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What’s That You’re Wearing?

Shira Yehudit Djilimand

Most of us wear our clothes every day without giving a second thought to what they’re made of — or how. Would you believe that the threads in your clothing once grew in a field or on a sheep’s back or belonged to a plastic bottle or … join us to find out more!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Cotton comes from the flower of the cotton plant, a plant in the same family as okra. The flower bud, called a “square,” grows into a flower. Then the flower forms a boll, and about 50 days later, the boll cracks open to reveal the fluffy white lint — cotton.

Cotton has been grown for thousands of years. In the US, it was one of the first crops grown by European settlers in the colonies. When the cotton gin was invented by Eli Whitney in 1793, which made it much easier and faster to separate the seeds from the cotton, growing cotton became very profitable. That meant lots of cheap labor was needed, and that was where slaves came in. In the Southern cotton-producing states such as North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana, known as the “Cotton Belt,” huge cotton plantations developed. By 1850, when cotton was the number one crop in the South, three-quarters of the 2.5 million slaves in the US were working on cotton plantations. Today, cotton ranks fourth in the US’s cash crops.

Cotton is the world’s most popular fabric, as it’s comfortable, cool, and lets the skin breathe. Many fabrics are produced from cotton, such as denim, corduroy, terry toweling, and seersucker. Cotton is also used to make paper, in tents, coffee filters, fishing nets, and surprisingly, in gunpowder!



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