First place where people grew cotton
South America was the first place in the world where people grew cotton to make clothing.
Cotton spreads to North America
By 1000 BC cotton cloth, and mixed cotton/alpaca cloth was common all along the Pacific coast of South America, in Central America and Mexico, among the Pueblo people in North America, and in the nearby Caribbean islands too.
How did they get the seeds out?
In South America and North America, unlike in India at the same time, people did not use a machine to get the seeds out of the cotton after they harvested it. People in the Americas just pulled out the cotton seeds with their hands.
Long staple and short staple cotton
People grew two different kinds of cotton in North and South America. South American people mainly grew long-staple cotton, with long fibers and few seeds, but long-staple cotton needs very hot, tropical conditions to grow well. Further north, North Americans grew short-staple or upland cotton, which would grow better there.
But short-staple cotton had more seeds, and you had to spend a lot of time digging out the seeds by hand. So cotton cloth was much more expensive in northern areas than it was in Mexico and Central and South America, and people wore less of it. Further north than Texas or the Carolinas, even short-staple cotton didn’t grow, so people there didn’t wear cotton clothing at all (They made their clothes out of other things).
Cotton and Silk, by Jacqueline Dineen (1988). Easy reading.
Cotton, by Guinevere Healy-Johnson and Nancy Shaw (1999). Also for kids.
Cotton Now & Then, by Karen B. Willing (1996).