What is denim? How could it be made? Where does cotton result from? What makes jeans only blue on the outside? What’s the difference between selvedge denim and ordinary denim?
In the event that you sell jeans for a living, I’m sure you get questions like these on a fairly regular basis. To answer such questions, you must understand the intricate processes of how denim is manufactured. Once you master this knowledge, the tricky part is how you said into context; how you use it to see stories.
This is actually the first in a series of five episodes offering an accurate and condensed outline of the complete production procedure for denim. The series was created to be an in-depth reference tool with factual answers to questions related to how denim is made.
Approaching the production process chronologically, this episode looks at the first stage; the principal raw material in Denim Fabric, cotton.
What Is Cotton?
Cotton is the most important raw material had a need to make denim. Most of us know cotton from the soft pads and balls we use to stop bleedings, and girls use to put up make-up.
It’s an all natural fibre that originates from the cotton plant; an ancient crop has been grown for a large number of years. Cotton used to be a wild crop, but cotton has evolved through breeding and genetic assist with become simpler to process and also to provide an improved yield.
The cotton plant’s fruit, known as the cotton boll, yields a fluffy white, raw fibre called the ‘lint.’ That’s what’s used to make denim. Each boll is the size of a fig and contains around 500,000 fibres. Visit: ineedfabric.com
Cotton is one of the world’s most significant crops in conditions of usability, monetary value and environmental impact of its production. Within the denim industry, cotton is without question the most crucial raw material. Back the day, denim was almost exclusively created from 100% cotton. Today, consumers demand denim that stretches, which means the fabric will involve some kind of polyester-based elastomer in it. But even then, 98-99% of the raw material is cotton.
How Cotton is Made
The cotton plant requires a lot of sunshine to grow. It requires typically 140 days from the seeds are planted to the dried-up locks of cotton are prepared for picking. The very best yield originates from latitudes between 45° north and 30° south. To place that into perspective; that’s south of Venice in Italy and north of basically all of Africa.
Each plant produces around 300 to 350 grammes per season, from up to 100 bolls per plant. That means you will need two plants to have sufficient cotton to make the denim necessary for an average pair of five-pocket jeans.
Once harvested, the raw cotton undergoes the ginning process at the cultivation site. This technique separates the fibres from the seeds. The cotton is first vacuumed into tubes that make it to a dryer to reduce moisture. Next, the cotton is cleaned to remove any foreign matter.
After ginning, the raw fibres are compressed into bales, each weighing around 250 kilos, this means enough to make denim for about 350 pairs of jeans.
Nowadays, cotton is grown on all continents, apart from Antarctica, obviously. China, america, India and Pakistan will be the world’s biggest cotton-growing nations. But Brazil, Turkey and Australia are also churning out their fair share, which is growing. After you add all of them up, these countries provide you with the majority of the cotton that results in our denim.
Physical Properties of Cotton
Cotton is defined and categorised predicated on a couple of physical properties, including staple length, fineness and maturity, strength and colour.
Staple length refers to the distance of the fibre, and it’s the main physical property of cotton. There are many types of cotton with different staple lengths. For jeans production, Upland cotton from the short staple family is mostly used, with a staple amount of one inch is sufficient.
Generally, short staple cotton is cheaper and of lower quality. But since denim is usually created from yarn with a coarse yarn count-that’s the thickness of the yarn, which I’ll talk more about in the episode about spinning-long staple cotton is not essential. However, extra-long staple (ELS) cottons such as Egyptian Giza, Indian Suvin, and Chinese Xinjiang may be used to make denim.
The fineness and maturity of any cotton fibre are essential too. The finer and older a fibre is the better the quality of it. These properties are measured in micronaire, which is the environment permeability of compressed cotton. Using cotton with a low micronaire count contributes to neppy yarn plus more waste, as it breaks easier.
There’s also the effectiveness of the fibre, which is measured as tensile strength. This lets you know the maximum load that fibres will hold before they break. Obviously, this influences the strength of the final fabric.
Finally, there’s the colour of the fibre, which distinguishes one batch of cotton from another. The colour is most significant if the cotton ends up undyed in the fabric.
Great things about Cotton in Denim
So, why is denim manufactured from cotton? What are the benefits?
Apart from the undeniable fact that cotton’s been with us for more than 100 years, it is still popular because it’s comfortable, breathable, durable, and since it looks great when you weave it into fabrics.
In conditions of what makes one kind of cotton much better than another, you need to look into the properties of the fibre. The longer the staple, the finer and older, and the more robust a fibre is, the bigger the quality.
The grade of cotton also depends on where it’s grown, how it is harvested and the seasonal conditions during cultivation. That said, there are many misunderstandings about the influence on the grade of where cotton is grown. An example is ELS cotton from Zimbabwe, which is not by default top quality than similar types of cotton grown in places like the united states. The difference is how it is picked and processed. In most developed countries, cotton is picked with large mechanical harvesters. In some developing nations, like Zimbabwe, cotton is still picked by hand.
THE INFO Problem with Cotton
60 that retailers often don’t know much about what kind of cotton the jeans they’re selling are produced from. But, most of enough time, they’re never to blame. As the guys that retailers obtain, the wholesalers and sales reps, don’t know either.
One of the main known reasons for this, when i see it, is the fact consumers generally don’t care. They take cotton for granted. It’s regarded as a commodity, and some degree it is. But like I’m arguing in this website post-and I’m sure any cotton farmer, denim maker or well-informed denimhead will agree-cotton isn’t just cotton.
As somebody who sells jeans, you can help change this ignorance that by asking your supplier about the cotton that the denim is manufactured out of.