This section is from the book "Text-Book On Domestic Art", by Carrie Crane Ingalls. Also available from Amazon: Textbook On Domestic Art: With Illustrations And Drafts.
Cotton was known as early as 450 B. C., where in India, it superceded all other fabrics.
It is a tropical plant, the United States growing three-quarters of the world's present supply. Texas leads in this industry, although California now bids fair to outstrip all other states.
The cotton flower or boll, - that soft, downy, white bloom, that bursts from the dry pod - has given to the world one of the greatest products in existence, and has reared manufactories from which have branched thousands of allied industries, both domestic and foreign, that have no equal on the globe. The great mills with their tall black chimneys towering skyward, and the little villages nestling around them, and sheltering the population of cities, turn out yearly endless quantities of fabrics to supply an ever-increasing market.
The din and roar of these mighty factories along the quiet New England rivers have developed one of the world's greatest industries. est industries.
Until the last century the cotton fibers were sifted, carded and spun by hand, but the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1872, has opened up the great industry of cotton manufactures.
After the pod bursts open, the white mass is picked and thrown into baskets from which it is emptied into the hopper of the gin, where it emerges, dirty but free from seeds, which in turn are pressed out and the oil from them sold. The cotton is packed into bales, weighed and shipped north and here begins its manufacture. It is sorted out and bought up by consumers, according to use. Cotton brokers are deft in their touch and by breaking the raw material can tell at once the quality of fiber, the long staple fibers bringing better value.
From gin now to factory the cotton is turned into carding machines where great revolving combs and brushes clean out all foreign particles. These wide, white sheets of raw cotton emerging from the carders are then condensed into a narrow stream of white substance called a sliver, which by twisting and doubling and spinning with other slivers comes forth a tiny thread of varying size, which after various processes of creeling, finishing, dyeing, etc., becomes the finished product on the spool.
These spools are then placed on looms where they are woven as warp or filling threads into cloth. They are also sold as sewing cotton. The process of weaving is an industry by itself. The methods of weaving stripes, checks, diagonals, twills, etc; the endlessly new processes of dyeing, finishing, etc.; the inspiring history of new inventions make textile study one of absorbing interest. The Jacquard machine, invented by a Frenchman which weaves isolated designs by means of cards punched and running on chains, can not like the first cotton gin be improved upon. The textiles schools of our East have no equal. There are many varieties of cotton, according to the country raised in. The longest fibers are used for sewing thread and are often mixed with silk. In many places the boll weevil, a small insect, destroys the entire crop. Eastern countries produce a yellow cotton, but the finest of all comes from the South Sea Islands and the Florida coast; the fibers are about 2 inches long.
Besides cotton, flax, ramie, hemp and jute and the so-called China pineapple grass are vegetable products.
Heat does not affect cotton, but acids change it. Mercerized cotton is produced by a solution of caustic soda.
The price of pure cotton cloth ranges from 5 cents to 50 cents per yard.