How Is Cotton Made Into a Yarn?

Written by annie lee tatum
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How Is Cotton Made Into a Yarn?
(Mikewade: Flickr.com, Ezola/Flickr.com, Mzelle Biscotte/Flickr.com, Nicmcphee/Flickr.com)

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Cotton and the Textile Mill

Yarn begins its life as pure cotton, picked from plants and bundled into large bales. Bales of cotton are typically stored in warehouses, then shipped to textile factories. When these bales reach the factory, the cotton begins a long journey through a series of mechanised processes. The bales are opened and sorted by a line of dedicated "breaking and opening" machines. The cotton from the bales is sorted, partially cleaned, mixed and fluffed. The fibres are then further separated in a blending machine; this separates different grades of cotton to be blended, processes and spun into yarn. The fibres best suited for textile weaving typically measure between 1 to 1 3/4 inches long; the first destination for these fibres is the carding machine.

Textile factory worker
Textile factory worker

Cleaning and Separation

After the shorter fibres are separated to be sent off for use in other industries, some cotton intended for lower-grade yarn will proceed to a combing machine, while the mixed, fluffed fibres of appropriate length for higher-grade yarn are then processed in a carding machine. Carding cleans the textile fibres again, removes any fibres shorter than the predetermined desired length, and places the remaining fibres side by side. A combing machine cleans the fibres yet again, straightening them into a long, soft and untwisted rope known as a slyver (pronounced as SLY-ver).

How Is Cotton Made Into a Yarn?
Cotton bobbins ready for use

Twisting

The next machines in the process, called the drawing frame and the slub, pull and straighten the sliver and twist the fibres for the first time. After a trip through the drawing frame, which uses a series of rollers to stretch the cotton, the slub combines several slivers together into one strand. Twisting the strands of the sliver together (into what is now known as "roving") strengthens them so they can withstand further processing.

The roving then continues through various spinning machines that pull and twist the rope at speeds up to 2,500 revolutions per second, both lengthening it and twisting it tighter. The roving is now ready to be spun into yarn -- a spinning frame gives the fibres one final twist, and the finished cotton yarn leaves the machine wound up in bobbins.

From this point, most cotton yarn continues through various machinery, as it is woven into cloth and textiles by looms before it is sent to other factories to be dyed, shrunk, cut and further processed into clothing or home fabrics.

How Is Cotton Made Into a Yarn?
Textile spinning room

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