What is Cotton?
Cotton, like linen, is a cellulose fiberit comes from a plant. Cotton fiber is culled from the downy fibrous matter that surrounds the seed pod, or boll, of the plant. Linen, on the other hand, is a bast fiber taken from an inner layer of the stem of the flax plant. Here’s some more information on linen, and why both of these vegetable fibers are great for warm weather.
The boll of a cotton plant is ready for harvesting 40 to 70 days from its formation. After picking, the seeds are separated from the fiber in the boll and put to use in a variety of ways. The remaining fiber is processed in a cotton gin. Then carded and sometimes combed before it’s spun into yarn.
The cotton plant consists of a large variety of species of Gossypium, but today, only four of these species are used to supply the world’s commercial cotton. Like sheep that are bred to develop fleece with certain qualities, cotton plants have also been developed to produce desirable traits. The smooth, lustrous hand of Egyptian and Sea Island cotton make them the finest in the world.
Sea Island cotton, another fine and lustruous kind of cotton, was brought to Egypt in 1825 and crossbread with the existing plants. After many refinements, Egyptian cotton has become the fiber we know and love today.
Egyptian cotton is considered an extra-long staple cotton. (The staple is the length of the fiber). The longer the fiber strand, the stronger, smoother, and silkier the yarn will be when spun.
Tips for knitting with cotton:
Cotton, unlike wool, has little or no elasticity. It also tends to be heavy, relative to animal fibers, especially in a worsted or bulky weight. Sweaters embellished with cables and dense texture patterns that use a lot of yarn should be avoided. They’ll stretch lengthwise and begin to droop with wear. A wash will help restore their shape temporarily, but over time a bath will cease to be a remedy. Stick to smaller projects that use less yarn and avoid Aran designs.