Monday, February 28, 2011

Cotton: The White Gold Of The Fabric Industry From Harvest To Fabric

Cotton is one of the most important commodities to the American fabric industry since the years of the Civil war and even as far back as the 14th century. This article will give you the process from which fabric is made into a men’s designer shirt. Once harvested, a farmer shreds all the stalks and plows them into the rich mineralized soil, or leaves the cotton raw as it is on the top to prevent any erosion from taking place. Some cotton farmers plant the seeds in low ridges or “beds” as they are called in the industry. Some growers plant seeds in flat fields.                                                                                       
In The United States, most cotton farmers plant cotton in April or May. These growers use between four to eight row-tractor-mounted mechanical planters to open furrows in the earth’s soil. Next, they drop in the seeds and close the grooves up, after the fertilizer is applied. Then all that’s left to do is press the soil 200 lbs per square inch of soil. Basically this is all done is one sweep. Organic growers use Tobacco as a fungicide and for weed control at this point.
Most cotton farmers drop several seeds to begin with and then return at intervals not more than 10 inches apart, to add more. This is called Hill Planting. There are some farmers who drop two rows of seeds for more output. They do this by reducing the amount of space between the rows they have combined. Rows in the USA are normally 40-44 inches apart and grow between 30,000-60,000 plants on each acre. 
In the ginning process, one must be detail oriented and as spiffy as one can be. This process is very important and can potentially ruin a bale. This ginning of cotton is taken seriously and is put onto a module pad. From there it is fed onto the conveyor belt then sucked into the gin building where two humongous fans air it out. The cotton goes through the separators first, which clean the cotton. Once this is done, it goes to the tower dryers then on to the incline cleaners to finish the cleaning job. The burr and stick machines are used to take out the burrs and sticks out of it. At this point the cotton is ready for the gin stands so the lint can be separated from the seeds. The lint cleaners are ready for the cotton at this point and is cleaned and pressed. Hydraulic presses are utilized which produce 5k-6k PSI.   It is tied with a fine 001.9 gauge wire and the cotton is weighed. An average bale might weigh between 400-600 lbs. It is taken to storage and kept there before it is sold. The seeds of cotton are not wasted, it is taken and hauled off by trucks to be used for motor oil cooking oil and feed for animals to just name a few end products.
Cotton is used throughout the world and is classified. When classifying cotton, workers grade it by checking grade, character and staple. Staple accounts for 30% of us crops domestically, and is used for many coarse textiles. Medium staple is the most prevalent and is about 70% of cotton. Grade will refer to brightness of shades and colors, and foreign matter to cotton. The highest grades in the US are good middling and strict middling. Six color grouping are defined as white to gray, and character indicates diameter, strength and body of the cotton lint. Uniformity and smooth fiber is a must.
Let’s look at the finished product. Businesses that make material use many kinds of machines. One can be called a spinning machine. This will spin the cotton into thread. The thread is now taken to another machine called a shreader. This machine applies corn syrup to the thread for added strength. If this is not done when knitting or weaving the fabric will break. After that it goes to the third machine which a called a loom. This weaves the thread into a finished fabric.
Knitting is of course the most inexpensive method of making fabric. A circular knitting machine is good for stripes and designs on fabric so it is widely used. It has many larger needles used to grab the fabric as it goes up and down. Knitted fabric is more likely to tear than woven fabric. This method is used to make shirts and sweaters. It accounts for 55% of fabric in the USA.
Weaving is the other 45% in the US. Though more expensive it is stronger because of it’s more twisted thread. This will unlikely tear in the long run. This is where consumers see mens dress shirts price from $99.00 and up in retail stores. In this process the looms use two sets of threads. One vertically, then horizontally.  The machine pulls every other thread up or down. This creates the weave effect.
Bear in mind, this is the simple method. There are others but in layman’s terms anyone can understand this. The fabric is now ready for sale for shirt manufacturing or other apparel.  

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