Cotton also comes from a plant

Cotton also comes from a plant

What is the difference between milkweed and cotton fibre. A question many of you are asking. Both come from plants and yet the differences are significant.

Pollination
Although both these plants’ flowers attract pollinators, cotton, unlike milkweed, does not need to be pollinated by insects to produce the fibre-filled fruit. This is fortunate indeed because cotton, a large-scale monoculture, requires its share of pesticides, although organic cotton has grown in popularity in the past decade. Milkweed cultivation protocol forbids using pesticides precisely to avoid harming pollinators.

 Harvest
The industrialization of cotton farming began at the same time as the industrial age. Knowledge of its production and harvest techniques have been improving for the past 300 years, giving cotton a head start compared to milkweed. Cotton harvesting machines are sophisticated and efficient; those of milkweed, still at an experimental stage. Hand-picking  remains the most popular approach today for milkweed pods supply.

The fibre
Cotton fibre is tough enough to be spun, woven or knitted without any other reinforcing fibre. On the other hand, milkweed fibre, although similar in diameter to cotton, stands out due to its hollow nature. This gives it an insulating capacity greater than that of any other fibre. However, it also results in a fragility which requires it to be mixed with other fibres to make a yarn and a fabric. This is the reason why we cannot produce a fabric or knit only with soie d’Amérique. For example, Yvonna, the model in the photo above, wears a dress made of a knit containing 25% milkweed fibre, 70% eucalyptus viscose and 5% Spandex.

The stem
Another advantage of milkweed is that the stem contains about 20 to 25% of a fibre with properties equivalent to linen. Its stem has the added attribute of being perfectly straight, therefore easily exploitable unlike Canadian flax (linen), produced for oil and therefore highly etiolated.

With all its potential for clothing applications, milkweed textile, while still in its infancy in the industry, has not ceased to amaze us.

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