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Fabrics Cotton
From the Middle English coton and the Arabic qutun. The soft, white, fibrous substance which envelops the seeds of the cotton plant (Gossypium, a member of the mallow family). One of the most important of the natural textile raw materials; used to make cloth and thread. Grown in over 60 countries in many parts of the world, especially in the USA, Egypt, India, Brazil, the USSR and China. Cotton has been grown since ancient times. From tombs in India, samples have been found which date back to 3000 Be. The ancient Egyptians grew and spun cotton, as did also the pre-inea Peruvians and the ancient Chinese. Explorers of the New World in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries discovered cotton being grown and manufactured in Peru, Mexico and the southern part of North America. From the seventeenth century, painted cottons were imported into Europe from India and became very popular. Supplies were limited, so the fabrics acquired a scarcity value and became the 'in' mode with the well-to-do. Elegant society, with a sense of inverted snobbery, prized such cottons more than silk and used them especially for dressing-gowns, which became known as 'indiennes'. The manufacture of cotton in England developed rapidly with the textile industry in general during the second half of the eighteenth century (see also Spinning, Weaving and Textiles). By 1800 the cotton industry had surpassed the woollen trade. The British cotton industry, which had expanded enormously since the mid-century, was established in Lancashire. Cotton was grown in the southern states of North America and this accelerated the already flourishing slave trade. Trading of negroes to the New World had been in operation since the early sixteenth century and the British had gradually acquired a larger share of this. By 1700 the so-called 'triangular trade' was well established. In this, the merchants (based in Bristol) sailed to Africa to exchange their manufactured goods of arms, hardware, jewellery, spirits and tobacco with the African chieftains for negro labour. The second leg of the journey took the slaves to America where they were sold, at great profit, to work in the plantations. The ships then returned to England laden with raw materials. The developnient of the cotton industry caused the centre of the trade to move to Liverpool and it also rapidly accelerated. In 1791 the British transported 38,000 negroes to America, more than half the total European trading for that year. In fashion, cotton completely changed European styles, colours and decoration worn in the later eighteenth century. Silks and satins were slowly abandoned in ladies' clothes in favour of the thin, clinging cottons, though the former returned to favour in the mid-nineteenth century.
Specific Cottons
a cotton cloth originally imported from India and named after its city of origin, Calicut, on the Malabar coast. In England the name refers to a plain white cotton cloth, in the USA to a printed cotton.
a type of gingham named after its town of origin in France, Cambrai.
a nineteenth-century term for several coarse cotton fabrics.
in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries a coarse cotton or flannel. From the Greek dirnitos, meaning of double thread. Dimity had weft threads twice the thickness of warp threads. Now a cotton cloth woven with raised stripes and patterns used for furnishing fabrics and garments.
a strong, white cotton twill, often printed or striped.
a cotton cloth woven of dyed yarn, generally in stripes and cheeks.
Hickory cloth
a coarse, heavy, twilled cotton with striped or check pattern. Used for shirts and working garments which receive hard wear.
a plain, light-to-medium weight cotton. Name a corruption of Jagannathi, Urdu form of Cuttack, its town of origin in India. At first imported, later made in England.
Moleskin cloth
a heavy, strong, twilled cotton with a nap backing. Used for working and sports clothes.
a plain, soft cotton first made in Mosul in Mesopotamia, now Iraq (see muslin).
fabric imported from the East Indies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Since 1850 a firmly woven, smooth, plain cotton.
a nineteenth-century glazed, coloured cotton cloth.
a strong, twilled cotton for shirting made in narrow blue and white stripes (nineteenth century).
Sea island cotton
a fine lustre cotton with long fibres, traditionally grown on the islands off the coast of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Texas. Now grown in quantity in the West Indies.
a closely-woven, heavy cotton (sometimes linen) used chiefly for mattress and pillow covering. Usually narrowly striped.


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2006 March 28