Sea Island Cotton Processing

The labor of cultivating and harvesting cotton was intensive. The cotton fiber grows in bolls about the size and shape of a walnut. The cotton was picked by hand and brought into sheds where it was prepared for sale. Sorting removed damaged cotton and separated it into different qualities. Dust and any debris were removed from the cotton and the luxuriant fiber was spread out. The two last steps were removing the cotton seed (either by hand or a roller gin) and bailing the cotton to be shipped. It took, on average, 1,500 pounds of seed cotton, to fill a 300-pound bag of clean marketable lint.

A churka, or simple roller gin, was also used. This ancient type of "gin" did not harm the Sea Island cotton fiber. The cotton was then weighed and placed into bags branded with the owners name and shipped to markets around the world. Sea Island cotton was the fiber of choice for exquisite lace handkerchiefs, shawls and luxury clothing.

For specifics on the various steps of the steps of the cotton plant from seed to product follow this link: Specific steps in cotton preparation for market.

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Last updated: April 14, 2015

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