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Understanding Cotton

Knowing Quality Cotton Fabric

As sewists, cotton is a fabric we use constantly. It sews easily, accepts patterns and dye that produces wonderful fabrics, and results in wearable items or household goods that are easy to maintain and wear well. Yet as sewists, we also know that there can be a huge difference in the quality of cotton fabrics. The type of cotton fabric doesn’t usually tell you its quality. There is cotton lawn, and there is good cotton lawn. So how do you tell the difference?

Understanding types of cotton is the first step toward finding the quality you desire. All cotton fabric comes from the cotton plant. There are over 50 species of cotton, but only 4 are grown commercially. Gossypium hirsutum and Gossypium barbadense are called New World species and account for about 95% and 3% of world production respectively. G. arboreum and G. herbaceum are called Old World or Asiatic cottons and are grown commercially in India, Pakistan and parts of South-east Asia, accounting for about 2% of world production. Asiatic cottons are typically shorter and coarser.