trash from the cotton.

Once cotton has been cleaned to the extent that it consists of pure cotton fibers without any seeds or trash, it is transferred to a textile production facility. At this facility, the raw cotton is carded, which is the process of forming cotton fibers into long strands. Next, these strands are spun to create yarn.

At this stage, the basic material used in cotton fabrics is complete. This cotton yarn may then be subjected to a variety of chemical treatments, and it may be dyed. Next, it is woven into a particular type of textile material such as a bedsheet, T-shirt, or pair of blue jeans.

Shop a wide variety of cotton fabrics here for US and rest of world here and here if you are UK based.

How Is Cotton Fabric Used?

What is Cotton Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (5)

Approximately 75 percent of the world’s clothing products contain at least some amount of cotton. In sheer numbers, cotton is the most widely used textile fiber in the world, and manufacturers can spin this fabric into a myriad of different types of products.

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For instance, most T-shirts contain at least some amount of cotton, and true blue jeans are 100 percent cotton. This fabric is used to make bathrobes, bathmats, and towels, and it is also used to make bedsheets, blankets, and duvets. Manufacturers may even use cotton to make curtains, wall-hangings, and other types of home decorations.

Since cotton is highly breathable and absorbent, it is commonly used to make warm-weather clothing. Its softness makes it a good option for formal and business wear, and its notable draping abilities make it an ideal fabric for dresses.

Manufacturers use cotton to make medical supplies, and this fabric is also used to make industrial thread and tarps. In summation, cotton can be used to make practically any type of textile for consumer or industrial use.

Where Is Cotton Fabric Produced?

What is Cotton Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (6)

India and China are frequently tied as the largest cotton producers in the world. According to Statista, India overtook its East Asian competitor between 2017 and 2018 by producing 6,205,000 metric tons of cotton. For comparison, China produced 5,987,000 metric tons of cotton fiber during this same period.

At 4,555,000 metric tons, the USA is the next-largest producer of cotton. While these three nations produce the vast majority of the world’s cotton, other nations, such as Brazil, Pakistan, and Australia consistently produce more than 1 million metric tons of this fiber per year.

How Much Does Cotton Fabric Cost?

According to IndexMundi, raw cotton costs approximately $0.75 per pound. However, these prices are subject to constant change. Cotton costs significantly more once a producer has formed it into yarn, and its price increases again once this fiber is made into a final product.

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Comparatively speaking, cotton is one of the least expensive textile fibers in the world, which has contributed to its popularity. However, the cheapest cotton is cotton that has not been produced sustainably, and better forms of cotton cost much more.

For instance, forms of extra-long-staple cotton are significantly more expensive than traditional short-staple cotton. Examples of extra-long-staple cotton include Egyptian cotton and Pima cotton. These types of cotton cost more for manufacturers to produce, and they also cost more at the consumer level.

What Different Types of Cotton Fabric Are There?

What is Cotton Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (8)

There are four distinct species of cotton that are used to make cotton fabric. In addition, there are several sub-varieties of cotton fabric that are made from these plant species:

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Cotton Plant Varieties

1. Gossypium hirsutum

This type of cotton is the most widely-produced form of this textile crop. It accounts for 90 percent of the world’s cotton production, and it is native to Central America and the nations surrounding the Caribbean Sea.

Over the years, traders have exported this type of cotton to practically every location throughout the world, and it grows well in practically any climate. Gossypium hirsutum is a short-staple (SS) cotton fiber, which means that it is not as high-quality as other forms of this textile fiber.

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2. Gossypium barbadense

Gossypium barbadense is an extra-long-staple (ELS) cotton variety, which means that it consists of longer cotton fibers that produce softer and more luxurious textiles. This type of cotton accounts of 8 percent of the world’s cotton production, and it is significantly more expensive than Gossypium hirsutum.

This ELS cotton variation is native to South America, and it has been exported to a variety of locations throughout the world. For instance, Pima cotton is a form of Gossypium barbadense, and producers cultivate this type of cotton in China, India, and other foreign nations.

3. Gossypium arboretum

While most types of cotton grow on small bushes, Gossypium arboretum grows on larger bushes that could almost be considered to be trees. This type of cotton accounts for less than 2 percent of global production.

4. Gossypium herbaceum

Also known as Levant cotton, this type of fiber is native to Africa and Arabia, and it contributes less than 2 percent to global cotton cultivation.

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Cotton Fabric Varieties

1. Short-staple cotton

Short-staple (SS) cotton is any type of cotton that consists of fibers that are up to 1.125 inches long. While this type of cotton is great for everyday use, it isn’t as soft as other types of cotton.

2. Long-staple cotton

Long-staple (LS) cotton is any type of cotton that consists of fibers that are between 1.125 and 1.25 inches long. This type of cotton is somewhat more luxurious than SS cotton.

3. Extra-long-staple cotton

Extra-long staple (ELS) cotton is any type of cotton that consists of fibers that are longer than 1.25 inches. ELS cotton is the most luxurious and soft type of cotton in existence.

4. Egyptian cotton

Egyptian cotton is a term that refers to certain forms of either LS or ELS cotton. Giza 45 cotton, for instance, is over 45 millimeters (1.77 inches) long, which makes it one of the longest and most luxurious varieties of cotton in existence.

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5. Pima cotton

Pima cotton is a type of ELS cotton that was created through a partnership between the U.S. government and the Pima Indians in the early 20th century. It is considered to be one of the most durable forms of cotton.

6. Supima cotton

Supima cotton is a type Pima cotton that has received the blessing of the American Supima Association (ASA). To be considered “Supima,” Pima cotton can only be grown in the United States with organic cultivation practices.

How Does Cotton Fabric Impact the Environment?

Cotton production is inherently non-impactful on the environment. Since this type of textile is a natural fiber, it is biodegradable, and it doesn’t fill up waterways or contribute to other forms of pollution.

However, the practices that manufacturers use to make cotton may be harmful to the environment. Cotton cultivation requires a huge amount of water, and producing this textile may also involve land repurposing.

Since most cotton producers focus on cultivating the largest amount of fiber possible at the lowest cost, they don’t properly care for the land they use for cultivation. As a result, cotton cultivation frequently depletes the soil in the areas where it is grown.

Most cotton producers worldwide resort to agrochemicals, such as pesticides and fertilizers, to grow their crops. These harmful chemicals run off into the surrounding water, poison the soil, and end up being present in potentially dangerous concentrations in end products.

In the vast majority of instances, cotton cultivation is an exploitative practice in which international corporations take advantage of poor, uneducated people in third-world countries to produce these fibers. This practice is harmful to communities, and it supports a cycle of poverty that results in reduced life expectancy and multiple succeeding generations of servitude.

It’s possible, however, to cultivate cotton with organic means. Organic cultivation processes do not involve any artificial pesticides or fertilizers, which reduces the environmental impact of the production of this textile fiber.

To be certified as organic, cotton cultivators must also promote sustainability within the communities where they operate. Workers who produce organic cotton must be compensated fairly, and environmental degradation must be kept to a minimum. Certain kinds of cotton, such as Supima cotton, are only available in organic forms.

Cotton Fabric Certifications Available

A variety of certifications are available to cotton producers. For instance, the European Union’s organic standards organization can certify cotton as organic, as can the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Another company known as OEKO TEK also certifies organic textiles. Plus, all Supima cotton is organic, and an organization called the American Supima Association (ASA) must certify Pima cotton for it to be considered Supima.


What is properties of cotton fabric? ›

Cotton fibers are natural hollow fibers; they are soft, cool, known as breathable fibers and absorbent. Cotton fibers can hold water 24–27 times their own weight. They are strong, dye absorbent and can stand up against abrasion wear and high temperature. In one word, cotton is comfortable.

Where is cotton fabric made? ›

Where Is Cotton Fabric Produced? India and China are frequently tied as the largest cotton producers in the world. According to Statista, India overtook its East Asian competitor between 2017 and 2018 by producing 6,205,000 metric tons of cotton.

How is cotton fabric made? ›

The fabric usually used in the clothes we wear is produced through two processes: the "spinning process," where raw cotton is turned into thread, and the "weaving process," where the thread is woven into fabric.

Where does cotton come from and how is it made? ›

The soft, fluffy staple fiber grows in a boll around the seeds of a cotton plant, and the fiber is nearly pure cellulose, the most abundant organic polymer on Earth. Fibers from the cotton plant are spun into yarn or thread and made into fiber, yielding soft, breathable textiles.

What is cotton fabric simple definition? ›

Cotton fabric is a type of natural cloth created out of the cotton plant fibres. Coming in a wide range of weaves, it is the most versatile and popular fabric in the world. It is so widespread that many people tend to perceive cotton as the fabric that has been around us for many centuries.

Where is cotton made and grown? ›

Where cotton grows? Cotton loves warm temperatures. Because of this, it is grown in some parts of the US, in India, China, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Pakistan, and Brazil.

Where do we get our cotton from? ›

Cotton Cotton grows in warm climates and most of the world's cotton is grown in the U.S., Uzbekistan, the People's Republic of China and India. Other leading cotton-growing countries are Brazil, Pakistan and Turkey.

Where is cotton originally come from? ›

The process begins with the cotton plant, which grows in warm climates including: Egypt, Africa, the United States, China, Pakistan and India. Cotton fibre, which has the appearance of cream coloured, soft, fine, fluffy hairs is found wrapped around the seeds of the cotton plant.

How is cotton grown and produced? ›

Growing Cotton

The first stage of the process is planting the cotton seed. The seed is then fed by rain and once the cotton plant has grown cotton farmers will then pick the cotton by hand. During the production and growth of organic cotton, no pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used.

What is cotton fabric and its types? ›

Cotton voile: Light-weight, the sheer fabric used to make curtains, window panels or mosquito nets. Combed cotton: A processed, softer version of cotton. Corduroy: Twisted cotton fabric woven in ridges. Crepe: Comfortable, light-weight crispyblended fabric. Denim: 100 per cent cotton diagonally ribbed for its texture.

How is fabric made step by step? ›

  1. SPINNING. Spinning allows the transformation of a mass of disordered fibres (staple) into a unit of great length (yarn). ...
  2. DYEING YARN. Dyeing is the process of transforming greige (natural) yarn into coloured yarn through the use of colour substances. ...
  3. WEAVING. ...
  4. FINISHING. ...

What plant makes cotton? ›

Cotton, Gossypium , is a shrub from the family Malvaceae, which includes hollyhocks, mallow, hibiscus, okra, and cocoa. The genus Gossypium includes 50 cotton species, four of which have been domesticated for the fibre produced by their seeds.

What are the main properties of material? ›

The material properties are size, shape, density of the particles, and their intrinsic mechanical properties (Young's modulus, yield stress, fracture toughness, etc.

What is cotton and why is it important? ›

Cotton is the most widespread profitable non-food crop in the world. Its production provides income for more than 250 million people worldwide and employs almost 7% of all labor in developing countries. Approximately half of all textiles are made of cotton.

What is the difference between cotton and cotton fabric? ›

Cotton is a staple fiber, which means it is composed of different varying lengths of material. Cotton fabric is made from the natural fibers of cotton plants. The part of the cotton plant that becomes the fabric is the part that grows in the boll, the encasing for the fluffy cotton fibers.

How would you describe cotton clothing? ›

Soft: The cotton plant is naturally soft and fluffy and cotton fabric retains that soft feel. Natural fibre: Cotton is made from cotton fibres, a natural plant based material. Absorbent: The space between cotton fibres means cotton is absorbent and can wick moisture from the skin.

Where is cotton grown the most? ›

The top cotton producing countries include China, India and the United States respectively. Within the United States, the Southern states traditionally harvest the largest quantities of cotton.

What climate does cotton grow in? ›

Cotton is native to semi-arid deserts and requires warm temperatures. Commercial cotton species are of tropical and sub-tropical origin, require large numbers of heat units to mature, and have fair levels of heat tolerance. However, cotton can be vulnerable to heat stress, especially during humid periods.

Is cotton natural or human made? ›

For example, cotton is a natural vegetable fiber obtained from the seed of the cotton plant and produced on the plant in bolls.

What are the 4 types of cotton? ›

Types of cotton
  • Upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum)
  • Egyptian cotton (Gossypium barbadense)
  • Cambric.
  • Canvas.
  • Corduroy.
  • Denim.
  • Flannel.
  • Gauze.

How was cotton first made? ›

Cotton seed are believed to have been planted in Florida in 1556 and in Virginia in 1607. By 1616, colonists were growing cotton along the James River in Virginia. Cotton was first spun by machinery in England in 1730.

What is cotton fabric used for? ›

Cotton is known for its versatility, performance and natural comfort. Cotton's strength and absorbency makes it an ideal fabric to make clothes and homewares, and industrial products like tarpaulins, tents, hotel sheets, army uniforms, and even astronauts' clothing choices when inside a space shuttle.

Which process is used for making fabric? ›

The two main processes of making fabric from yarn are weaving and knitting. Weaving - Weaving is the process of taking threads and making them into cloth. Weaving is the process of arranging two sets of yams together to make a fabric. It is most often done on looms.

What are the two main processes of making fabrics? ›

This brings the fibres together to form a yarn. The two main processes are weaving and knitting. Note: Weaving and knitting are used for making different kinds of fabric.

What are the four main steps in fabric production? ›

The first is the harvest and cleaning of the fiber or wool. The second is carding and spinning into threads. The third is to weave the threads into cloth. The fourth, and final step is to fashion and sew the cloth into clothes.

What is cotton made out of? ›

Cotton fibers are made of carbohydrates

Cotton, like most other plant fibers, is made of a carbohydrate called cellulose. Cellulose is a polymer made up of glucose, a type of sugar. Glucose is made in the leaves of the cotton plant, which are filled with bright green chloroplasts.

What is unique about cotton? ›

Cotton is the world's oldest natural fibre, dating back some 8,000 years.

Is there a tree that grows cotton? ›

Bombax ceiba, a plant species commonly known as cotton tree. Gossypium, the cotton plant, which can grow from a bush to a tree.

Does cotton really grow on trees? ›

Answer: Male cottonwood trees produce pollen, while the female trees produce the cotton. That cotton is an appendage to help disperse the cottonwood seeds so they do not fall at the base of the mother tree. Since the seed are the potential offspring, they are produced from the mother (female) tree.

How long does it take to grow cotton? ›

Cotton is fully mature and ready for harvesting approximately 160 days after being planted. Once the bolls have burst open, the farmers can prepare the cotton plants for harvesting. This occurs in mid-July for the southern parts of Texas, and in early September for the northern parts of the cotton belt.

What are the 5 properties of fabric? ›

Abrasive strength (the measure of rubbing action) Bursting strength (the measure of vertical pressure) Launder-ability (the measure of washing) Tearing strength.

What does properties of fabric mean? ›

Fabric properties are the characteristics of a specific fabric. The properties of woven fabrics are very different to the properties of knitted fabrics. Build up your knowledge of these properties to ensure that you always choose the right textile for your project.

What are the advantages of cotton properties? ›

The main features and benefits of cotton are:
  • Cotton is comfortable.
  • Cotton is naturally sustainable.
  • Cotton supports farmers and communities.
  • You sleep better with cotton.
  • Cotton is hypoallergenic.
  • Cotton is odour-free.
  • Cotton is low maintenance.
  • Cotton isn't clingy.

What property of material is fabric? ›

Textiles are specific types of materials characterised by a unique combination of properties including strength, flexibility, elasticity, softness, durability, heat insulation, low weight, water absorbency/repellence, dyeability and resistance to chemicals.

What are the 4 types of material properties? ›

Types of engineering material properties
  • Physical properties of materials. ...
  • Chemical properties of materials. ...
  • Thermal properties of materials. ...
  • Magnetic properties of materials. ...
  • Optical properties of materials. ...
  • Mechanical properties of materials.
Dec 20, 2021

What are 4 material properties? ›

The most common properties considered are strength, ductility, hardness, impact resistance, and fracture toughness. Most structural materials are anisotropic, which means that their material properties vary with orientation.

What are the 7 properties of materials? ›

Physical properties of materials
  • density.
  • melting point.
  • thermal conductivity.
  • electrical conductivity (resistivity)
  • thermal expansion.
  • corrosion resistance.

How do you identify material properties? ›

A description of some common mechanical and physical properties will provide information that product designers could consider in selecting materials for a given application.
  1. Conductivity.
  2. Corrosion Resistance.
  3. Density.
  4. Ductility / Malleability.
  5. Elasticity / Stiffness.
  6. Fracture Toughness.
  7. Hardness.
  8. Plasticity.

Why do we need to determine the properties of fabric? ›

The reason for requirements of such properties is because functional apparel are subjected to a wide range of end uses such that a garment will be affected by internal (fibres, yarn fineness, warp/weft movement, fabric density, thickness, fabric count) and external factors (external environment – exposure to sunlight, ...

Where is cotton grown? ›

Cotton is planted from March to June and harvested from August to December. Among the U.S. States, Texas is the largest producer, contributing approximately 40 percent of U.S. cotton production in recent years. Other top cotton producers include Georgia, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

What happens to cotton when it gets wet? ›

Even if the cotton does stay in the burr, or boll, and is not strung out, rain on open bolls could still cause costly damage. As the cotton burrs that are open become wet, they'll start to deteriorate, Yantis said. With that deterioration comes discoloration. It will stain the cotton and hurt your grade.

What material is fabric made of? ›

There are two types: natural and synthetic. Natural fibers are obtained from plants and animals. For example, cotton comes from plants while silk comes from silkworms. Synthetic fibers, on the other hand, are made entirely synthetic matter created by man.

How is fabric made short answer? ›

Fabrics are made from yarns, which in turn are made from fibres. Fibres are either natural or synthetic. Cotton, wool, silk and jute are some natural fibres, while nylon and polyester are some examples of synthetic fibres. Fibres like cotton and jute are obtained from plants.


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