Get To Know Your Cotton; Fun Facts

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I recently attended an organic cotton event where one of the cotton growers had grown red cotton and was trying to discover the demand for it. I left surprised that there had once been four standard colors of cotton - green, brown, red and tan.   Here are some other fun things to discover about cotton:

  • Naturally colored cotton originated about 5000 years ago in the Andes.  Most of the naturally colored cotton that exists is attributed to having been created by indigenous peoples of South America.  By the 1990's most of all of the colored cotton cultivated in South America, Central America, Africa and Asia had been replaced with white commercial varieties.   The cultivating of naturally colored cotton is now relatively rare. 
  • Cotton flowers are bisexual, meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs and can thus self pollinate.
  • Cotton is one of the oldest known fibers in history and has been harvested, spun and woven in the same way around the world.  It may have existed in Egypt as early as 12,000 BC.
  • European and American currencies are made of cotton.  U.S. currency paper is made of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen.   Crane and Company has supplied the U.S. Treasury with currency paper since 1879.
  • Cotton fibers vary in length and color, and determine the grade of the cotton.  The longer the length the better.  Short staple cotton which make up 85% of production is up to 1 1/8" long, long staple fiber is between 1 1/8" and 1 1/4" long and  extra-long staple fiber is between 1 3/8"and 2" long.  The longer the fiber the softer and more durable it's considered.  Pima cotton, Egyptian cotton, and Sea Island cotton (extra rare) are all extra long staple. 
  • Confused about organic cotton?  Organic cotton uses non-GMO seeds, no toxic chemicals in its production.  Conventional cotton accounts for 16% of worldwide pesticide and 7% of the world's insecticide usage.  Organic cotton preserves natural ecosystems and is healthier for farmers.
  • Organic cotton makes up less than 1% of cotton produced.  The average organic cotton farmer farms about 11 acres, which is relatively small. 
  • Why cotton towels? Cotton can absorb up to 27 times its own weight in water.
  • In 1905 the Wright Brothers covered the wings of their aircraft in cotton they considered it so durable. 
  • And finally, cotton candy is not made of cotton! :)