From field to shirt – explaining the cotton industry
Posted on April 07 2018
No one really knows how long cotton has been around.
Bits of cotton cloth have been found in Mexico that are over 7,000 years old, so we know that cotton has been an important part of clothing for a long time. It was Arabian merchants that introduced cotton cloth to Europe around 800 A.D. and that the cotton seed was planted by colonists in Florida around 1556, which led to the cotton plantations and the turbulent history they created.
It was 1730 that cotton was first spun by machinery in England paving the way for the industrial revolution and modern working practices, but have you ever really considered the cotton growing and manufacturing processes that enable you to wear the shirts you buy from us?
Cotton plantations can still be found in hot countries today
That’s because the cotton plant, Gossypion, needs lots of heat and water to develop into full maturity, a process that takes several months. The seeds of the cotton plant develop into fluffy balls of cotton that’s then picked by hand, or machine.
A machine is used to separate the cotton fibres from the seeds, with the fibres then used to make cloth and the seeds sown again to make more plants.
Spinning is the first step in turning cotton fibres into cloth
Spinning is done using a machine that twists the cotton fibres together. Sometimes, other synthetic fibres are introduced here to create a cotton mix. Yarn is produced by spinning the cotton but is often too weak on it’s own, so two single threads are twisted together in a process known as ‘plying’.
How the yarn is twisted determines the structure when it’s then spun into cloth. Carded cotton has a fluffier look and is coarse to the touch, whereas combed cotton is softer with a smoother finish.
It’s the weaving process that produces different fabrics
Despite being made from the same material, it’s the weaving methods that creates different fabrics. Fabrics are woven on a loom where a number of yarns are drawn at right angles to each other, this is the warp. Other yarns are then threaded horizontally through the warp – this is the weft.
Different types of fabric are produced using different weaving techniques that combine the warp and weft.
Now that we have a basic fabric, it’s time to treat it with dye using a machine that’s not unlike a spin dryer! Time and temperature are crucial elements in getting the dyeing process just right.
We then buy the fabric to create our hand-tailored shirts
We look for the quality of the yarn, it’s structure and how it has been woven along with its weight and colour. We use different fabrics to create different types of shirt as each lends itself to a different cut or style. Once we’ve selected the right fabric we use a pattern along with your individual measurements to create a bespoke shirt just for you.
Photo by Genaro Servín from Pexels