Biography of Westinmoreland House

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December 20, 2005

What?There's Color in the Cotton Boll!?




Yep, naturally colored cotton grows right on the cotton plant! For most people naturally colored cotton is unknown to them, we were one of them. I pride myself on knowing a lot of history, esp in the fabric and textile world of the early 19th century, since I do a lot of research on natural fabrics & dyes, ect. And I have always been particularly fascinated with the cotton plant. We have been seen stopped along the highway picking up tufts of cotton when harvest time was in its height in cotton country (you get free seeds too!). But this one was news to me. It has quite a history. Did you know that some of the cotton colors of the Peruvian people included Mauve, Brown, Yellow, Pink and Blue? The America's are one of the places you used to could find colored cotton growing in the fields in ancient and not so ancient times. Now, thanks to the dye & textile industries of the mid-1800's we rarely can find colored cotton and some colors may be lost forever. The colored cottons were pushed out because they had short fibers that made it too hard for the machines to work with. Spinning it from hand was good, but the white cotton reigned supreme since it was easier to dye, and easier for the machines to process it. And then came the southerners who thought they would leave the harder to deal with colored cotton for the slaves who were restricted from growing white cotton. That left them unable to sell the colored cotton. So much of the colored cotton was lost in time. There are a few places where you can find colored cotton seeds being sold from heirloom crops. Some found benefits such as a hardier cotton crops and more insect repellent to continue tradition and keep harvesting it.



We found some seeds that have been grown since pre-1860's right here in our own state of Louisiana. They are a brown to copper color. I have read that naturally colored cotton, after being spinned, should be boiled to set the twist and the color. After washing, the colors do not fade but darken or get brighter. The minerals in your water affect the color also. One woman noted her green cotton would turn a bluish-grey/green but another woman boiled green cotton in soft water and had more of a yellow-green color. I'm really looking forward to getting these seeds, the brown/copper & green ones. I hope that these colored cottons do not get forgotten again!
Some Links for you:

Pulse Planet - Naturally Colored Cotton

Sally Fox paved the way for colored cotton to enter into the textile world by breeading a colored cotton that was long enough for the machines to process.

Revival of Colored Cotton Lots of history about colored cotton.

Get some of your own and carry on the cotton!

Native Organicor you can just purchase some handwoven items of colored cotton from here.
Photos from Southern Exposure Seed Exchage, we bought seeds for both of those cottons

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Biography of Westinmoreland in the Horticulture: Cotton category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Hearth: Notes & Misc is the previous category.

Horticulture: Huckleberries is the next category.

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