Tag Archives: Textile history

Needles

I ordered longarm needles the other day. It was so easy to do that I could take for granted the availability of sewing needles. But needles have not always been so common.

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Last summer a needle was found in a cave in Siberia. It was a little more than 7 centimeters long (about 3″,) made of bird bone. It is the oldest complete needle found and was made some 50,000 years ago. The maker was not homo sapiens, or even Neanderthal. It was Denisovan, a contemporary species of hominid! Other ancient needles have been found in places ranging from southern Africa to China to eastern Europe.

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Elias Howe, an inventor of the sewing machine, developed the needle with the thread hole at the pointed tip. According to legend, “He had the idea of a machine with a needle which would go through a piece of cloth but he couldn’t figure out exactly how it would work. In his dream, cannibals were preparing to cook him and they were dancing around the fire waving their spears. Howe noticed at the head of each spear there was a small hole through the shaft and the up-and-down motion of the spears and the hole remained with him when he woke.” This dream led to his contributions to the modern sewing machine, circa 1845.

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By 1847 with the introduction of specialty machinery, more than 50 million needles were made each week in the Redditch district of England. These needles were for hand-sewing tasks, and Redditch still specializes in them. (I’ve been looking for information about needle production in the US during the 1800s, but so far haven’t found any.) During the US Civil War, sewing needles became hard to acquire by Southern civilians. The North’s blockade kept most imported supplies from reaching southern ports. Soldiers’ uniforms and bedding took priority for the supplies that could be purchased or made. The lack of needles for civilians meant that repairing old clothing and bedding was difficult, if not impossible.

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On the American frontier, settlers faced deprivations of many kinds. In 1855 the community of Pass Creek Canyon in Wyoming was visited by a peddler named Aaron Meier. He brought his wares to the remote settlers, including fabrics, tools, and candies. But the item they needed most was darning needles, as it had been months since the last one broke. With Christmas coming, the Jewish peddler made a gift of all the needles he had to the women of the community. Aaron Meier later founded Meier and Frank department stores in Portland, OR.

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While England still dominates the production of hand-sewing needles, Germany makes the majority of machine sewing needles. Groz-Beckert and Schmetz are two brands you may know. Here is a fascinating video by Schmetz showing how needles are made.

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Needles are not scarce anymore in the US. There is no reason not to replace them when they’re due. When a needle is dull, it needs to punch its way through fabric layers, making a popping sound. When it is sharp, it doesn’t make that noise. In addition, your machine motor needs to work a little harder with a dull needle, and you may hear the machine laboring.

Experts recommend changing the needle every 8-10 hours of sewing (machine time, not cutting, pressing, and pondering time). That may not sound like a lot, but if your machine stitches 1,000 stitches per minute, that’s actually about a HALF MILLION stitches! While you’re stitching, you may sew through several layers of fabric and batting, and occasionally hit pins. (I do!) Your needle takes a lot of abuse.

Take a look at some great photos by Schmetz Needles USA of a needle that looks sharp. Once magnified with increasing power, you can see the burr on the tip. A dull needle doesn’t do your machine or your project any good.

And please dispose of your needles carefully. I use an empty yogurt cup with a hole poked through the lid. When I get rid of needles, bent pins, and dead rotary cutter blades, they go in there. And the cup is always safely out of reach of children!

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Underground Railroad Quilt Code

Last year my niece and her husband were traveling through Iowa. They stopped at a rest area near Wilton. Afterward she sent me the following pictures.

URCQ rest stop in Iowa code
URCQ rest area tile work
URQC sampler

The Iowa government website, traveliowa.com, says this about the display:

When you’re driving on I-80 by Wilton, you won’t want to miss the interstate rest area that features interpretive panels that explain Cedar County’s involvement in the Underground Railroad as well as the story of the “Underground Railroad Quilt Code.” Secret messages were hidden in quilts through geometric patterns and the sequencing of stitches and knots to “map” the path slaves should follow to freedom. These safe routes were displayed in the everyday custom of hanging quilts out to dry.

I’ve never stopped at this rest area before. If I had, I would have been quite dismayed to see the displays. The fact is, there is no proof and no reason to believe quilts were used to convey secret messages. Below the bar I’ve reposted a story I first published three years ago, which tells the whole story.


 

Did quilts help guide escaped slaves to safety? Did different quilt blocks have specific meanings to slaves, perhaps based on their African past? Was the pattern of stitches and knots informative about routes to take, perhaps creating a topographical map?

The most famous telling of a quilt code says that indeed, quilts were a vital part of the Underground Railroad, and their history with it was unwritten until very recently.

One of the blocks in the quilt code is the Bear’s Paw, shown here.

This pattern consists of several squares, rectangles, and right triangles. When different scraps of fabric are used, the pattern takes on the complexity of a map that is remarkably similar in design to the African Hausa embroidered map of a village …Just as the Hausa design defines the perimeter of the village and identifies major landmarks, the Bear’s Paw pattern could be used to identify landmarks on the border of the plantation …

Because the bears lived in the mountains and knew their way around, their tracks served as road maps enabling the fugitives to navigate their way through the mountains. … The bears’ trails formed a map.

From Hidden in Plain View, by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard, Ph.D.

Slaves escaped in all directions. We are used to thinking of them traveling north to Canada. But in fact they also went south to Mexico and Spanish Florida, disappeared into cities and remote areas, and took shelter with Native American communities. Best estimates are that between 40,000 and 100,000 slaves successfully escaped northward. Most escaped on their own, getting help only after reaching the North.

The Underground Railroad is attributed with helping to move slaves to freedom during the late-1700s to mid-1800s. (Freedom activism long preceded the phrase “Underground Railroad,” which wasn’t used until the 1830s.) Not a physical railroad, of course, it was an “underground” movement of abolitionists and allies, with a web of routes and safe houses. Those slaves who escaped endured incredible trials of strength and courage.

There are documented truths about the Underground Railroad, from those who made it function and those who escaped. But it also has been romanticized and mythologized. It is not always easy to separate fact from fiction.

Hidden in Plain View?

Prior to 1999, there were few known sources claiming the existence of a quilt code. According to wikipedia,

The first known assertion of the use of quilts … was a single statement in the narration of the 1987 video Hearts and Hands, which stated “They say quilts were hung on the clotheslines to signal a house was safe for runaway slaves.” This assertion does not appear in the companion book and is not supported by any documentation in the filmmaker’s research file.[1] The first print appearance of such a claim was Stitched from the Soul, a 1990 book by folklorist Gladys-Marie Fry, which states — without providing any source — “Quilts were used to send messages. On the Underground Railroad, those with the color black were hung on the line to indicate a place of refuge (safe house)…Triangles in quilt design signified prayer messages or prayer badge, a way of offering prayer. Colors were very important to slave quilt makers. The color black indicated that someone might die. A blue color was believed to protect the maker.”[1] …

The idea, clearly presented as fiction in Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, that slave quilts served as coded maps for escapees, entered the realm of claimed fact in the 1999 book Hidden in Plain View, written by Raymond Dobard, Jr., an art historian, and Jacqueline Tobin, a college instructor in Colorado.[3]

In 1999, the stories of a woman named Ozella McDaniel Williams were published in the book Hidden in Plain View, by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard, Ph.D. The book also includes a mesh of related research about African symbolism, escape routes, and information about the times.

Author Tobin met Williams in 1994. Williams was a South Carolina quilt vendor at a flea market mall. In 1997 during their second of three meetings, “Ozella,” as the book refers to her, told Tobin stories she claimed were passed down through her family. This oral history, if confirmed, would change our understanding of methods of communicating about the Underground Railroad and routes to freedom.

According to Williams, there were eleven quilt blocks in the code. The blocks were sewn into quilts, which would be displayed one at a time on fences or clothes lines. Because it was normal to air quilts regularly, showing the quilts this way wouldn’t arouse suspicion by owners or overseers.

The blocks shown below are woven into Williams’ version discussed in the book. Some versions include other blocks, as well.

A short version of the code says

The Monkey Wrench turns the Wagon Wheel toward Canada on a Bear’s Paw trail to the Crossroads. Once they got to the Crossroads, they dug a Log Cabin on the ground. Shoofly told them to dress up in cotton and satin Bow Ties and go to the cathedral church, get married and exchange Double Wedding Rings. Flying Geese stay on the Drunkard’s Path and follow the Stars.

The book presents this very short interpretation, but it includes linkages and suppositions and speculations about the meanings of all the blocks, as well. For example, the Bear’s Paw block shown above is interpreted as both a map of the plantation itself, as well as advice to follow actual bears’ trails over the mountain.

About another, the Monkey Wrench block, the authors state, “Ozella told us that a quilt made of Monkey Wrench patterned blocks was the first of the ten quilts displayed … a signal for the slaves to begin their escape preparations” and gather physical and mental tools.

Along with this understanding of the block, the authors include discussion of the role of the blacksmith on the plantation, with tools including the monkey wrench. The blacksmith’s metal-working ability may have hidden the smith’s function of conveying information to other slaves under the ring of the hammer. A photo of an African textile is shown, to further convey the importance of tools in the previous environment.

More than 120 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, claims of a quilt code arose. Had the evidence been missed all those years? Was the truth really hidden in plain view?

What is the Truth?

To anyone used to reading academic research, even in laymen’s terms, Hidden in Plain View clearly falls short. In fact, the book reads as one long, breathless speculation on the possibility that quilts were used to help guide slaves to freedom. The linkages to African symbolism in art and song do not confirm or deny the potential. This alone does not negate the premise. Finding the truth is somewhat more difficult.

Historians, including those with expertise in quilts and other textiles, eagerly reviewed the possibilities to answer the question: Were quilts used to help guide slaves to freedom?

Strong evidence in support could consist of testimony of escaped slaves, or from former slaves after emancipation; testimony from freedom activists; public records or contemporary writings; or remaining textiles with long provenance and supporting documentation, among other things. Weaker evidence in support might include other contemporary information such as textile availability and use, for example; or direct linkages between African symbolism and the quilt code.

If none of this evidence exists, there is no support for the claim that quilts were used as part of an Underground Railroad communication system, helping slaves to escape.

Did slaves make quilts, and are there existing quilts that provide provenance on this?
We do know that slaves made quilts. Surviving examples made prior to Emancipation are mostly those made for owners, rather than for the slaves themselves. Despite the abundance of cotton in the South, fabric was scarce even before the Civil War began. The South had very few mills, and they were small, mostly making rough cloth. Most finer fabric came from the North or from Europe.

For their own use, many quilts made by slaves would have been “utility” quilts. (This may have depended largely on regional differences, as well.) These had rougher fabric, simpler construction, and ties or long stitches of thick threads, rather than fine quilt stitching. Woven blankets were more prevalent than quilts. Slaves were typically issued one blanket each two years. Washed with lye, both types of bed covers disintegrated over time. Clothing provisions also were meager, and using remnants or scraps from “old” clothes to make quilts was unlikely.

There are no existing quilts known that have documentation of being used to signal or communicate escape information.

Did slaves make quilts using the blocks in the purported quilt code?
Some of the blocks are documented from pre-Civil War. Others are not. One problem with documentation is that blocks were assigned different names in different regions, or at different times. Also there may be multiple block designs that have the same name. Assuming that one design always went by the same name is problematic.

For example, the Bear’s Paw design shown above is now considered a traditional block. Most quilters today, if they know block names, would call it a Bear’s Paw. Ozella Williams called it a Bear’s Paw. But Barbara Brackman, a premier quilt historian, documents three different blocks by the same name in her Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. Which one was used, if any?

Other blocks show no history of use before the Civil War. Double Wedding Rings is a design that originated in the late 1920s. Log Cabin blocks were popularized during the Civil War.

From Leigh Fellner’s extensive review of the quilt code:

In fact, the Log Cabin pattern seems to be limited to the North as a popular expression of Union sentiment; I have not been able to find any documented examples dating from before the Civil War. Quilt historian Barbara Brackman notes in Quilts from the Civil War that the earliest date-inscribed quilt of this pattern is dated 1869: “Quilt historian Virginia Gunn has found three written references to Log Cabin quilts as fundraisers for the union cause in 1863, the likely year for the beginning of the style. At that point the underground Railroad no longer functioned as it had before the War….So we must not imagine Log Cabin quilts as signals in the decade before the War. Rather, like Emancipation, the pattern grew out of the War. It is more historically accurate to view their symbolic function as an indicator of allegiance to President Lincoln and the Union cause…One indication that a Union connection [with the pattern] continued is the relative lack of late nineteenth-century Log Cabin quilts made in the former Confederate states.”

How would the quilts have been used to communicate?
According to Williams in Hidden in Plain View, quilts would have been used to communicate before escaping. With ten different quilts showing the different blocks, each would signal a specific piece of information. Wouldn’t it be easier to communicate most of this in words rather than in a semaphore-like system?

Also, the authors (not Williams) imply that the quilts may have been used en route, for instance to signal safe houses. Because most travel was in the safety of darkness, how would a runaway slave find the quilt, and see it well enough to interpret it? They discuss different colors as having particular meanings, but this becomes especially problematic in darkness.

Are there any documented first-hand reports of quilts used to communicate in code?
Historians’ examination of the written record does not uncover this communication. Pamphlets and books with first-hand accounts, including histories taken by the WPA in the 1930s, do not provide evidence of this communication.

I reviewed text of the book Underground Rail Road by WIlliam Still. Still helped hundreds of slaves escape, and interviewed each. His book does not include any mention of quilts used to escape. Two other sources include Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938, and North American Slave Narratives, a collection of the University of North Carolina, which includes “all the existing autobiographical narratives of fugitive and former slaves published as broadsides, pamphlets, or books in English up to 1920.” I did not examine these records myself, but am reporting the consensus of several historians.

Other than the oral history reported by Ozella Williams and a handful of others who came after her, there is no support for the use of quilts this way.

Is there other evidence presented in the book that provides firm support for the premise?
No. The book includes lengthy discussion of secret societies and the role of the griot (historian/storyteller) in African societies. It continues with supposition on the Freemasons and the ability of free blacks to travel to the South without repercussions. African symbolism and spiritual songs are linked to the quilt code as well. But none of these provide evidence of a quilt code, merely weak support of the possibility.

The authors also depend substantially on present-day children’s literature for support, books like Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson. It’s actually a lovely book — I’ve bought it myself — but it is fiction, not academic research.

Conclusion: reputable historians of both the Underground Railroad and of quilts agree: there is insufficient evidence to support the premise that a quilt code was used to communicate this way.

Does it Matter?

Does it matter if this story is told and believed, even if it is not true? Is it harmful to let it persist?

I believe it is harmful. It provides a romanticized version of an ugly past. It allows us to imagine that slave women had leisure and resources to create beautiful bedding for their own use. Though some surely did, that was not typical. If the quilts were not their own, it’s implied they somehow had access and power to decide which of the owner’s quilts to air (and signal) and at what time.

It suggests that “African” symbolism was consistent across all cultures, and all slaves would interpret the textile symbols in consistent ways. This minimizes the richness and complexity of the various cultures from which they came.

The book Hidden in Plain View is factually incorrect in many places, and depends on speculation for most of the rest. Readers who believe this source of information will perpetuate the stories. Ozella Williams was a quilt vendor. She may have told the stories in good faith, or she may have told the stories to sell quilts. The potential conflict of interest should not be ignored.

School curricula on slavery and the Underground Railroad that include this “history” are wrong. Schools began including the story in the early part of the new century. As I researched for the post, I found many suggested lesson plans, still in existence. Typically, the plans suggest having students design quilts using the code blocks. The children are learning lies.

And now there are at least a couple of popular authors of adult historical fiction, who include this premise in their plot lines. When I presented on this topic recently to a group of twenty, most of them came to the presentation assuming the myth was fact. Several attributed it to the novels they had read.

Truth is strength. We don’t need to pretty it up with cozy quilts and homey images. We owe it to those who suffered slavery, to ourselves and our children, and to the future, to know and tell the truth.

Cotton — Weaving Fabric

Earlier this month I began a series of posts on where our quilting fabric comes from. There are so many steps in the process, from growing the cotton, cleaning and spinning it, weaving it, and then making it beautiful. Agricultural workers, biologists, engineers, designers, textile laborers, and more, all contribute to creating the raw materials of our craft. When I consider all the moving parts, I give thanks to all those who help make my projects possible.

The first post looked primarily at planting and harvesting cotton. Next came cleaning and spinning the cotton into yarn. Now we’ll look at weaving.

After creating yarn (threads,) the yarn is woven into fabric. In the most basic weaving process, there are warp yarns, which run lengthwise away from the front of the loom. These are the yarns that are pre-strung. Weft yarns (or filling yarns) are interlaced at a right angle through them using a shuttle or other mechanism such as a rapier.

From the National Cotton Council of America:

Traditionally, cloth was woven by a wooden shuttle that moved horizontally back and forth across the loom, interlacing the filling yarn with the horizontally, lengthwise warp yarn. Modern mills use high-speed shuttleless weaving machines that perform at incredible rates and produce an endless variety of fabrics. Some carry the filling yarns across the loom at rates in excess of 2,000 meters per minute.

The rapier-type weaving machines have metal arms or rapiers that pick up the filling thread and carry it halfway across the loom where another rapier picks it up and pulls it the rest of the way. Other types employ small projectiles that pick up the filling thread and carry it all the way across the loom. Still other types employ compressed air to insert the filling yarn across the warp. In addition to speed and versatility, another advantage of these modern weaving machines is their relatively quiet operation.

Though the speed has changed, the mechanics of weaving are much as they’ve been for thousands of years. This video shows the high speed process.

When the weaving of fabric is done, the product of the loom is called “greige” goods. This is pronounced as “grey.”

The weight of quilting fabric (not including batiks) is approximately 4 ounces per yard. If you check Spoonflower, a service that allows you to custom print various weaves of fabric, their basic combed cotton is 3.2 oz per square yard and has a thread count of 78×76. The Kona cotton is 4.5 oz per square yard, with a thread count of 60×60.

The unprinted, unbleached greige fabric then goes through a design phase. It may be simply dyed, or it may be elaborately printed or batiked. I’ll cover those processes next.

If you’d like to read my posts on quilting as a business, you can find them here:

Cotton — Where Does Your Fabric Come From?
Cotton — What Happens After Harvest?
Cotton — Weaving Fabric
Cotton — Batik Production
Cotton — Printing Designs

Quilting for Pay — The Longarm
Conversations with Artists
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 1
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 2
You Should Write Patterns
“It Feels Weird Asking for Pay”
Pay for Quilters (And other Crafters and Artists)
You Should Sell Those: A Play in Three Short Scenes, With Commentary

Cotton — What Happens After Harvest?

Before 2012, I didn’t think very much about where our quilting fabric comes from, or about the history of cotton as a textile. That changed when Jim and I visited the Lowell (MA) National Historical Park. The park museum includes of one of the original textile mill buildings, built in the early 1800s by Francis Cabot Lowell and a group of investors. The industry created in the area signified the birth of the Industrial Revolution in America. Ginning, spinning, weaving, and printing, the textile mills did everything to process cotton after harvest. The museum at Lowell does a wonderful job of telling the story, including the dark side of cotton’s involvement in the growth of slavery.

Since visiting, I’ve tried to be more appreciative of textile history in the United States, and its connection to the riches of goods we enjoy today. I’ll have more to say about the history of the industry another time. This post will focus on contemporary processing.

The last post looked primarily at planting and harvesting cotton. After creating all that fluffy white goodness, what comes next?

From the field, the cotton goes to the gin. The “gin” is the engine or the machinery that separates the harvested cotton into usable parts. The cotton fiber is used for textiles and other cotton goods, while seeds are used for cotton seed (to plant,) for animal feed, and to press cottonseed oil, used in many human foods.

From the National Cotton Council of America,

Today, nearly all cotton is stored in modules, which look like giant loaves of bread. Modules allow the cotton to be Cotton Module stored without loosing yield or quality prior to ginning. Specially designed trucks pick up modules of seed cotton from the field and move them to the gin. Modern gins place modules in front of machines called module feeders. Some module feeders have stationary heads, in which case, giant conveyors move the modules into the module feeder. Other module feeders are self-propelled and move down a track that along side the modules. The module feeders literally break the modules apart and “feed” the seed cotton into the gin. Other gins use powerful pipes to suck the cotton into the gin ginning cottonbuilding. Once in the cotton gin, the seed cotton moves through dryers and through cleaning machines that remove the gin waste such as burs, dirt, stems and leaf material from the cotton. Then it goes to the gin stand where circular saws with small, sharp teeth pluck the fiber from the seed.

From the gin, fiber and seed go different ways. The ginned fiber, now called lint, is pressed together and Cotton Balesmade into dense bales weighting about 500 pounds. To determine the value of cotton, samples are taken from each bale and classed according to fiber length (staple), strength, micronaire, color and cleanness. Producers usually sell their cotton to a local buyer or merchant who, in turn, sells it to a textile mill either in the United States or a foreign country.

The seed usually is sold by the producer to the gin. The ginner either sells for feed or to an oil mill where the linters (downy fuzz) are removed in an operation very much like ginning. Linters are baled and sold to the paper, batting and plastics industries, while the seed is processed into cottonseed oil, meal and hulls.

After separating the fibers from the seed, the fibers are spun into yarn. This video from the series How It’s Made shows the process of cleaning the fibers and spinning it into yarn.

Only after creating yarn (threads,) the yarn is woven into fabric. We’ll look at that process next.

If you’d like to read my posts on quilting as a business, you can find them here:

Cotton — Where Does Your Fabric Come From?
Cotton — What Happens After Harvest?
Cotton — Weaving Fabric
Cotton — Batik Production
Cotton — Printing Designs

Quilting for Pay — The Longarm
Conversations with Artists
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 1
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 2
You Should Write Patterns
“It Feels Weird Asking for Pay”
Pay for Quilters (And other Crafters and Artists)
You Should Sell Those: A Play in Three Short Scenes, With Commentary

Cotton — Where Does Your Fabric Come From?

That’s a silly question, huh? Fabric comes from the store, either online or bricks-and-mortar. Or it comes from your stash or that of a friend or relative. Or perhaps it comes from an auction or estate sale.

Just like canned tomatoes come from the grocery.

In fact there is a large story of where cotton — and your cotton quilting fabric — comes from. This is the first in a series of posts to explore that.

Cotton has a long history as a cultivated crop for textiles. Archeological evidence shows it in Central America at least 7,000 years ago. Besides the Americas, it’s been found in the Middle East from at least 3,000 years ago, and Europe more than a thousand years ago.

Currently it is one of the most important crops grown in the United States. It is used in the textile industry, the livestock industry, and in processed foods for humans. From the National Cotton Council of America, a little introduction. Emphasis added by me.

Cotton continues to be the basic resource for thousands of useful products manufactured in the U.S. and undefinedoverseas. U.S. textile manufacturers use an annual average of 7.6 million bales of cotton. A bale is about 500 pounds of cotton. More than half of this quantity (57%) goes into apparel, 36% into home furnishings and 7% into industrial products. If all the cotton produced annually in the U.S. were used in making a single product, such as blue jeans or men’s dress shirts, it would make more than 3 billion pairs of jeans and more than 13 billion men’s dress shirts.

An often-overlooked component of the crop is the vast amount of cottonseed that is produced along with the fiber. Annual cottonseed production is about 6.5 billion tons, of which about two-thirds is fed whole to livestock. The remaining seed is crushed, producing a high-grade salad oil and a high protein meal for livestock, dairy and poultry feed. More than 154 million gallons of cottonseed oil are used for food products ranging from margarine and cooking oils to salad dressing.

The average U.S. crop moving from the field through cotton gins, warehouses, oilseed mills and textile mills to the consumer, accounts for more than $35 billion in products and services. This injection of spending is a vital element in the health of rural economies in the 17 major cotton-producing states from Virginia to California.

Besides the 7.6 million bales of cotton used in the U.S. annually, we also export over 10.5 million bales to the rest of the world.

Where does cotton come from? Cotton grows as a crop in the southern U.S. and in countries around the world. In 2013 the U.S. was the leading exporter of cotton, followed by India. This chart shows the detail.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 8.45.58 AM

A video from University of Tennessee shows how all that cotton is cultivated and baled. Please note, I know there is no mention or recognition of slave labor in the early years of the U.S. industry. Though the video mentions the history of cotton cultivation in the U.S., the intention is to show contemporary methods.

At the end of the video above, you get a taste of the ginning and baling process. Next time I’ll show more of what happens after harvest.

If you’d like to read my posts on quilting as a business, you can find them here:

Cotton — Where Does Your Fabric Come From?
Cotton — What Happens After Harvest?
Cotton — Weaving Fabric
Cotton — Batik Production
Cotton — Printing Designs

Quilting for Pay — The Longarm
Conversations with Artists
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 1
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 2
You Should Write Patterns
“It Feels Weird Asking for Pay”
Pay for Quilters (And other Crafters and Artists)
You Should Sell Those: A Play in Three Short Scenes, With Commentary