Cotton is the most widely used known fibre. There is evidence that cotton was grown in Egypt about 12000BC and India 3000BC. Cotton was indigenous to North and South America, as well as Asia and Africa, with evidence that fabrics were made from cotton around 2500BC in Peru.
There are many countries producing cotton including Russia and America. The word cotton is derived from the Arabic word, quoton or qutun.
The cotton plant is a member of the Mallow family and there are several species. It grows best in hot humid climates, with wet and dry seasons flowering approximately 100 days after being sown from seed. The pretty flower dies after two days, leaving the seed pod which bursts open 50-80 days after flowering, revealing the fleecy cotton fibres which are ready for picking. Flowers appear over a long period of time, so there is a long harvesting / picking season.
Originally picked by hand, cotton is now harvested mechanically, although some hand picking of high quality cotton still remains. The picked cotton is ginned (passed though a shaker) to separate the cotton fibre from the seed and then classed/graded. Cotton fibres are white, short, non-lustrous and uniform, more so than other plant fibres. Sea-Island and Egyptian cotton are the longest variety compared to shorter varieties of upland origins. Cotton is used for many purposes and is relatively inexpensive. Care of this fibre is easy.