When it comes to cotton fabric, probably the most overused term is "Egyptian Cotton". You have likely heard this term thrown out in the past. In this blog post we are going to expand your knowledge into cotton varieties and why some cotton fabrics cost 10 USD/Meter while other command a premium of over 100 USD/Meter.
Cotton is grown all over the world, but not all cotton is created equal. For the purpose of this blog we will focus on the most common cotton varieties found in fabric making; Upland, Pima, Egyptian, Egyptian Giza, Supima and Sea Island. The latter three of the mentioned cotton varieties are extremely rare and account for less than five percent combined of the world's cotton supply. When sourcing premium cotton fabrics it's always best to buy fabrics from a reputable fabric mill. As part of our Transparency Initiative, Sewing Supply Plus will always disclose which mill fabric comes from.
The most common cotton variety. Upland cotton accounts for over 90 percent of the world's cotton supply. The majority of fabrics sold are milled from upland cotton. Upland cotton plants produce a shorter, more coarse fiber and are often chemically treated to achieve a level of softness to make them comfortable for wear in clothing. The benefit to upland cotton is its price point. Fabrics made from upland cotton are the least expensive so they are great for making heavy wear clothing where quality and comfort are not a priority.
Pima and Egyptian
It gets a bit tricky and this is an area of fabric buying where you must be particularly careful. When it comes to buying cotton fabrics for couture or luxury fashion its the ELS (Extra Long Staple) cotton varieties that make the best fabrics. Pima and Egyptian cotton are both used to describe ELS cotton varieties as well as regions where the cotton comes from. Pima cotton is grown mostly in California and Egyptian cotton in various regions of the middle east. As such a cotton can be Egyptian or Pima by region but not a true ELS cotton variety that commands a premium. This is where many customers get cheated. A fabric store will list a product as Egyptian cotton and charge a premium price for an actual inferior product. Sometimes this is intentional, sometimes out of ignorance. That is why we always disclose the mill that produced the fabric.
Extra Long Staple: Egyptian Giza, Supima, Sea Island
Accounting for less than five percent of the world's cotton supply combined, these ELS cotton varieties are very rare and well regulated. The benefit is that it is easy to validate the authenticity of these variety of ELS cotton fabrics.
ELS cotton fibers are extra long, soft and strong. When woven together to make yarn and subsequently fabric, they produce an amazingly soft to the touch fabric that is also strong and has exceptional color retention. There is nothing quite like fabric made from these ELS cotton varieties. Once you wear an article of clothing made from ELS you never want to buy anything else...you've been warned.
Within the Egyptian Giza variety of cotton there are several subspecies, most commonly Giza 87 and Giza 45.
Giza 87 - is a precious Egyptian cotton cultivated exclusively in particular climatic conditions in the fertile region of the Nile delta. The fibre of the Giza 87 offer extraordinary and unique characteristics, the staple length is notably long (36mm with a uniformity index of 87.3%) with good elongation and strength equal to 44.60 g/tex.
The degree of brilliance of Giza 87, equal to an Rd of 74.8, is amongst the highest of all the Extra Long Staple Egyptian cottons, and guarantees a particular luminosity to the fabric.
One notable characteristic of Giza 87 is that fabrics do not in any way degrade over time. On the contrary, through numerous washes, the softness further increases, and the freshness of the material and its original brightness is absolutely maintained.
Giza 45 - plants are cultivated in a very small area to the East of the Nile delta, and they represent only 0.4% of the total annual Egyptian cotton production. The fibres of the Giza 45 cotton production have an extraordinary staple length that easily surpasses 36mm, and a unique uniformity index of 88.5%. Furthermore what makes this cotton exceptional amongst all extra-long staple cottons is the fineness of its fibres on average 2.95 microns.
Despite its fineness, the strength of the Giza 45 fibre remains high. This combination ensures extremely fine, durable fabrics, with an extraordinarily soft and silky touch for the most precious fabrics in the world.
Supima (Superior Pima) is an Extra Long Staple cotton known for its long and fine white fibres. It is grown mainly in California and its identifying characteristics are the absence of pollution of the fibres, due to mechanical harvesting, and a remarkable resistance to pilling. The special cleanness of the yarn makes it ideal for the production of white fabrics. The fibre is long and resistant, particularly suitable for yarns of Ne 100/2, up to Ne 120/2.
Supima Association monitors and guarantees the origin of each fabric with the Supima trademark.
West Indian Sea Island Association (Sea Island)
West Indian Sea Island cotton, known as “gossypium barbadense” or “black seed”, is one of the most ancient and precious cotton types in the world, discovered in the early eighteenth century in the British West Indies. Its production, equal to just 0.006% of the world’s long-staple cotton, is now concentrated mainly in Barbados, Antigua and Jamaica, areas that constitute a real paradise climate. About 110 million bales of cotton are produced each year, globally, of which 2 million are extra-long staple cotton. The annual production of Sea Island Cotton is just 130 bales.
Sea Island Cotton of Barbados is distinguished from all other species of cotton thanks to its unique characteristics: the considerable staple length of the fibre, arriving at 36/37 mm, the high strength, equal to 40 gr/tex and the good percentage of uniformity (86%). Besides the length, the fibre is exceptionally fine, proved by the micronaire, between 3.1 and 3.4, together with a significant brightness (a degree of reflectance of 73).
Of course if you still have questions when it comes to buying fabric you are more than welcome to contact us directly at email@example.com