Cotton: history and processing

The history of cotton goes back thousands of years. The first signs of its presence date back to 9000 years ago. It was in that remote period that the first seeds of the plant were found in the Indus valley.

It is a plant found on many continents, including America, where the Maya, the Aztecs and the Incas worked and used this fiber extensively thousands of years before the birth of Christ. In fact, archaeologists have found cotton capsules and fabrics that date back to 5800 BC. In Europe, however, cotton initially arrived in Greece and the Arabs brought it to our continent, around 350 BC, during the empire of Alexander the Great.

In the following centuries and up to 1400, cotton remained a luxury import product in Europe, gaining more importance only after the discovery of America.

With the invention of the ginning machine, the cost and time of production of this material are lowered a lot, so cotton is also spread to the Old Continent.

The cotton industry, as we know it today, only began to take hold after the invention of the mechanical loom and the steam engine, which also speeded up the seed harvesting procedure.

Characteristics of cotton

Cotton is a material that does not need special care and unlike other fabrics such as wool and silk, it is not attacked by moths. The color changes according to the origin: in the Egyptian areas it is yellowish, in the American ones the fiber is white, while in the Asian ones it has a reddish-brown color. Like the color, the length of the fiber also varies between 60 and 10 mm depending on the territory.

Fabric processing

The processing of cotton begins with the collection of the seeds, which are inserted into the ginning machine to eliminate leaves, dust, earth and separate the fiber from these, which is collected in large bales. These bales then pass into another machine, which obtains segments of fiber a few centimeters long, which in turn are rolled up to form threads, which can be used to obtain fabrics.

In particular, the phases of cotton processing are:

  • Spinning: allows you to transform a mass of disordered textile fibers (staple) into a unit of great length (yarn). The spinning processes are many and vary according to the characteristics of the fibers and the yarns to be obtained. The goal is to create a high quality, regular, resistant yarn with minimal hairiness.

 

  • Yarn dyeing: is the process of transforming raw yarn into colored yarn through the use of coloring substances. The factors to be evaluated in order to have a perfect dye are uniformity, penetration of the dye and solidity. It is essential that the fabric retains its original color, even after numerous washes.

 

  • Weaving: process that leads the yarns to intertwine to become fabrics. When the weft thread meets the warp, the fabric is born, a synthesis between the quality of the raw material, the creativity of the design, the structure and the experience of the staff.

 

  • Finishing: Textile finishing or “ennobling” is the set of treatments to which the fabric is subjected to improve its dyeability, printability, hydrophilicity, color, hand and final appearance.

 

From cotton to jeans

Cotton is the fabric at the base of denim. Although today a good part of denim trousers have a percentage of other materials, such as elastane or linen, cotton is present in a higher percentage than these other materials. In denim, cotton is woven with a twill weave in three (2: 1), intertwining with oblique ribs given by the waste of the bindings (a binding is the passage of a warp thread over a weft thread). It results in a diagonal.

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