sofa cover

A very brief history of cotton

30th January 2023

Cotton – that fluffy, staple fibre that grows around the seeds of the cotton plant, has been used as a raw material to make a plethora of comfortable garments since nearly 6000 BC. Many materials have come and gone throughout the ages, yet cotton has stood the test of time.

What exactly is cotton?

Cotton is an easy growing plant that is grown readily all through the tropics and subtropics. The plant produces a soft, fluffy, white fibre that grows as a boll which serves as a protective case around the seeds of the plant. In nature, the fibre actually helps the plant to reproduce by aiding seed dispersal.

The fibre boll is what is used as a raw material and is made out of almost entirely cellulose – a molecule made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Small amounts of wax, pectins, fats and water also make up the fibre.

From Neolithic to now

The first use of cotton stretches back to Neolithic times. In actual fact, cotton bolls have been discovered in a cave in Mexico and date back to roughly 5500 BC – the same age as the bolls that have been discovered in Pakistan. The ancient civilisations of Central America spun, wove and dyed cotton, and any that wasn’t used was sent to their ancient rulers as a tribute.

First domestication of cotton occurred around 3400-2300 BC and the rest is history. Cotton spread throughout the ancient world to Greece, Arabia, Iran and China during the wars of Alexander the Great. Use of cotton increased across the Middle Ages, its popularity sustained for generations, but the Industrial Revolution would see cotton production reach heights never seen before.

Shipped across the seas from India, where it was grown en masse, cotton was heavily manufactured into cloth in the steam-powered mills of the industrial hubs of the UK. Manchester, the Midlands and Lancashire all saw a boom in cotton mills as cotton manufacture became the engine room of Britain’s industrial prestige.

During the 19th century, cotton was manufactured into:

  • Clothing
  • Blankets
  • Quilts
  • Rug
  • Upholstery
  • Drapes


Today, not much has changed. After all, there is a reason why cotton has been used for our benefit for thousands of years and why we use it as a fabric for sofa upholstery.

If you’d like to see how our cotton sofa upholstery looks and feels first hand, you can order a free sample pack through our website, which we deliver right to your door! And if you’re looking for any in-depth advice or extra information, our in-house furniture specialists are here to help.

Order your free fabric swatches

Discover the quality and texture of our fabrics first-hand.
Order your free fabric swatch today, choose up to 5 from our collection.