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Natural Fibers

Cultivation And Processing Of Cotton

Cotton cultivation requires a warm, humid climate and sandy soil. It takes from 80 to 110 days for planting and flowering; another 55 to 80 days are required for the flower to produce the cotton ball.

TABLE 4. BAST (SOFT) FIBERS
Fiber Uses Place of Origin
flax clothing, sacks and bags, canvas and sailcloth, fabrics, string and yarns, cigarette paper France, Belgium, Ireland, and Eastern Europe
hemp clothing, sacks and bags, canvas and sailcloth, fabrics, nets People's Republic of China, Philippines, Brazil, Taiwan, Japan
jute clothing, sacks and bags, canvas and sailcloth, fabrics India, Bangladesh, other Asian countries, Brazil
kenaf and roselle clothing, sacks and bags, canvas and sailcloth, fabrics, nets (kenaf) People's Republic of China, former Soviet Union, Egypt, India, and Thailand (roselle)
urena packaging Brazil, Zaire
China jute packaging People's Republic of China, former Soviet Union, Japan, Korea, Argentina
sunn hemp soft cordage India

TABLE 5. MISCELLANEOUS VEGETABLE FIBERS
Fiber Uses Place of Origin
broom root brooms, brushes Mexico
crin vegetal stuffing North Africa
piassava cordage, brushes Brazil
coir scrubbing and scraping brushes, brooms, door mats Sri Lanka, India

Today mechanical harvesters are used most often to gather cotton from the plants. A mechanical harvester can pick up to 650 lb (295.1 kg) per hour compared to the 15 lb (6.81 kg) that a hand picker can gather at the same time. Even so, hand pickers are still sometimes preferred because mechanical harvesters tend to gather a great deal of waste matter along with the fiber.

After cotton has been harvested, the seeds must be removed. Essentially the same method devised by Whitney in 1793 is used. The seed cotton is fed into a gin consisting of a series of circular saws that separate the fiber from the seeds. The fiber is then compressed into bales weighing about 478 lb (217 kg). A second ginning separates out the short fibers leaving the more desirable longer fibers.

Turning the raw cotton into yarn requires many steps. First, any heavy impurities such as dirt or seeds are removed from the opened bales of cotton at the mill. Then the fibers are drawn into wide thin webs which are gathered into ropes or strands. The finer quality fibers are combed until all short lengths have been removed. Both combed and uncombed fibers are drawn and twisted to produce the finished yarn. Weaving the cotton fabric consists of interlacing lengthwise yarns with crosswise yarns to produce cotton cloth.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Mysticism to Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotideNatural Fibers - Production Of Wool Fabric, Properties, Production Of Silk Fabric, Specialty Fibers From Animals, Vegetable Fibers - Animal fibers, Seed-hair fibers, Miscellaneous fibers, Mineral fibers