Submitted by Dianne McDonnell
In an effort to keep my mind engaged in something other than boring exercises, I usually listen to podcasts while I’m at the gym. The Craft Industry Alliance podcast is one among my several subscriptions. It’s hosted by Abby Glassenberg. You may know her under her old podcast name, “While She Naps”. In her podcasts, Abby interviews artists and crafters in several different genres, and many times she will talk with someone involved in the quilting world.
A couple of weeks ago, Abby talked to author, Teresa Duryea Wong, who has written several quilt and fabric related books. The one that piqued my interest was called, “American Cotton: Farm to Quilt.” With a wink and a nod to the farm-to-table movement, I decided to learn more about that fabric that’s sitting in my stash. So I bought the book. In the approximately 150 pages, Ms. Wong tells the story of cotton farming in the United States from the early days to present day, and then what happens to the cotton once it is harvested. Here’s some of what I learned:
- The United States is third in cotton growing behind India and China.
- Texas has the highest concentration of cotton farms, but there are farms all across the Southern states from Florida to California.
- American cotton is considered to be the highest quality cotton.
- 80% of cotton grown in the United States is exported. Most of that is used for non-woven material. But some of it is mixed with cotton from other countries to increase the quality of some overseas mass-produced textiles and clothing.
- Some Japanese businesses import American cotton exclusively for their specialty threads, quilting fabric, or kimono fabrics.
- The Warm company uses 100% American cotton in their batting lines that contain cotton.
- Of the 20% of the American cotton that stays in the U.S., some is used for non-wovens and the rest for textiles. The military is a large cotton customer.
Did you know that there are two kinds of cotton grown in America? American Upland cotton has fibers that are shorter than one-inch, and is the most common grown here. The fibers of American Pima cotton are longer than an inch and are considered a higher quality cotton because the fibers are stronger.
Too much information? Okay, I’ll stop. Thankfully, the author doesn’t. Ms. Wong also explains the ginning process, and what happens in the grading process before it’s shipped to the mills. She describes the textile industries of the past as well as present day. She ends the book with a story of a fabric business that decided to produce quilting fabric from cotton grown in America. It’s also manufactured and printed here. The premium quilting fabric line is called American Made Brand and is part of the Clothworks company based in Seattle, Washington.
This book is definitely worth checking out from your nearby library. Besides photos of cotton bolls, farms, factories, etc., there are also many pictures of gorgeous quilts scattered throughout the pages.
I have a greater appreciation for all that fabric in my sewing studio, and I’m wondering how much American cotton is contained within the fibers. Especially the Japanese fabric I bought a few years ago. I’m also on a mission to find some American Made Brand (AMB) fabric. Have you used that fabric in your quilts? Did you notice a difference? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
For more information on Teresa Duryea Wong and the books she’s written, check out her website.