Here's how raw cotton is turned into high quality clothes

The process of turning raw cotton into clothes is fascinating to watch.
Christopher McFadden

If the video player is not working, you can watch the video from this alternative link.

Unless you are a nudist, chances are you wear some form of cotton garment every single day. But, have you ever wondered how they are actually made at a factory? 

If so, check out the process. It is surprisingly complex.

diy garment qa
Source: Interesting Engineering

Step 1: Sorting and preparing the cotton

The first step, once suitable cotton has been sourced, is to sort and prepare the raw cotton for weaving. 

cotton to clothes raw cotton
Source: Interesting Engineering

The raw cotton is sucked into a special sorting and preparing machine that acts a little like a giant vacuum cleaner. The cotton is loosened up, aerated, and turned into a sort of cotton flock before then being deposited in a temporary hopper ready for the next stage. 

Once in this form, the machine then spins the flock cotton into loose threads and weaves it into rope or cords ready for the next stage of the process. The cords of cotton are then stored in large spindles or drums. 

cotton to clothes ropes
Source: Interesting Engineering

Once the cotton is in rope form, it is much easier to handle and use, for obvious reasons.

The spindles of cotton are then moved to another machine in the factory that takes several cords from several spindles. 

cotton to clothes pulleys
Source: Interesting Engineering

These multiple cords are then woven into one larger single rope using a special device called a carding machine. 

cotton to clothes carding machine
Source: Interesting Engineering

Once complete, the single larger cord or rope is further formed into other spindles of loosely woven cotton ready for the next stage. 

Step 2: The cotton is spun into threads

With the raw cotton now fully prepared, the next stage is to make the fine threads needed for weaving clothes. This is done using a modern version of a very ancient technique - cotton spinning. The loosely woven cotton rope is fed into the machine to finely spins and weaves into strong, fine threads. 

These threads are then deposited on a series of cones or barrels depending on the end product. 

cotton to clothes drums
Source: Interesting Engineering

Once in this form, the cotton is taken to another modern version of a very old machine - a power loom. This machine takes the cotton threads and weaves them, completely automatically, into a sheet of fabric. Some power looms, like the one in the video, are able to spin the cotton into fibers and weave it in one place. 

The cotton fabric is stored in large rolls ready for the next phase of production. 

cotton to clothes fabric
Source: Interesting Engineering

Various looms are used in a factory to make cotton fabric of different sizes and qualities. The end product really depends on the type of clothes or other fabrics the machine produces for its customers. 

Some of these machines can be incredibly complex machines, bordering on appearing like some form of alien technology. They truly are impressive things to watch in action. 

cotton to clothes power loom
Source: Interesting Engineering

In the image above, this power loom converts the loose cotton into fine threads ready for shipping to some of their customers.

Other fabrics, if required, are dyed, embossed, or otherwise treated depending on the end product that will be shipped to the client.

Step 3: Packaging of the end product

The next stage is to prepare the drums or cones of cotton thread for shipping. Each one is placed in yet another special machine that quality checks each drum prior to packaging. Those that pass muster are then fed into the next stage of the process. 

Each drum is wrapped in a special net-like covering and tied closed to keep the threads closely wound and protected. These are then moved on along via a conveyor belt. 

cotton to clothes bundling
Source: Interesting Engineering

For fabric sheets, dyed or plain, the fabric sheets are added to another machine ready for further processing. The rolls can either be shipped complete or, as in the case below, the sheets are cut into smaller sheets for shipping. 

cotton to clothes cutting
Source: Interesting Engineering

Once ready, the fabric can then be cut to size and formed into different garments. Where needed, fabric pieces are then sewn together to complete the clothing item required. This is a partially automated process but usually requires the human hand at some point in the process to complete. 

cotton to clothes sewing
Source: Interesting Engineering

If branding is required, the sheets of cotton can be fed into an embroidery machine. Here the machine automatically sews in branding and other designs to order. 

cotton to clothes sewing
Source: Interesting Engineering

With that done, the clothing garments are basically complete. Each item then needs to go through a quality control process before some final branding like stickers or labels, packaging and then boxing up ready for shipment. 

And that's a wrap, so to speak. 

If you enjoyed watching cotton being turned into clothes (and other textiles), you may be interested in watching another industrial process? How about, for example, watching clay being turned into toilets

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