You read it first in this week’s The Factory in Guide magazine.

Cotton to it  Over 200 pairs of jeans can be made from a single bale of cotton. 

You read it first in this week’s The Factory in Guide magazine.

Cotton has been around pretty much forever. But it wasn’t until about 4000 B.C. that people in India, Mexico, China and Pakistan started using it in the home or as an essential for living. It got a foothold in the United States when the settlers came to the Virginia colony in the late 1500s, and over time the further south they went, the better the cotton grew. Cotton growth does best in very hot and dry conditions, so it’s no surprise that Texas is a major producer of this important product even today. 

Of the world’s cotton production, 35% is provided by the United States alone. However, the way it is harvested has changed over the years with better machines and technology. In the past, people used to pick it by hand; very hot, back-breaking work. Then came the tractor age and square bales. Today, the ultimate way to harvest cotton is by a tractor with special features that pluck it and form it into huge round bales.

The standard rectangle bales can weigh anywhere from 470 – 500 pounds! But the round bales can weigh anywhere from 1000 – 5600 pounds! These are wrapped in plastic to be left in the field until they are hauled away on semis to the gin. A gin is a special machine that separates the hard parts of the plant and seeds from the fluffy cotton.

So, what can be made from a bale of cotton? Well, that depends on how big a bale is. As we have seen, there can be quite a difference between the size and the shape.  In 2021, 17,500,000 bales of cotton were produced in the United States. One standard bale of cotton weighs approximately 480 pounds and can make 690 bath towels or 215 pairs of jeans. That would be enough jeans for your whole lifetime – unless you really, really like jeans!   In addition to the textile industry, cotton is used in fishnets, coffee filters, tents and in bookbinding.

Cotton harvesting time. Round bales of harvested cotton wrapped in yellow plastic

Did you know bills of money also have cotton in them? About 75% cotton in each bill to be exact.  So the next time you’re with an adult, ask them if you can feel a dollar bill. Do you feel how soft it is? It’s bendable but doesn’t tear as easily as regular paper would so it lasts much longer. 

Many things we use everyday are made of cotton or have cotton in them. Who knew cotton could be so crafty! If you’re driving this summer in the southern and southwestern states, see if you can spot the fields with big round bales of cotton waiting for the gin.

Learn More About This Fact

For more interesting facts, click on the button below! And everyone knows that cotton shirts are the best for tye dyeing! Ask your parent or teacher if you can do this fun activity!