Cotton

Cotton Shirting (Courtesy of gorgeousfabrics.com)Description : The term "cotton" is used to describe the plant, the fibre extracted from the plant and the fabric created from the fibre. The fabric is a stable, woven fabric that is easy to sew, and hence ideal for beginners. It is comfortable, durable, but also highly flammable, burning with a yellow flame and leaving fluffy ash (this information is used to distinguish cotton from other fibres when the fibre content of a fabric is unknown). It has high moisture absorbency, conducts heat well (making it a great fabric for summer wear) and resists abrasion, moths and pilling. It does not hold a static electric charge. Cotton is stronger wet than dry, unlike many other fabrics, but it has little elasticity and wrinkles easily. The quality of cotton fabric depends on the fineness of the fibre used to make it, its color and brightness, and the absence of other materials, such as sizing. Better quality cottons tend to be softer as a result (the use of sizing as a finish stiffens the fabric).
Cotton Bolls (Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)Fabrication : Cotton filaments are extracted from the soft white envelope (called the boll) that surrounds the seeds on the cotton plant. The longest cotton fibres are about 6.5 cm. Through a process of spinning, usually done by machine, the filaments are transformed into a continuous yarn. The longer the fibres, the higher the quality of the cotton. The yarns may in turn by plied or twisted together to form a multiple-ply yarn. The yarn is then woven to form cotton fabric of which there are many different kinds.
Subtypes : shiny cotton, a processed form that gives a satin-like sheen but is less absorbant; Egyptian cotton, a very fine grade of cotton with especially long fibres; organic cotton, grown without pesticides and not genetically modified; mercerized cotton, a processed form that gives a lustrous appearance to the fibre, strengthens it, gives it a better dye absorption and resistance to mildew, but increases its susceptibility to attracting lint.
Blue cotton lawn (Courtesy of fashionistafabrics.com)Dyes, color treatment and washing characteristics : Cotton fabric has a tendency to shrink and therefore should be washed and pre-shrunk before incorporated into garments. It picks up dirt easily, and the dirt may become fixed in place - therefore cotton garments should be washed frequently. Cotton may need to be dry-cleaned if certain dyes or finishes are used - otherwise, the fabric can simply be laundered. Most cottons are color-fast, but it is always safer to separate the light colors and wash these in warm water, from the dark colors which should be washed in cold water. White cottons with no specialized finish can normally be bleached if this is necessary. Colors may fade under prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Draping properties : Cotton drapes well, although with a certain feeling of heaviness. It should be noted, however, that different cotton fabrics will have different draping properties, ranging from medium to low.
Cutting properties : Try to determine which side is the right side and mark this side on all cut-out pieces so you can keep track. The face side is usually brighter, smoother, and has less imperfections - sometimes, you can tell by looking at the selvage which is smoother on the face side. Or you can decide which side you like best, and choose that as the face side - however, be consistent and mark this on all cut-out pattern pieces. It is possible to straighten fabric that is bought slightly off-grain if these are pure cotton and do not have a special finish. Fold the fabric lengthwise with right sides together in preparation for cutting. Pressing should be done by passing the iron lengthwise along the grain, not across the grain. It should be done with a hot dry iron on slightly dampened fabric. For cotton blends use a less hot iron. Cotton can be damaged by pins - therefore use superfine pins and keep pins within the seam allowance.
Sewing challenges : Sewing challenges will depend on the particular kind of fabric used.
Example creations : "Susan" blouse, Pleated handbag, Summer dress, Plaid dress, Dirndl, Black jacket, Crochet top, Poplin skirt, Underbust corset, Green khaki pants, Dark brown "Steffi" jacket,
Uses worldwide : Cotton is used to make broadcloth; broderie; calico; canvas; chambray, used to manufacture blue work shirts; cheesecloth; chintz; cottons; cotton lawn; corduroy; denim for jeans; damask; dobby; drill; gauze; gingham; muslin; poplin; sailcloth; sateen; seersucker, often used for men's shirts; terrycloth, a fabric with a thick and water absorbant pile; cotton twill and voile. It is also used to make yarn and thread.
Origins and history :
Wikipedia reference

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