The Aesthetic Properties of Cotton
Cotton is the most used textile in the world today. It is a natural, cellulosic fiber and is grown in 80 different countries, and distributed in many more (Hegde). So what is so amazing about this fabric that it is a favorite among the world's population? Not only is it the comfort, versatility, and availability, but also, simply, the way it looks.
Throughout history, people have been amazed at this natural fiber, which shares properties with wool at its abundance and versatility. In 1350 John Mandeville wrote about the cotton he first saw in India. He said, "There, in India grew, a wonderful tree which bore tiny lambs on the ends of its branches. These branches were so pliable that they bent down to allow the lambs to feed when they are hungry" (Cotton Textiles). Soon, the whole world was in on the production of this mysterious fiber, which felt like fur and grew on trees.
Before cotton is made into textile, before spun into yarn, and before put through the gin, one of its aesthetic properties, its color, can determine if it is too be used or not. According to research done at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the color of cotton sample is decided by its degree of reflectance and its yellowness. The degree of reflectance is how bright the sample is, and the yellowness shows the amount of pigmentation. There are also other colors of cotton besides yellow, which include white, gray, tinged, and spotted. When the color of the unprocessed cotton fades, the ability to process the cotton is diminished (Hegde).
To be used in a fashion property, before it is spun cotton can be mercerized. This is a way to strengthen the material, and can also give it a silkier appearance. The process swells the cross-section of the fibers so that the feel and appearance are improved (Cotton Textiles).
Once woven, the aesthetic importance of cotton changes from simply the usability of the fibers to the versatility of both how it is finished and what is can be used for.
Cotton has great color retention. This means, that once dyed the color will not fade easily. A simple search on google.com for the phrase "color retention of cotton" will bring up results from stores like JC Penny and Western Uniform to Motorcycle companies and furniture outlets selling items made of cotton and using its color retention as a selling point.
Not only is cotton color retention superb, but it is also easy to print on. Screen-printing, digital printing, and inkjet printing are all popular ways to print on this textile. Another Google search looking for "printing cotton" and one will find thousands of companies offering to print anything you want on cotton in a number of ways, for a relatively cheap price.
On top of its retention for color and printing, cotton is also very easy to drape. These characteristics of cotton turn it from a multipurpose fabric into a fabric used in fashion. Designs of this fabric are varied, from furniture, to dresses, to bed sheets, and more. The ability of this fiber to be manipulated in so many ways, to have the capability to be turned into something beautiful, is the reason why cotton has both practical, and superfluous aesthetic appeal. This is only one of the reasons why it is the most used fabric in the world.
Hegde, Raghavendra R., Atul Dahiya, and M. G. Kamath. "Cotton Fibers." Material Science and Engineering. Apr. 2004. University of Tennessee, Knoxville. 20 Sept. 2008 <http://www.engr.utk.edu/mse/pages/textiles/cotton%20fibers.htm>.
"Cotton Textiles." Indianetzone Textiles. 20 Sept. 08 <http://textiles.indianetzone.com/1/cotton.htm>.
By Abby Edsall
"The Touch, the Feel, of Cotton"
From the beginning cotton has impacted the way we live our lives. Cotton has been used for many years and makes up about 56% of all fibers used in clothing, and home furnishings in the United States. Cotton is a soft and natural producing plant fiber that is the most utilized fiber crop plant used around the world. Not only is it the most used, it is one of the most comfortable, versatile and durable of all plant fibers. A cottons blend and grade can change its aesthetic properties that is why is can be easily used to make a variety of products.
Cotton is a very versatile fabric and that explains why it has many different aesthetic properties. It is one of the most used fabrics because of its smooth hand and comfort. Cotton also has the ability to retain 24-27 times its own weight in water thus making it more comfortable to wear. The cottons ability to be hydrophilic also contributes to its good color retention. Some other properties that cotton has are its pleasant matte luster and soft drape. Cottons most common use is in T-shirts but developers from Cotton Inc. are concentrating on attracting women in the high fashion industry by advertising cottons comfort but with the aesthetics of other natural luxury fibers.
Although cotton has a low retention level and can wrinkle easily, many cotton garments on the market have been treated with wrinkle resistant finishes or blended with other fibers to reduce the need to iron the garments. This makes it easy for people in our fast paced world today to look good in cotton clothes without having to pay a lot of money or time arranging them. These are just a few of the aesthetic properties of cotton and how it has become one of the most used and enjoyed fabric in the world today.
"Fabric Development: Bringing Out the Luxurious Side of Cotton." Cotton Incorporated. Cotton Inc. Sept. 2008 <http://www.cottoninc.com>.
Hegde, Raghavendra R. "COTTON FIBERS." Apr. 2004. Sept. 2008 <http://www.engr.utk.edu>.
Willbanks/ VP Marketing and Sales, Amy. "COTTON." Fabrics.Net. Apr. 2001. Textile Fabric Consultants, Inc. Sept. 2008 <http://fabrics.net>.
By Amelia Fisher
Copyright © 2008 Department of Textile and Apparel Management
University of Missouri
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