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Cotton - Fashion History Through Textiles Unit Study 3

Updated on November 8, 2014

Module 3 - Cotton

In module 3 of the Fashion History Through Textiles unit study you can study the cotton plant. Find out how it grows, how it is harvested and how it is made into cloth. Delve into the history of plantations, slaves and the cotton gin. With information and activities to combine fun and education this brief study of cotton in fashion can supplement any lesson plan!

What is Cotton

Cotton is a natural fiber that grows on cotton plants. It is one of the most widely used natural fibers. Fibers of the cotton plant are called raw cotton which is made into textiles and then clothing. Cotton plants grow in the sub-tropics which are warm areas of the world just north and south of the equator.

Did You Know?

There are about 50 000 fibers in a single cotton boll.

Harvesting, Ginning and Cloth Production

Cotton must be harvested before the weather can damage or ruin the crop. Spindle pickers, strippers and a cotton gin (short for engine) rare all used in cotton production.

Did You Know?

Modules are compacted units of cotton that are shaped like a giant loaf of bread and can weigh up to 25 000 pounds (11340 kg).

Cotton History : Ancient civilizations

Cotton fibers were grown, spun and woven into cloth by peoples living in India, South America, Africa and Mexico as early as 3000 BCE.

By the 600s CE trade routes from India to Venice, Italy were controlled by Arab traders. These traders travelled across the deserts by camel caravans. They sold a fine cloth called muslin and a colourful printed fabric called calico. From India, cotton spread to Persia, Egypt, the Middle East and eventually Europe.

Did You Know?

The earliest method of dyeing cotton was developed in India. Cotton cloth was soaked in animal urine or dung in order to make the dye stick to the fabric.

Cotton industry - United States

Founders of the first colony in the United States, Jamestown Virginia, planted cotton among their other crops in 1607. By the late 1600s farmers in Virginia and North and South Carolina were exporting cotton to other colonies. By the 1800s, millions of pounds of cotton were being exported to England. This increase was mainly due to the invention of the Cotton Gin.

Did You Know?

The Cotton Gin could allow the worker to pull 50 times more cotton fiber from the seed than they did by hand.

Cotton history -boll weevil

American cotton accounted for 60% of the world's cotton. But by the 1900s, the cotton industry was drastically downsized. In 1892 the boll weevil, an insect that attacks cotton plants, found its way to Texas from Central America.

Did You Know?

The female boll weevil can lay 100 to 300 eggs at a time.

Cotton industry - clothing

Cotton is a popular clothing fabric due to its many qualities. It is a versatile, soft, breathable, comfortable and durable fiber which has found uses in clothing from underwear to overcoats. In the late 1700s American factories began producing a fabric from cotton they called denim. Denim blue jeans began to be popular in large part because of the California Gold Rush. In Europe, after the industrial revolution made cotton an affordable, mass produced fabric, it was also determined that it was the best fabric for underwear.

Did You Know?

A patent in the 1850s would cost a fee of $68.00 which was like the price of a piano today!

Try it yourself!

Find out more about the history of cotton when you download the full unit study. The combined information and fun activities can supplement a lesson or be a lesson in itself.

For the complete unit study message us through hedremp at yahoo dot ca

Comments on my page? - Thanks for reading!

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens - thought I knew all about cotton but you pulled a few new facts for me there!

    • LeCordonDude profile image


      7 years ago

      Don't forget Berkshire Hathaway in the Cotton and Textiles lens!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Superbly presented.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I grew up as a "textile brat" meaning that my dad worked in the textile industry and miss all the old cotton mills around.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      7 years ago from Royalton

      Great overview of your unit study!


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