Cotton is a most important raw material used in the production of shirt fabrics. Cotton fabric is in fact, the most suitable to be worn directly in contact with the skin. The fiber is composed of 95% cellulose, that is the substance which gives the fiber a good resistance to use and washing and it also has an excellent capacity to absorp dyes. In addition, this fiber is soft, breathable and hypoallergenic.
Cotton is a natural fiber from vegetable origins,it comes from the cotton plant, that is in the mallow family. It’s an annual plant that has a growing period of about six months. Once its fruit has reached maturity, it presents a capsule with 5 to 8 seeds on which the fiber develops. After harvesting the fibers are separated from the seeds and impurities.
Then the fibers are joined in order to create a roving, which is then drafted to make yarn. A high quality thread, has an uniform strength, fineness, elasticity and color. These characteristics are determined, not only by finishing processes, but also by the origin of the fiber. Cotton produced in Egypt is the best in quality because very durable, shiny and fine. On the other hand the one produced in India has not such a high quality, because the fiber is large and rough, and for this it’s also the cheapest cotton on the market. The leading cotton producer in the world is China, followed by the USA.
The quality of a yarn is defined by its yarn count, that measures the ratio between its length and weight. English Cotton count ”Nec” is used to define the density of the cotton yarn. It is the amount of skein material measured in hanks (840 yards – 768 m) needed to reach one pound (454g). For example, if the count is 80, it means that it takes 80 hanks, to reach 454g. The higher the number the finer the yarn.
It’s possible to improve the natural qualities of the fiber. For example, combing removes the short fibers and gives the yarn a shiny appearance. Mercerization on the other hand gives the yarns a lustrous appearence, strengthens them and makes them easy to dye. Once the desired quality is reached, the yarns are united by a spinning process, to create the final thread.
Finally, there is the weaving operation in which two distinct sets of threads are interlaced to create a fabric. The longitudinal threads are called the wrap and the lateral ones are the weft. These are interlaced according to the weave desired. Cotton fabrics mainly used for the men’s shirts are: Poplin, Oxford, Piquet, Fil à Fil, Twill, Sea Island and Flannel.
More detailed information on these fabrics, in one of our next posts!