Cotton Processing

Thread Therapy

Cotton Processing

  • Needles
  • Cotton
  • Bobbins

Bob Purcell (Chief Threadologist of Superior Threads) discusses the methods used for processing cotton. Mercerized cotton is cotton which has gone through a process of treating the fibers with a solution to increase it's luster and affinity for dye. Gassed thread is thread which has been rapidly passed over a gas burning flame which removes the fuzz and excess lint on the thread, giving it a smoother feel and brighter look.

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Video Transcript

Have you heard the word, mercerized? Mercerized is a good thing. We don't put it on our label because we don't have room. We brag about the length of the fiber. Extra-long staple is what's important. Second most important to us is Egyptian grown. And that's about as much room as we have.

If you are other brands and have nothing to brag about, guess what they put on the label? They come up with this fancy word that most of us don't understand, mercerized, thinking, "Oh, it must be important. I'm going to buy this." Hey, it is a good thing.

All cotton thread today is mercerized. Here's what they do. Just before they dye it, they pass the fibers through a solution, the fibers swell. When it goes to the dyeing stage, the dye penetrates the fibers better and gives it a better look. It actually does strengthen the thread and gives it a better luster. That's why automatically it is a step in all cotton thread processing. Whether the label says mercerized or not, just know that it is.

There's one more step that we take on our cotton threads that is an expensive step that most others will not do. Hold this King Tut one up to the light. Little bit of fuzz on there, but not long ones, right? Long fuzz means it is not highly processed. Just before they wind this from the big cone down to the smaller size, it goes from point A to point B at high speed.

Right in the middle, we have a gas burner with a flame. The flame is about an inch, maybe a half an inch from the thread. The thread's passing over that flame at high speed. Guess what that flame is doing? It's catching the longest hairs and it burns them off. That's called "gassing the thread." Isn't that exotic sounding? It's called gassed cotton. "Oh, excuse me, sir. Do you have any gassed cotton?" That wouldn't go over too well.

So, guess what? Somebody had the brilliant idea, “Why don't we call it polished cotton?” You heard of that? Have you heard of silk finished cotton? That's what they're talking about. They finish it, they put a nice finish on it, which means, they're not coating it with anything, but they're burning off the longest hairs to make less fuzz, much smoother thread. Gassed.

So here's our label. Our label's this big. And we want to put on that label 100 percent, extra-long staple, Egyptian grown, mercerized, gassed cotton thread. Not enough room. So we start cutting. I leave off the “gassed” because that doesn't sound too good. I leave off the “mercerized” because, well, we don't understand what it means. We do now, but most don't understand mercerized anyway. So we put on what's most important, the length of the fiber and Egyptian grown. And that's what this one is.

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