By Jessica Domel
Take a drive through the Plains of Texas this time of year and you’re bound to find a field or two of white, fluffy cotton.
I was fortunate the other day to visit a Texas family harvesting their cotton.
There, they told me about the amazing transformation cotton goes through to get to our homes.
First, it’s not just used for our favorite fabric.
Cottonseed can be processed into a meal that cattle love to eat.
It can also be used to create a cooking oil. Like potato chips or mayonnaise? Check the ingredients label. Chances are, it has cottonseed oil in it.
Although there are many uses for cotton, it’s perhaps best known for its use in clothing items like T-shirts and blue jeans.
It takes quite a transformation to turn a white, fluffy cotton boll into a soft pair of jeans.
First, the cotton must be stripped or picked out of the field. Both machines, although different, remove the cotton from its woody-like plant in the field.
It’s then rolled into a round bale like hay or it’s formed into a large, loaf-like module to make transporting large quantities of cotton easier.
When cotton modules or bales arrive at a cotton gin, they’re taken apart. The cotton is then dried and cleaned. Cottonseed and the fiber are then mechanically separated.
The seed is then sent on to be processed into oil or meal and used in foods, cosmetics and more.
The fiber then takes an extra journey to a mill where it can be woven into the cloth used to make our sheets, towels and other products.
Fabrics then head to warehouses, shipping companies, textile manufacturers and eventually to retailers where you’ll buy your new favorite shirt.
Texas cotton makes quite a transformation from the fluffy bolls in the field to our favorite clothing, but it’s a process that’s well worth the wait.