Flannel vs Cotton – What Is the Difference?

Flannel vs Cotton – What Is the Difference?

Sometimes, you can easily tell the difference between two varying fabrics. When they come from different types of fibers, like synthetic and natural, the difference is easier to spot. However, when it comes from the same kind of fiber, the differences are subtle, as you’ll be able to tell in this flannel vs cotton comparison. Cotton and flannel are common fabrics in the textile industry. Most of our clothes feature these fabrics, but not many people can distinguish between them.

One of the most significant differences between cotton and flannel is that cotton can only come from the cotton plant, but flannel can come from different materials. Therefore, while cotton is a fiber, flannel is only fabric. This article will explore what the two fabrics are and their distinctive features. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to distinguish between flannel and cotton. On that note, let’s dive in. 

Flannel vs Cotton – What is Cotton?

Cotton is a white and soft fibrous substance you can only find around a cotton plant’s seed. It is usually made into textile and thread for sewing. The cotton plant used in cotton fiber production is native to subtropical and tropical regions like America, Africa, and India. Cotton has been around for some time, dating back to 5000BC.

It is usually spun into yarn and utilized in making soft, breathable fabric. It is popular in the textile industry, and you can use it for different products like t-shirts, shirts, underwear, bedsheets, diaper, robes, socks, dresses, pillowcases, and more. Today’s fabrics like corduroy, denim, seersucker, and more feature cotton fiber. It is also common as a blend with other materials. For example, you can usually blend cotton with linen to maximize lightweight and wrinkle resistance benefits. 

Where Cotton Originated From

The earliest cotton production was in India, and the first cotton gin used to separate the fluff from the plant seed was invented in India as well. The use of a cotton gin made production easier and faster, increasing the use of cotton for the production of many items.

However, the industrial revolution introduced the spinning mule, jenny, and spinning frame into the textile industry. This led Britain to become a leading cotton producer as this machinery allowed manufacturers to spin cotton at a significantly higher rate.

However, the introduction of the mechanical cotton gin by Eli Whitney increased cotton production in Europe and America. The tool efficiently separated the cotton from the seed by utilizing machine power. As a result, it significantly reduced the hours of manual labor required for producing a bale of cotton. Due to this, the Southern states in America started making top-quality cotton as their fibers were stronger and longer. To date, the United States remains one of the leading producers of cotton globally. 

Flannel vs Cotton – How to Process Cotton

Producing cotton is an involved process as there’s a need to plant the cottonseed, pick the crop, and process it in a cotton gin. In ancient times, picking and separating cotton was by hand. However, most cotton production today begins with a cotton picker or a cotton stripper. After picking the cotton, people store it in fields before sending them to the cotton gin. The cotton gin cleans and fluffs the cotton bales to separate them from dirt, lint, and seeds. 

After the cotton gin completes the separation process, manufacturers compress and store the raw cotton till it is ready for shipping to textile mills for production. Usually, you put the clean and fluffed cotton through a carding machine that will clean the material. Then, the short fibers form a long untwisted rope for weaving and spinning. 

Flannel vs Cotton – What is Flannel

Flannel is another soft woven fabric. However, it comes from cotton or wool. You can also make flannel using various synthetic fibers. Flannel has been in existence since the 17th century, and most people believe its origin is Wales. You can use this fabric for sleepwear, bedsheets, tartan, etc. It was first used when Welsh textile workers decided to use leftover sheep wool to create a warm, comfortable, and moisture-wicking fabric. The cloudy climate of Wales soon made flannel shirts a go-to option for most Welsh farmers.

It didn’t take long before the remaining working class became a part of the crowd. After a while, flannel made its way to France and England, where it also became a top choice for the working class when the Industrial Revolution began. Flannel continued to spread in popularity over the years till it entered the United States. Soon, the soldiers’ uniform in World War 1 featured a flannel layer to provide warmth for wearers.

It wasn’t till the 1990s that plaid flannel became popular. It began with grunge bands who incorporated plaid flannels in their stage attire. This soon made plaid flannels a fashion item till they became a fashion statement for the hipster movement. Now flannel is popular and a pretty versatile choice of fabric. It is used for outdoor, winter, or fall apparel.

Flannel vs Cotton – Types of Cotton

There are different types of cotton, and they all feature various characteristics that help you determine the right option for you. The kind of cotton also determines its use, appearance, and how it differs from flannel in this flannel vs cotton comparison. Keep reading to find out the different cotton available for use in the textile industry. 

Pima Cotton

Most people would argue that this is the finest type of cotton globally. It is pretty soft and extra long. You can easily find this type of cotton in America’s southern states. It is a popular and well-sought type of cotton. One of the reasons for this is its resistance to wrinkling, fading, and tearing.

Egyptian Cotton

Another option you can explore similar to Pima cotton is Egyptian cotton. This type of cotton offers you the same type of resistant qualities found in Pima cotton. The main distinction between the two types of cotton is their location; Egyptian cotton is grown in Egypt.

Upland Cotton

Another form of cotton that’s quite distinct from the first two is Upland cotton. It is very short but is quite popular. It makes up 90% of the world’s cotton production due to its growing ability in numerous places. Upland cotton is native to the Caribbean, Central America, Southern Florida, and Mexico.

Organic Cotton

Any type of cotton that you can grow without chemicals falls under organic cotton. The cotton plants used in their production are also not genetically engineered and do not pose a danger to the environment. Organic cotton is quite rare and is among the best type of cotton. 

Flannel vs Cotton – Types of Flannel

There are several distinct flannels available in the textile industry. It determines their unique features and texture; keep reading to discover the types of flannel available.

  • Wool Flannel: This type of flannel features wool as its base material. Most flannels from Europe are also woolen. It wasn’t till recently that Europe began using this fiber.
  • Cotton Flannel: Cotton flannel was quite popular during the expansion period for colonists. However, it remains a popular product used for bedsheets, rich flannel garments, etc.
  • Synthetic and Mixed Flannel: To make flannel more affordable, many flannels in the market today feature synthetic fibers like nylon or polyester. You can also find a blend of natural and synthetic fibers in flannel to help you enjoy the benefit of both types. 
  • FlanneletteA flannelette’s weaving process is quite different from the typical flannel. Therefore, its texture is coarse, and you can make it using any fiber used for weaving flannel.

Most times, flannel fabrics come in plaid patterns, making most people believe that’s the typical pattern of the flannel fabric. However, flannel usually comes in different designs and colors. The main feature that flannel offers is keeping the wearer warm in a cold environment. 

Why Do Shirts Shrink?
Why Do Shirts Shrink?

Flannel vs Cotton – Features of the Cotton Fiber

Cotton is a unique fiber that has many excellent features. These features are why cotton is such a popular fiber choice in the textile industry; let’s take a look.

  • Softness: Cotton is quite soft and fluffy. This is why most fabrics made from cotton usually retain their soft feel.
  • Durability: Another feature of cotton that you should note in this flannel vs cotton comparison is its durability. It is strong and quite tough. It is famous in the textile industry because of its tear-resistant feature. 
  • Absorbency: Cotton fabric is an absorbent fabric because of the space between the cotton fibers. Therefore, you can count on it to absorb sweat and liquid easily. Its permeable nature also allows it to hold dye well. That’s why cotton is available in different colors.
  • Breathability: Cotton is also quite breathable because of its fiber structure. Compared to several synthetic fibers, cotton is a breathable option you can trust.

Flannel vs Cotton – Features of the Cotton Fabric

Many features distinguish flannel fabric from others in the textile industry. Below are the three top features you should take note of. 

  • Softness: Flannel is quite comfortable due to the soft fiber like cotton used in its production. Its loose weave and napped texture also play a role in this fabric’s feel. Due to this softness, flannel is a common option for shirts, bedsheets, and many more.
  • Warmth: Flannel is a great option if you want to retain heat. It is a common choice for manufacturers of winter and outdoor clothing. It is also a common choice for blankets.
  • Moisture-Wicking: Another feature thanks to its base fiber that flannel offers is the moisture-wicking feature. This makes flannel a breathable option as well. Instead of trapping moisture and making the wearer uncomfortable, flannel wicks it away and helps you stay comfortable. 

Flannel vs Cotton – Final Thoughts

Flannel and cotton have their unique features. As this article points out, the only similarity between them is that you can make flannel from cotton. Different cotton and flannels are available, as explained in this flannel vs cotton comparison. The different types determine their durability and strength. Whatever option you opt for, both materials are soft and comfortable and will keep you warm on cold days. 

Was This Article Helpful?

Flannel vs Cotton – What Is the Difference? Read this flannel vs cotton comparison to learn about their origin, features, and types. This will help you understand their differences.
5 1 5 1

You're Never to Cool To Learn New Things

Sources and Further Research

Please note: 440 Industries is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

MORE ARTICLES FROM OUR BLOG