Cotton comes from a shrubby plant (genus Gossypium) within the mallow family. White or cream-colored fluffy fibers surround each of the seeds (contained in capsules/bolls). Those fibers flatten and twist as they dry.
Although cotton is a tropical plant, it's grown globally and has been spun, woven, and dyed for centuries.
According to Shirt Champ, "Most American kinds of cotton range from 3/4 inch to 1 3/8 inches in length. Cotton is graded according to maturity, staple length, color, amount of foreign matter, and character. It has good wickability, which provides comfort." The longer the cotton fiber, the finer the cotton fabric. For example, Egyptian cotton is known for its long fibers, which is why products made with this variety are known to be softer.
When decorators are searching for the right garment, the terms "carded" or "combed" cotton might come up within product descriptions. So, what's the difference?
According to Lunatic Fringe Yarns, carding and combing are two ways to prep raw cotton fibers for spinning. To make yarn from the fibers, they need to be "fluffed and aligned" before spinning occurs. Combing creates a smoother cotton yarn due to more alignment of fibers, while carding results in a somewhat fuzzier yarn due to less aligning.
For more on cotton and ways to classify it, check out: