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Cotton: Another Way Plants Help Us Breathe
For comfort, it's hard to beat good old-fashioned cotton. Find out why with Groupon's look at the fiber.
Cotton starts its life as a seedpod, a bundle of fibers that, as the seeds grow, pops out of its shell into a puff that looks almost comically akin to a drugstore cotton ball. Glance at a plant bedecked by these things, and you'll understand in an instant why someone long ago might have thought it'd be nice to dress up in them.
Getting to that point, though, is a complex process involving lots of special machinery to harvest and clean the cotton. A carding machine sorts all the cotton's tiny fibers into a single direction, and they're then separated into long strands. To form yarn, a spinning machine twists the strands up to 2,500 times. The yarn then can be woven into cloth, which then can become clothing.
Cotton's appeal can be traced down to the microscopic level. Each tiny fiber is hollow, creating an easy passageway for moisture from the surface of your skin or from the frogs you've been hiding under your shirt so Mom doesn't see. Synthetic threads don’t absorb and release moisture as effectively. While cotton's not a perfect fiber—it wrinkles and shrinks easily, for one thing—its flaws can be addressed by blending cotton threads with other materials. For instance, when cotton is blended with polyester, it becomes more resistant to wrinkles. Through blending and different weaving techniques, cotton can turn into everything from sturdy denim and khaki to lightweight gingham and chambray.