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Glossary of Useful Terms Related to Cotton

Bale: A bale is a bundle of raw cotton. Bale weights do vary in different countries.   In the United States a bale weighs approximately 500 pounds (227 kilograms).  It is basic traceable unit of lint (ginned Cotton). By convention, a 'statistical' bale weights 4801bs.

Boll: The boll is the rounded mature seed pod of the cotton plant.  It is made up of separate compartments which are called locks, in which cotton seeds and lint grow.

Boll Weevil: The Boll Weevil is a beetle whose young feed on cotton buds (squares) making them fall off.

Break Spinning: This is an alternative name for open-end spinning.

Bur: The bur is the opened seed case of the cotton plant.

Carding: This is a process by which cotton fibres are cleaned and strengthened.

Classing: The process of describing cotton quality so that its value can be determined.

Combed: This is an industrial yarn preparation.  During the combing process, fibres are combed to make them parallel in the sliver and short fibres are removed.

Colour: This refers to the degree of whiteness of the cotton fibre.

Colour Grade: This describes the colour of cotton lint.  There are 30 standard colour grades, of which 15 are physical standards and 15 are descriptive.

Continuous spinning: A system of spinning in which the fibre moves through the process without interruption,  eg ring-spinning.

Cotton: Cotton is a tropical and subtropical herbaceous plant of the genus Gosspium of the mallow family Malvaceae.  Around the seeds inside the ripened fruits or bolls are fibres which can be spun into yarn for cloth.  Cotton production represents 5% of world agricultural output.
There are two major species of the genus Gosspium in current production - G. hirsutum, commonly known as upland cotton and G.barbadense or pima cotton.

Cotton spinning system: This refers to the process originally developed for spinning cotton but now also used for other fibres.

Count of Yarn: This is the number indicating the mass per unit length or the length per unit mass of yarn.

Country damage: This refers to damage to cotton caused by moisture, dust or sand affecting bales that have either been exposed to the weather, or stored on wet or contaminated ground.

English  cotton count: An indirect system measuring length per unit of mass, i.e. the number of hanks (840 yards) per pound weight

Drawing: This is a process by which cotton fibres are further strengthened after carding.  The drawing forms the fibres into a loose rope called a drawn sliver.

Fibre: A cotton fibre is classified in four ways; by its length, micronaire, strength and uniformity.  The fibre typically accounts for approximately 35% of the weight of a seed cotton, though this proportion varies.

Gossypium Barbadense: This is pima or extra long staple cotton.  Major producing countries are Egypt, the USA, Israel, Peru and the Central Asian states of the former Soviet Union.

Gossypium Hirsutum: This is typically known as upland cotton of medium staple length.  It is the major species of cotton grown world-wide, accounting for about 90% of planted acreage.

Gossypium arboretum, Gossypium herbaceum: Asiatic short stable coarse cotton, usually of high Micronaire.

Ginning: This is the process of separating the cotton fibres from the seeds.

Ginning Outturn: This is the ratio of lint to seed cotton produced by the ginning process.

Grey-State Cloth: This can also be called grey goods or greige.  It refers to the cotton fabric in its natural, greyish white colour before bleaching or dyeing.

Length: This is the average length of cotton fibre after the ginning process.

Lint: This is raw ginned cotton which is ready for baling. It is obtained by the ginning process once the cotton seed, leaves and casing have been removed.

Linters: These are the short fibres which remain on the cotton seed after ginning.

Mercerization: This refers to the application of an alkaline solution to cotton cloth or thread to strengthen the cotton and to make it hold the dye better.

Micronaire: This is the size of an individual cotton fibre taken in cross-section.

Open-end spinning: This is a process by which yarn is spun from a broken-up sliver or roving.

Opening: This describes the process of separating fibres from the pressed bale.

Organic Cotton: This refers to organically grown cotton using crop rotation, beneficial insects, compost and other farming methods in place of chemical fertilizers and intensive farming techniques.

Percale: Closely woven cotton fabric

Picker: This is a machine which separates and cleans the fibres of cotton.

Pima Cotton: This refers to a type of cotton with strong, silky fibres which are used to make fine smooth fabrics.

Raingrown Cotton: Cotton grown using mainly water provided by the natural cycle of rainfall rather than artificial irrigation.  Also known as dryland cotton.

Ratoon Cotton: This refers to a cotton crop which is cut back or cropped and then left to grow again for another season.

Reginned Cotton: This term refers to cotton which has passed through the ginning process more than once, and has already been baled.  It may go through the ginning again for additional cleaning, blending or for the removal of foreign material.

Ring-Spinning: This refers to a system of continuous spinning of staple fibre.

Roving: This refers to a thin strand of cotton fibres ready for spinning.

Sea Island Cotton: This refers to fine long staple cotton grown in the West Indies.

Seed Cotton: This refers to unginned picked cotton.

Single: This describes the ply of yarn.  A single is the most popular ply and means raw cotton twisted in a single thread.

Sizing: This is a mixture of starch, gum and resins which strengthens cotton yarn so that it can withstand weaving or other finishings.

Sliver: This is a loose rope of cotton fibres.  A card sliver is thicker and has more tangled fibres than a drawn sliver.
Spun Yarn: This refers to yarn spun from staple fibre held together by twist.

Square: Squares are the buds of cotton blossoms.

Staple refers to the average length of cotton fibres (see below):-
Short Staple:                 less than 25mm
Medium Staple:             25 to 30mm
Long Staple:                 30 to 37mm
Extra Long Staple: 37mm and above

Tex: (grams per km)  A direct decimal count system for describing the linear density (mass per unit length) of fibres, filaments and yarns.  The lower the number, the finer the thread.

Trash: Trash refers to the leaves, stems and other unwanted plant material in harvested cotton.

Universal Cotton Standards: This refers to American Upland Cotton.  Established in 1924 as an aid to promoting domestic and foreign trade.  Recognised by 18 countries in Europe, South America and Asia.

Upland Cotton: Originally this term referred to cotton grown on raised lands not prone to flooding.  Now it refers to short and medium staple cottons which is the most common type of cotton.

Warp: Threads which run parallel to the loom.

Weft: Threads which run at right angles to the warp.

Weave: The manufacturing of cloth by the interlacing of yarns

Worsted: Worsted yarns are made from long fibres of 3 to 6 inches, which are combed to lie parallel to each other, producing a smooth clean look. 

Yarn Number: Cotton yarn is measured by yarn number, based on how many hanks (840 yards) there are in 1 lb of yarn.  The higher the number the finer the thread.

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Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.