|Cotton and Organic Cotton Fiber Yarn
About Cotton in the US & Peru
The cotton bolls are soft bunny-brown instead of the expected white, a short fiber cotton, grown in the South since before the Civil War. The seeds were obtained from USDA's National Plant Germplasm System, a cooperative effort by public (state and federal) and private organizations to preserve the genetic diversity of plants. In exchange, The State Botanical Garden will send NPGS seed from this year's crop.
Naturally colored cotton recently has been gaining popularity, but its history dates back centuries. In the Americas, cottons in shades of tan and brown have been grown for centuries. In Peru, brown cotton is preferred for fishing nets, since the darker color is less visible to the fish than white cotton.
The shorter fibers are fine for hand spinning, but they quickly fell out of favor after cotton processing was mechanized. During the mid 1800s, slaves were allowed only to grow brown cotton, since white cotton was favored by plantation owners.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Sally Fox, an entomologist and weaver, started experimenting with naturally colored cotton plants, breeding for fibers that are stronger and basically double that of the original plants she worked with, allowing naturally colored cotton to be mechanically spun.
Fox also bred for color, as some cottons will intensify and some lighten with washing. There are also green cottons, which actually turn green after boiling; the cotton bolls are yellow on the plant. Some varieties were discovered to have natural fire resistance and now there is breeding for fire resistance and other positive characteristics.
Fox obtained four plant variety protection certificates (equivalent to patents for open pollinated plants) under Fox FibreR in six shades (browns and greens). Fox's company, Natural Cotton Colours, Inc. holds these rights until 2008 and has developed into a multimillion dollar business. Fox has received numerous prestigious awards.
This cotton has more than a soft, pretty color. It has a longer bloom cycle, greater pest resistance and is more tolerant of drought and poor soil than modern breeds. The foliage is more finely divided.
Cotton is a popular crop worldwide, consuming a significant amount of chemicals both in growing and processing. Naturally colored cotton is easier to grow organically, plus it does not require any bleach or dyes in processing. In 1988 there was only one acre of organically grown cotton in this country. By 2001, there were more than 11,000 acres in organic cotton. That number has since dropped to under 5,000 acres, as competition from foreign growers has increased.
But the allure of naturally colored cotton has not diminished. Breeding and marketing has transformed an ancient plant into something new and desirable, found in upscale clothing, linens and yarn shops.
Naturally pigmented cotton and fine textiles have been produced for nearly five millennia in Peru, constituting the oldest recorded tradition of spinning and weaving in human history. Over a decade of ethnographic, botanical and archaeological research by the Native Cotton Project of Peru, trademarked in 1994 as Pakucho, has led to the identification of pre-Columbian farming techniques for sustained cotton harvesting and environmental resource management. As steward of this unique genetic resource, Pakucho has recovered a wide range of naturally colored cotton fiber, including cream, beige, brown, rust, chocolate, mauve, green and other earthy tones. No dyes, chemicals or other synthetic processes have been used to grow, soften, or color the fibers of these yarns.
Pakucho is the first Latin American enterprise to develop, spin and weave naturally colored and organically grown cotton fiber on an industrial scale. We offer carded and combed, as well as open end, yarns, in counts from Ne 6/1 to 36/1, in natural white, beige, brown, green, chocolate and mauve colored fibers.
Using authentic and esthetically pleasing Andean fibers and fabrics not only ensures the continuity of this noble and ancient textile tradition, but it also encourages the revival of environmentally conscientious practices, goals now shared by Old and New World peoples of the most diverse ethnic and cultural heritages.