Category Archives: Fabrics & Fibers

What Are The Symptoms Of Being Allergic To Cotton?

A cotton allergy is a very difficult affliction for anyone, and especially for those who enjoy T-shirts. Almost all T-shirts, as well as many other clothing items, are made of cotton and an allergy to it will greatly limit a person’s choice in clothes.

Because cotton typically produces a skin reaction, some of the most common symptoms of being allergic to cotton include:
–    itching
–    rashes
–    hives
It may also cause nasal congestion, a runny nose or itchy, watery eyes.

As with all allergies, a cotton allergy can come in a variety of different strengths of reactions. It could be just mildly irritating or causing occasional reactions or it may be very strong reactions that cause great discomfort and stress. Whatever the case, it is important to pinpoint the trigger and have ways to deal with it.

Many variables should also be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to risk it and wear a fabric you are allergic to. If you have other allergies, especially seasonal or environmental ones, you will want to limit exposure to other allergens if you plan to wear cotton. A shirt that might cause a strong reaction during allergy season might be perfectly fine to wear when your other allergies are not active.

If you suspect that you might be allergic to cotton, one of the first things you should do is be skeptical of the notion. Synthetic materials are much more likely to cause allergies than a natural product like cotton. However, there are of course many natural things that cause allergic reactions too. However, you should take comfort in the fact that it is more likely that you are allergic to something on the cotton than the cotton itself.

Many chemicals used in laundry products can cause allergic reactions. Therefore, you should switch to a mild type of laundry detergent, which is formulated to be sensitive enough for allergy sufferers. Airdry your items using no fabric softener. Using clothes laundered this way for a while will allow you to determine if it may indeed be your cleaning products instead of the cotton itself, which is responsible for your allergic reaction.

Another option you may want to consider is that there is something used in the production of cotton clothing and while the cotton is being grown, like pesticides, that is triggering the allergic reaction for you. To decide if that may be the case for you, the best way to check is to opt for organic cotton clothes for a while to see if your symptoms disappear. You can easily get a great selection of organic T-shirts by ordering custom-made ones.

Pima cotton

What is Pima Cotton? History & Information

Pima cotton

Pima cotton is a type of cotton that is mostly grown in the United States. Pima is a generic name given to extra long staple cotton. This extra-long staple cotton is a premium cotton meant that often competes with another extra-long staple cotton, Egyptian cotton.

The history of Pima cotton in the United States can be traced back to the 1700s. It was then that Sea Islands cotton was crossbred with Egyptian cotton to produce the first generation of the modern day extra-long staple cottons that we now have in the United States. In the early 1900’s, the government sponsored the USDA Pima Improvement Project.

This project made significant advances in Pima development, helping produce the Pima cottons we now see today. Originally Pima cotton was called American-Egyptian. U.S. growers decided to change the common name of the extra-long staple cotton to honor the Pima Indians.

Pima cotton is extra-long staple cotton. In order to be deemed extra-long staple, cotton must measure one and three-eights of an inch or longer. Pima cotton is a variety of upland cotton. Upland cotton, also known as Mexican cotton, is the most commonly grown cotton in the United States. Pima is stronger and longer than upland cotton, making it premium cotton.

Grown in the Southwestern United States, Pima cotton needs a hot, dry climate with plenty of sun to prosper. Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas are the chief Pima producing states due to their inviting climates with long growing seasons. While the growing of Pima cotton is not necessarily more expensive than growing other cottons, the ginning process is more expensive as the Pima must be roller ginned rather than saw ginned as is the traditional method.

Pima cotton accounts for just three percent of all the cotton produced each year in the United States. Pima is used to make fine yarns which will ultimately end up knitted or woven into luxury fabrics. As the United States’ textile mills are more in the business of medium or coarse yarn producers, more than 90 percent of Pima cotton is consumed overseas. South Asia is the location that imports the most U.S. grown Pima cotton. The United States does still use approximately 65,000 pounds of Pima per year.

Products made from Pima cotton are much stronger than products made of upland cotton. Pima cotton’s strength helps to improve any finished product’s durability and give it a longer life. Pima cotton, is extremely fine which allows more fibers to be spun into cloth. The more fibers in a cloth, the higher the thread count. And with a higher thread count comes greater softness.

Not all Egyptian cotton is extra-long staple, unlike Pima cotton. For cotton to earn the name Pima, it must measure be extra-long staple, but the label Egyptian cotton only guarantees that the cotton was made in Egypt. Egypt consumes the majority of cotton it produces, leaving it unable to keep up with worldwide demand. This lack of Egyptian supply helps create an ever-growing demand for Pima cotton.

Fabric dyes

What are Clothing Fabric Dyes Made Of?

Fabric dyes

There have been many things used over the centuries to dye fabric. Boiled shellfish, plants, mud and just about anything else with a strong pigment has been used to change the color of fabric. By the middle of the 1800s, people started to create chemicals that mimicked the effects of natural dyes. These chemical substitutes are what are most often used today to dye our fabrics. Some dyes are still taken from plants, and some dyes are mixtures of synthetic chemicals and natural plant dyes. There are also a number of natural dyes used today to keep up with the public demand for more natural products.

Many of the dyes used today come from chemicals that are taken from petroleum or from coal. These chemicals can be used to synthesize more natural plant-based dyes that were once used. For instance, to dye a pair of jeans used to be done with the indigo plant which could be used to create indigo fabric dye. Today, synthetic indigo dye is made with a combination of caustic soda, sodium phenylglycinate and sodamide to form a chemical called indoxyl. The sodium phenylglycinate in the mixture is made from a chemical made in another chemical process by adding ammonia to a chemical called chlorobenzene. This process begins with another chemical that can come from either petroleum or coal. Because petroleum and coal are both inexpensive, many fabric dyes are currently made in a similar fashion.

There are a number of different classifications for these synthetic dyes. One type is called aniline dye, though these dyes are not made from aniline anymore. Like the synthetic indigo dye, they come from either petroleum or coal. Cotton clothing is most often dyed with either reactive dyes, direct dyes or sulfur dyes. Clothing made from nylon usually colored with acid dyes. Clothing made from modacrylic or acrylic are generally colored with basic dyes. Clothing made from polyester or acetate are usually colored with disperse dyes.

Natural dyes are becoming popular again because of their lesser impact on the environment. These dyes are often plant-based or made from insects. A natural crimson dye is made from cochineal insects and makes up the carmine natural dye that is called natural red 4 in the dye industry. The logwood tree is the source of the black hematein dye that makes up natural black 1. Lac is a substance created by a number of different insects, and it can be used to make a red dye that is known as natural red 25.

In addition to these natural chemicals, using a natural dye to color a fabric usually requires that metallic salts are used along with the dye to make the fabric keep the color longer and to keep it from fading with washing and with exposure to sunlight. Synthetic dyes generally last longer and don’t fade as quickly as natural dyes, which makes the salt important for maintaining the quality of the natural dye. Natural dyes, like synthetic dyes, must be proven safe for humans before they can be used on commercial fabrics.


How Cotton is Grown


Cotton is grown around the world in approximately eighty countries. It’s interesting to learn just how cotton is grown. There are two primary methods for growing cotton, the no-till method or the tilling method. The no-till method is also referred to conservation tillage, as it helps to preserve the integrity of the land by preventing erosion.

Planning is required before cotton is grown. Careful thought and consideration should be given to the land selected for planting to increase chances for a successful crop. An irrigation plan needs to be in place. Seed and equipment need to be ready for planting.

The no-till method allows cotton seeds to be planted right through the litter atop the soil by using special farm equipment designed just for this purpose. The machines that plant the cotton are called planters. Specially designed ones make no till planting possible.

With the traditional tilling or plowing method, the farmer tills the carefully chosen land. When plowing the land, mounded rows are created that the seeds are deposited into. The problem with tilling the soil is that it leads to further soil erosion, which takes its toll on the environment over time.

The time to plant cotton varies depending on the planting zone the farmer lives in.
Cotton should be planted as early as possible in spring, but no sooner than the last chance of frost has passed.  Cotton should not be planted before the ground has started to warm up. As cotton has a long growing season, but needs sunny days to thrive, it is best to try to plant as early as possible.

Once the soil is prepared, the seeding is done with man made mechanical planters. These machines which are how cotton is grown can seed as many as 10 to 24 rows at a time.  Machinery like this saves the farmer much time and helps to increase cotton production.

The way that cotton is grown is that the machine planter creates a narrow trench in every row. The seed is dropped into the trench and covered back up with soil which is packed down by the planter. Seeds are spaced in a uniform fashion either clumped or placed individually.

Seedlings begin to appear typically about five days after planting has taken place. In about 2 months’ time, flower buds should begin to appear on the cotton plants. Approximately three weeks later, the blossoms should start to open up. At this time the flower petals begin to change color from a creamy white to yellow, then to pink and finally to dark red. After three days of remaining red, they will shrivel up and fall off, leaving behind green pods which are known as bolls.

Within each boll, the cotton fibers grow and push their way out. As the boll gets ready to be close to ripening, it turns brown. Eventually the expanding fibers break the boll apart and the cotton candy looking cotton comes bursting out. The crop is harvested by picking machines in the United States.

For more information on cotton visit:

image credit: flydime

Cotton Absorbency – How Does it Compare to Other Fabrics

Cotton is by far one of the most absorbent textiles ever produced. It can hold many times its weight in water. In fact, it is used in the fabrication of not only clothes, but other products that are used to absorb liquid, more so than any other material. It is the fibers that make up cotton that causes it to absorb water. Natural fabrics tend to be much more absorbent and more comfortable than synthetic fabrics. The looseness of the fibers of the natural fabric also allow for it to be more breathable, making it a better choice for your skin.

Cotton is much more absorbent than many other fabrics because of its molecular structure. The arrangement of the molecules in cotton creates an abundance of places for water to be attracted to. Other fabrics, especially synthetic ones, have fewer places for water molecules to bond to, therefore even though other fabrics will attract and hold some water, they do not have the capacity to absorb like cotton fibers.

Cotton is better than almost all fabrics at absorbency, although other natural fabrics like linen and wool are also absorbent. Nylon, polyester and acrylic are poor in terms of absorbency. They do not absorb moisture and are uncomfortable to wear when you get wet. Acetate, rayon and the newest fabric, lyocell, which is referred to as a rayon subcategory, all have good absorbency. Some of the literature on lyocell claims that it is even more absorbent than cotton.

If you are looking for an item of clothing that will absorb sweat from your body allowing you to stay cool and comfortable while exercising or in hot weather, cotton is a good choice. Some synthetic fabrics are likely to dry quickly and as thus are touted as good choices for layers while exercising. However, these clothes do not let your skin breathe properly and you run the risk of fungal infections and the like. If you are looking for softness, absorbency and the ability to breathe in your fabric of choice, natural cotton is definitely the way to go.

About California Cotton

California cotton is a big industry for the state. Cotton production in accounts for roughly $3.5 billion dollars annually pumped into California’s economy. Over 20,000 people are employed directly in the production of cotton. Approximately 137,000 additional jobs are created indirectly as a result of the California cotton industry.

Cotton is grown in California in three main regions including the San Joaquin Valley, Southern Desert Valleys and the Sacramento Valley. The San Joaquin Valley is the primary cotton growing spot, featuring seven counties which are major cotton producers. Fresno County is the number one cotton growing county in California.

California offers a wonderful climate that is near ideal for optimum cotton growth. The warm sun is plentiful during much of the year in California which affords cotton the long growing season it needs. The soil in certain regions of California is fertile, well draining, yet can still hold water well, making it ideal for cotton. The dry California climate is perfect for growing cottons like Pima.

At its peak, California featured 1.5 million acres of cotton farmland. California cotton growing has been on the decline. In California, cotton crops are being replaced by pistachios, almonds, walnuts, grapes, alfalfa, and corn crops instead. California cotton is still the state’s second most valuable crop.

Of those growers who still plant cotton, many have been electing to grow extra-long staple crops of Pima cotton, as it is in high demand and can command premiums prices per pound. In fact, California is the largest Pima cotton growing area in the United States.
As a result, California grows much of the best cotton in the world.

Currently there are around 60 active cotton gins remaining in California.,1963 was the peak year with 299 active cotton gins in California. While the numbers do reflect a decline, each gin also becomes more efficient and more productive as time goes on.

California produces approximately 2 to 2.5 million bales of cotton per year. There are about 1400 farms growing cotton in California on an average of 500 acres per farm. California is frequently the second highest producing state yearly. California cotton makes up about 10 to 14 percent of cotton production nationally in the United States. The yields of California cotton are extremely impressive as compared to a national average of 615 pounds of cotton per planted acre. California farms produce 1300 pounds per acre.

Cotton is an annual crop in California, being planted anew each spring. California cotton is typically planted beginning in March and completed by May 1st. California cotton is fully irrigated and is picked by machines. The majority, approximately 80 to 85 percent of California cotton will be shipped overseas to Southeast Asia.

Many types of products are made from the processed cotton that is produced in California. Typical products include dresses, high quality shirts and premium quality bedding. California’s Pima cottons are used for very fine, luxury fabrics. 600,000 tons of cottonseeds, a crop byproduct, are produced each year in California. 95% of this California cottonseed is fed to cattle. The rest is made into cottonseed oil.

How the Cotton Gin Works

The cotton gin which was invented by Eli Whitney in 1793 was a revolutionary machine.
The term gin comes from the abbreviation for the word engine. The cotton gin changed the entire cotton growing industry. Prior to the cotton gin’s invention, workers had to pick out seed pods and seeds from the cotton by hand. This method was extremely tedious and unproductive. Each worker was only able to produce one pound of clean cotton a day this way.

Once the cotton gin came into service, production increased dramatically. A cotton gin could produce 55 pounds of clean cotton a day or 55 times that of a human worker. Such a dramatic increase in production had a huge impact on the industry, making cotton much more profitable to grow.

The cotton gin is actually a pretty simple machine. Cotton grows in what are known as bolls. First the cotton bolls are fed into the top of the machine. Inside the cotton gin there is a rotating wooden roller that has small spiky wire teeth hammered into it. The wooden cylinder is rotated by cranking it. When the cylinder rotates, the teeth snare the cotton fibers of the boll and pull the fiber strands through a grate. The slots in this grate are set too close together for cotton seeds to pass through. The fibers are stripped away from the seeds. Basically, the seeds are combed out of the cotton.

Cotton production rose significantly thanks to the cotton gin. In 1792 180,000 pounds of cotton were produced. Just two years later 6 million pounds were produced, thanks to the cotton gin. Eventually there came to be water and horse powered versions of the cotton gin which increased cotton yield even further.

Cotton cloth had been very expensive before the invention of the cotton gin. Afterwards, cotton cloth became the top selling textile in the world. Cotton was affordable and became the number one cash crop in the United States. The cotton gin really helped to change our nation, and the world, as it encouraged more cotton growth down South and factory growth in the Northeast and England.

Unfortunately Eli Whitney was not able to patent his design for several years after his initial invention. Many copied his design, resulting in Whitney not profiting from the cotton gin nearly as much as he could have. Planters bought gins to process cotton grown on the plantation. Factories were created to house gins and process the cotton.

Modern day cotton gins still operate with the same basic concept that Eli Whitney devised. However, additional services have been added to the original cotton gin design. Now gins can dry the cotton, moisturize it, sort it, clean it and bale it into bundles, getting the cotton completely ready for sale.

These steps have expedited the cotton trade for the modern grower. Nowadays the cotton gin is a one stop shop for cotton processing. Thanks to electric power and high velocity air blasting, fully automated modern cotton gins are able to produce 15 tons of cleaned cotton per hour.

How Much Hotter is a Black Shirt that a White One?

You may have heard that wearing a black shirt will make you hotter than wearing a white shirt or a lighter colored shirt. This is true because the darker the color of a shirt is, the more light and heat it will absorb into the fabric. It will also heat up far faster than a shirt that is a lighter color. This will change the way you feel in a black shirt in many different conditions, depending on how much sunlight you actually get.

If you are indoors and you are not in the sunlight, you will not notice a difference in your temperature. Indoor lighting will not be enough to make you feel hotter in a black T-shirt. If you are indoors and are sitting in a window, you may feel a difference, however. The direct sunlight shining on your black T-shirt will rapidly heat it up and make you feel hotter far faster than you would have felt otherwise. The difference between wearing a black T-shirt and a lighter colored T-shirt will often depend on how hot the sun is and how long you’re sitting in it. If you sit in that window for a few minutes and the sky is overcast, you likely will not notice much of a difference at all. However, if on a hot and sunny day you spend a lot of time in front of this window; you may not be able to tolerate it after just a couple of minutes.

When you are outdoors, the same principle applies. How much hotter you are in a black T-shirt will depend on where you are located, how much sunlight is on you and how long you spend in the sunlight. If you are in the shade, even on a hot day, you will generally not notice much of a difference based on what color shirt is. A black shirt will feel the same as any other colored shirt in this case. Just being in hot weather without being in sunlight will not take a black T-shirt any hotter than any other T-shirt. However, if you venture out of the sunlight, the sunlight will quickly be absorbed by your T-shirt and you will very rapidly fill your shirts start to heat up. If the sky is overcast, this will happen more slowly if at all.

There are a few times when this does not apply, however. If you are on the beach or out on the water, the sunlight may be reflected up from the sand or water and it may heat up your T-shirt just as quickly as if you were out under the direct sunlight. You may have noticed that sitting under an umbrella on the beach does not protect you from sunburn. The same is true if you are out in a boat. The sunlight will reflect off the sand or water just like it would off the surface of a mirror and can result in sunburn and a very hot black T-shirt if you’re wearing one.

A Very Brief History of Cotton

The history of cotton is ancient. Cotton has been grown for thousands of years. There is documentation that cotton was growing on the Earth before Christ was born.  Historians have been able to determine that cotton was growing on the Earth at least seven thousand years ago. The oldest location cotton has been found was in Mexico. Inside an ancient cave there were tiny bits of cotton bolls and of cotton cloth.

The history of cotton dates back to around 3000 BC in Pakistan. Archaeologists unearthed tiny cotton fragments there on digs. Historical documents from India mention cotton in writings dating as far back as 1500 BC.  The consensus for some time seems to have been that the cultivation of cotton began in India. As mentioned earlier, cotton has been found in other parts of the world, dating further back, but those areas are believed to have been sightings of wild cotton. Cotton does grow wild in some parts of the world.

The history of cotton in the United States dates back to the American Indians. There is documentation as far back as the 1500’s and the Coronado expedition to America that speaks of cotton crops. In 1556 Spanish settlers raised a crop of cotton in Florida. In 1607 the first cotton seed was planted by colonists along the James River in Virginia.

In the early 1700’s, it was against the law, to either import or manufacture cloth from cotton in England. This was during the height of the British Empire.  This law was put into effect to help protect the English wool industry.

While American colonists knew how to grow cotton, they lacked what they needed mechanically to maximize production. In 1790 Samuel Slater came to America. Slater had been a cotton mill worker in England. Upon his arrival, Slater constructed the first American cotton mill strictly from his memory of the mill he worked at back in England.

The cotton mill was a move in the right direction, but cotton was still so slow to clean. Production was limited as a result. Eli Whitney recognized this fact and saw a desperate need for a better way beyond hand cleaning to remove the cotton fibers from the seed.  In 1793, he invented the cotton gin. This invention sped up the separation process of removing the cotton from the seed so dramatically that it revolutionized the industry.

Prior to the cotton gin being invented, only one pound could be cleaned per day per worker. A cotton gin could clean 55 pounds of cotton per day. This increase in cotton production completely revolutionized the cotton industry worldwide and is easily one of the most important contributions to the history of cotton.
In 1850 an automated picking machine was invented. Shortly afterwards a stripper machine that could remove bolls and other trash from the plant before picking was introduced. These advancements continued to improve cotton production in a huge way, changing the history of cotton, making it an even more important cash crop worldwide.

Bamboo Fabric Facts – What Makes Bamboo so Great

Bamboo is one of nature’s most sustainable resources. Therefore to many it makes a perfect “green” material for creating fabric and other constructive materials. Bamboo offers many natural components, unlike other fabrics which are beneficial to the wearer.

Unlike many other crops grown for fibers, bamboo is quite unique in that it grows so easily and quickly without requiring the use of harmful pesticides. Bamboo can grow 24 to 36 inches in a single day. This rapid growth allows for ample supply of bamboo to be feasible, especially for an organic fiber.

As a woven textile, bamboo retains many of same qualities that make it so very unique as a plant. Bamboo is extremely absorbent. In plant form, bamboo is able to soak up and store three times its weight in water. In fabric terms, this absorbency power means cloth with excellent wicking capability.

Wicking is the ability of a fabric to pull moisture away from skin so that it can evaporate into the air. Outdoor wear is often touted for its excellent wicking ability. Items such as hiking socks or undershirts should be able to wick well.

Due to its excellent wicking component, bamboo fabric is great for items worn in close contact with the skin. Bamboo fabric helps to keep you feeling cool even in the hottest weather. Bamboo also prevents stickiness too, which is great for humid climates.

Bamboo has a natural component, known as bamboo kuhn or kun, that is a built-in antibacterial agent. The fabric form of bamboo retains this amazing quality which means that the fabric does not have to be treated with chemicals like most fabrics. Bamboo fabric retains this antibacterial characteristic even through repeated washings.

This natural anti-bacterial ability kills bacteria that usually thrive on clothing, particularly moist clothing. Clothing tends to get damp with perspiration, particularly during summer months and cause unpleasant odors to form. Bamboo works two ways to prevent this from occurring. One, moisture is wicked away by the bamboo, reducing the moisture problem to begin with. Secondly, any remaining odor causing bacteria are destroyed by the kuhn which acts as a natural microbial agent.

To add to its versatility, bamboo fabric also features insulating properties which help to keep the wearer cooler in summer and warmer in winter. You can physically feel the fabric and notice the difference in the coolness or warmth by touching it, as it gets about two to three degrees cooler or warmer than the air surrounding it.

Bamboo feels like silk when wearing it. This silkiness lends to it being a very easy fabric to both drape and wear, making it very desirable for designers to work with. Bamboo fabric also has the ability to block UV rays 417 times better than cotton fabric.

Transgenic Cotton

Transgenic Cotton Doesn’t Mean Less Expensive T-Shirts

Transgenic Cotton

Transgenic cotton, aka a genetically engineered cotton has its own insecticide within the plant with the goal of eliminating the need for additional measures to control the pink bollworm, saltmarsh caterpillars, and beet armyworms. The hope for the cotton variety was to reduce the risks and costs, as well as increase yields to farmers who grow cotton. Many farmers are adopting such varieties and by 1998 over 45% of U.S. cotton was grown with transgenic mechanisms.

Bt cotton (insect resistant cotton) is one type of transgenic cotton was developed by Monsanto ten years ago. After its release Monsanto authorized seed companies to develop cotton varieties with the patented gene. The first Bt cotton varieties were available commercially in 1996 and was hoped to significantly reduce risk and costs to farmers.

However, a recent four year study by researchers at the University of Georgia and the US Department of Agriculture in the Agronomy Journal found that transgenic cotton offers no advantage to farmers. Researchers suggested that farmers should choose their variety (transgenic or non-transgenic) based on their location however many seed companies are reducing the variety of non-transgenic varieties making it difficult for farmers to use non-transgenic types. For more information on the study check out the Institute of Science in Society, find facts on cotton at or read about transgenic cotton at University of Arizona College of Agriculture. Via: Envirovore