Part 3.5:Cotton Plant to Thread 

A question about how to make fabric:

I have no clue what this thread-weaving-knitting thing is. Help!

Turning fiber into fabric takes these steps, which I'll illustrate with the cotton plant process, as it is very common.

Cotton plants have seed pods that have a lot of fibers in them, in no particular order (kind of like a dust bunny from under the bed). The seed pods (called "bolls" - pronouced like 'bowls') are gathered from the field, and taken to a machine that takes off the husk and removes the seeds from the fiber.

At this point you have a mass of undifferentiated fiber. The next step combs out the fiber so that all the strands are lying parallel to each other. Next, the fibers are pulled out from the mass slowly and twisted into thread or yarn.

From there, the thread can be used in either weaving or knitting. Weaving is done on a loom; loom sizes range from very small to the huge, yards-wide machines you see in industrial videos.  Denim (jeans) is woven.

Weaving produces a fabric with threads running at 90' to each other. Knitting is done on needles, which are either pointed sticks, metal rods, or little hooks in knitting machines. Knitting produces a fabric that is made of interlocking loops.  Socks are knitted, for example; examine a pair of crew socks sometime.

Digression about knitting machines: Industrial knitting machines can be very wide across, with scores of little hooks lying side-by-side along it.  They produce yard goods that are later sewn into clothing, or pieces of sweaters that are joined together -- sometimes by plain sewing, sometimes by a more complex method that produces a nicer join.  You can also buy small knitting machines, that are only a yard wide, and these are often used by home knitters who make sweaters to sell, with are, sadly, often labeled "hand knit."  I think this is untruthful; someone has not sat at home with a pair of knitting needles; they've loaded up the machine and programmed the pattern in (which admittedly takes a lot of creativity) and then they operate the machine by hand to get the sweater pieces.  I'd be happier if the labels were more descriptive.
All material (c) 1999 Cynthia Virtue Email Author with comments
Back to Virtue Ventures Main Page Back to Fabric Index


Visit my CafePress store!