Once the cotton has been harvested and cleaned, it is ready to be processed into yarn. The two machines most commonly used at this stage in cotton production are Carding and Combing machines. This is an important part of the cotton spinning process as it directly contributes to the final features of the cotton yarn, and ultimately the fabric. All cotton used at Original Favorites starts with ring-spun, combed cotton yarn.
Ring Spun Quality
One machine used at the gin and spinning mill is the carding machine. The carding process separates individual fibers while removing most of the remaining impurities. The carding machines disentangle the cotton fibers by passing them through cylinders covered in millions of fine metal teeth. These teeth separate and align the fibs to form a web. The web is condensed into a continuous untwisted strand of fibers called a sliver.
Most carding machines are equipped with nep counters to help reduce the level of imperfections in a sliver. Neps are small knots of entangled fibers caused by the mechanical processes, such as cleaning and carding. They show-up in fine fabrics when the yarns are dyed (they appear as darker coloured specks that you are likely familiar with). After passing through the nep machine, the quality of the sliver at this stage is critical to the downstream processes.
Combing is another machine used at this stage in the yarn process, and it improves the quality of the cotton yarn. Combing removes short fibers from the yarn-making process by passing cotton fibers through fine metal teeth that slightly resemble those found on a comb used for hair. One comb holds the fiber, while another comb is moved through so that the fiber is slowly transferred to the moving comb. This combing process removes the short fibers and arranges them into a flat bundle where all the fibers go in the same direction.
This process enhances the developing yarn, removing short fibers and any remaining impurities from the sliver. By eliminating the short fibers and neps it improves the developing yarn’s evenness, strength, smoothness and overall visual appearance.
Combed vs. Carded
Combing cotton helps improve the pilling resistance of a fabric by removing the short staple fibers. The resulting cotton yarn will be less hairy and less likely to pill on the fabric surface. Combed fibers are cleaner, finer, stronger and more lustrous than carded ones. Since the carded method does not remove short staple fibers, but rather includes them in the yarn ‘web’, the yarn is less smooth and more prone to pilling and breakage. Combed yarn also has a higher luster than carded yarns.
To create a yarn, the slivers from the combing process need to be spun into a long continuous yarn used to weave the fabric. Again, there are various ways for the fibers to be spun, and the method used will have a direct effect on the end quality of the cotton fabric. The two most common spinning methods are Open-End and Ring-Spun.
Ring-Spun is one of the oldest spinning techniques to date. Bobbins are loaded onto ring frames, where the yarn slivers are drafted down and twisted by a spindle. Today, most ring frames on the spinning machine are fitted with a vacuum-like process that reduces the hairiness of the yarns by tucking loose fibers into the core of the yarn as it is spun onto the final bobbin. Cotton that has undergone this process is referred to as 'Ringspun' Cotton, which is a common industry term when discussing quality garments.
Why Ring-Spun is Better
Ring-spun cotton is smoother and longer yarn compared to open-end yarn. In addition, ring spun yarn goes through a spinning process that softens and straightens each fiber. The end result of ring spun is a more refined fiber. One of the biggest advantages of ring spun and combed cotton is it is the optimal base fabric for digital printing (DTG), screen printing, heat transfers.
Ring-spun, combed yarn leads to fewer impurities and an enhanced hand-feel; making it the definitive choice in luxury cotton. Original Favorites uses ring-spun, combed cotton yarns for all of our cotton products because these processes result in the finest yarn available.
Extra Long Staple Cotton
Many shirts are ring spun, but when our ELS fibers are ring spun, they create the superior yarn that comprise our luxury garments. Our ELS (extra long staple) American Grown Supima® cotton can only be processed via the ring spun method because this spinning method maintains the integrity of the fiber. This production method is imperative in our production phases because this is directly how the quality of our Supima® fibers is able to be experienced in the finsihed product. Any other spinning method would compromise the yarn quality, and ultimately the experience of our t-shirts.