What is Giza Cotton?

You may be hearing a lot about "Giza cotton" recently. The term is generating a lot of buzz -- both in and out of the textile industry -- but is not always clearly defined. It's worth taking a bit of time to explain what Giza cotton actually is, as well as to touch on the importance of the European manufacturing process.

Giza: A Special Cotton

Giza is a high-quality Egyptian cotton graded based upon the length and diameter of fiber as well as its condition. The longer the fiber and the smaller the diameter, the finer the yarn can be spun… accordingly, the better the rating the cotton will receive. All Giza Egyptian cotton is sought after because of its high quality, strength and extra-long fiber.

Historically, the industry standard has been to identify various types of Giza cotton by a number: for example, Giza 45, Giza 70, Giza 87, Giza 88 and Giza 92. The numbers refer to the year the cotton strains were hybridized -- think of Giza 87 as being "born" in 1987 and Giza 88 in 1988. In recent decades, most manufacturers have replaced the number with the designation LS for long-strand or ELS for extra-long staple cotton (also known as Gossypium barbadense; see below).

 

Cotton Fact: Gossypium barbadense is a type of cotton plant that has been cultivated to have ELS fibres – fibres longer than 34 millimeters or 1 3/8 inches long that are associated with high-quality cotton. ELS cotton is commonly sold as Pima (also known as Supima cotton) or Egyptian cotton. ELS cotton is woven into some of the finest high thread count shirts, sheets and pillowcases.

 

The notable exception to this rule is Giza 45, which is known as the Queen of the Egyptian cotton. As the name suggests, Giza 45 cotton was hybridized in 1945 and is considered by many to be the world's most desirable cotton due to its remarkable natural attributes. Giza 45 is the longest of all long-staple cotton and its fibers possess outstanding uniformity and fineness. Giza 45 is rare, as it represents only half of one percent of all Egyptian cotton grown annually.

If you are looking for the highest quality bed linens, towels or sheet set that are weaved to be the softest, most supple fabric that is comfortable and durable, look no further than Giza 45. Giza 45 is known to be of the highest quality grade; the longest, thinnest, strongest, and most uniform. You will find it in the most luxurious products sold by fine linen and bath retailers.

This is why Giza cotton is used to make the world's highest-quality bed sheets and bath towels. Flagship products from leading brands including Abyss, Sferra, and Graciozza use Giza LS and ELS cotton in their products, with Sferra crafting its signature bedding collection exclusively from Giza 45 Egyptian cotton.

SFERRA'S Jacquard bedding made with 100% Giza 45 Egyptian cotton, giving it a soft, smooth and luxurious feel for a beautiful night's sleep.

Cotton grown in the delta of the Nile

Giza cotton is grown along the Nile River Delta, where nutrient-rich waters of the river, along with the cooler sea air, temper the otherwise hot Egyptian summer temperatures. Additionally, the high humidity levels in this area create a unique environment that is perfect for growing cotton.

To preserve its quality, all Giza cotton is picked by hand. This time-consuming process contributes to the higher cost of Giza cotton, but also results in materials made from longer and more complete fibers. (In contrast, the blade of a harvesting machine will arbitrarily cut through the cotton, reducing the natural strength and length of the fibers.)

Cotton plant field, attribution: Kimberly Vardeman

Cotton plant field, attribution: Kimberly Vardeman

Giza cotton fibers are exceptional at holding intense, deep dyes. This means that the cotton can be manufactured in a wide range of colors, one more brilliant than the next. Abyss Super Pile towels, for example, are available 60 designer shades. Giza cotton products are known for retaining their vibrancy, wash after wash.

A stack of Abyss Super Pile Bath Towels

Abyss Super Pile towel is made of 100% Egyptian Giza Extra Long Staple Cotton

Giza Cotton grades

Giza cotton comes in six distinct grades, divided into two categories. As noted above -- with the exception of Giza 45 -- most products aren't generally labeled with their grade. However, it is important information for manufacturers and suppliers to understand and identify cotton grade.

The Long-staple fibers (LS) are Giza 86, Giza 89, and Giza 90. To qualify as a long-staple fiber, the cotton must be longer than 33 millimeters and with a diameter of 4.3 to 4.9 micronaire. (Note: Micronaire is a measure of the air permeability of compressed cotton fibers. It is often used as an indication of fiber fineness and maturity). Giza long staple cotton can be found in luxury percale sheets; sateen weave bed linens; and fine Egyptian cotton towels.

The Extra long-staple fibers (ELS) are Giza 87, Giza 88, and Giza 45. As well as added length, extra long-staple Giza cotton is distinguished by its uniformity. This means there are very few irregularities within the cotton, which helps keep the surface incredibly smooth. Percale and sateen sheets made from extra long-staple cotton are considered the finest Egyptian cotton sheets in the market. The extra long-staple cotton plays a more significant factor in the overall quality of these bed sheets than many other measures, including thread count. Indeed, many luxury linen manufacturers bypass using thread count altogether when describing Giza Egyptian cotton sheets; the name Giza alone connotes highest quality.

Unparalleled European Craftsmanship

For the demanding linen connoisseur, the quality of European-woven fabrics is unparalleled. With centuries of experience in small, family-owned textile mills, the Europeans are recognized throughout the world as the absolute masters of the craft. Brands like Abyss & Habidecor, Matouk, Sferra, and Graccioza are part of a long heritage of unsurpassed workmanship and artistry.

Ethical Manufacturing

At Fine Linen and Bath, we firmly believe that European methods of manufacturing Giza sheet bedding and towels are far superior to those used elsewhere in the world. The cotton weavers of Italy and Portugal pride themselves on adhering to strict environmental, ethical, and legal conditions in both their manufacturing process and their factories.

Abyss & Habidecor factory in Portugal

Abyss & Habidecor factory in Portugal

Not All Giza is Created Equal

With the growing popularity of Giza cotton, you will see the name labeled on increasing numbers of products. But remember the old adage "caveat emptor" (or "buyer beware") because not all of this "Giza cotton" is truly from Egypt. Big box manufacturers have found a loophole that allows them to label a product ‘Made from Giza Cotton' when that cotton hasn't necessarily been grown in Egypt. The Giza seeds can be taken and grown outside of the Nile River area in less fertile soil without the strict oversight provided to true Giza cotton crops. Technically speaking, this ‘fake' Giza cotton is from the Giza seeds, but it's nowhere near the quality that is used by the European manufacturers. You may see towels or bedding labeled "Giza" in the big box stores, but beware that the quality is not the same.

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