Jeans are the backbone of JACK & JONES; with millions made every year we use a lot of denim. Denim is mainly made from cotton; a fragile and fluffy staple fibre grown on a plant that is turned into a sturdy hardwearing textile.
Cotton is by far the most important raw material for jeans production. The road from fuzzy to fashion is long and the cotton goes through numerous steps before it is ready to be used for clothes. Each of the steps below is equally important to make denim.
All Jeans Come From a Field
Being a natural fibre, cotton grows in bolls on plants in vast fields. Cotton farming requires warmth, sun, and moderate rainfall. These requirements are perfectly met in places like India, Egypt, and the southern states of the US.
The cotton bolls are picked with a machine that removes the crop without damaging the plant. Once picked and collected, the cotton goes through the ginning process. Sharp discs split the seeds from the fibres and the cleaned cotton is then packed in bales and shipped off for further processing.
From White Fibres to Blue Yarn
At the denim mill, cotton from different countries with various features, such as strength or fibre length, is mixed to make sure the final product has the desired qualities that the designers are looking for. The cotton bales are put through a cotton opening machine which pulls and elongates the fibres.
Before the fibres start taking shape, they go through a process called carding. Tiny teeth on a big rolling cylinder catch one fibre each, aligning each fibre and cleaning it once more. Then, in the spinning phase, the ropes of cotton, called slivers, are stretched, twisted, and spun to make the fibres stronger and ultimately form yarn. For stretch denim, elastane and sometimes polyester are mixed with the cotton in the spinning step.
Now, the cotton yarn is ready for the warping phase where an immense web of yarns is rolled onto enormous balls.
The yarn is then dipped in vats of indigo dye to give it the signature blue colour. Once the yarn leaves the vat, it goes through the so-called oxidation process; it turns from a greenish colour to its original indigo blue. The higher the number of dips the darker the colour of the denim will be.
Next step is weaving.
Weaving: Now It Begins to Look Like Denim
Advanced technology and automated looms have replaced mechanical looms and made weaving easier and faster, and has reduced defects created in the process. Most of our denim is made on these “wide looms,” we also do made selvedge denim, which is made on vintage-style narrow shuttle looms.
The vertical, indigo dyed blue yarn, known as the warp, is woven together with the horizontal, white yarn, which is called the weft. To make the denim stronger and stiffer, and to make the yarn able to withstand the stress of weaving, it is dipped in a starchy substance.
Once woven, the denim is pre-shrunk, through the sanforization process, to make sure that it does not shrink later on once the garment is washed. To give the denim a smoother texture and a more visible weave, it passes over a controlled flame at the speed of 80/100 metres per minute, burning the surface fibres. This is known as singeing.
After thorough quality control, the finished fabric is marked and graded and put on large rolls. Now the denim is ready to go from automated machines to the creative hands at the sewing phase.
There you have it; that’s how we turn cotton into denim. In the next instalment of this series you can read more about how our jeans are sewn.