Cotton – the unique natural fibre
Uster takes a closer look at cotton from all the different angles – the growers and traders, spinners, fashion addicts and even museum visitors.
World Cotton Day – on October 7 every year –is a celebration of the world’s most important natural fibre. It’s a good time to take a closer look at cotton from all the different angles – the growers and traders, spinners, fashion addicts and even museum visitors.
This article is dedicated to cotton, a unique fibre. It is a true multi-talent: from jeans to banknotes (US paper money is made with 75% cotton and 25% linen), it is almost unthinkable to imagine our everyday life without cotton. The fluffy fibre is found in many different products as an ideal and much-appreciated raw material.
Measured for value Cotton can be precisely described with 14 quality characteristics – focusing on length, strength, fineness, colour, maturity, trash and moisture content of the fibre. The value of cotton as a raw material depends on its quality. Key factors are long and uniform fibre length, optimal fineness for each application and high strength for precious fibres. Some cotton growers and traders rely on their years of experience to set the right price for a batch of cotton, but over half of world cotton production is classed objectively by High Volume Instruments (HVI) from Uster Technologies. The HVI provides the most accurate and repeatable test results for the efficient classification of cotton quality –and more than 3,300 units are installed in 70 countries.
Measured for bale mix and efficiency
For spinning mills, cotton purchasing accounts for more than 50% of costs, so it’s critical to get it right. Sorting bales according to quality and end-use is best done on the basis of good data. Consistent data from HVI is the first step in successful production in spinning operations –in terms of both quality and cost.
Some of the costliest mistakes in yarn manufacturing arise from poor control of the raw material at bale mix before spinning preparation. But fibre testing is also essential during the spinning preparation stages, to minimise any negative financial impact of excess waste, unnecessary cuts, reworking, and customer claims. Another fibre measurement instrument is responsible for profitable production: Uster AFIS Pro 2 provides the essential data necessary for modern process optimisation techniques in the spinning mill, and best practice in process control.
A look into the cultural history of cotton is also illuminating. The cotton story goes back over 5,000 years. Did you know that cotton was a driver for industrialisation? Today, cotton fibre is found in clothing and cosmetics items. Applications span the invention of toilet paper to the recycling of denim pants into vehicle construction components.
100% cotton is printed on tags of countless items of clothing and on signposts leading to a special exhibition at the Übersee-Museum (overseas museum) in Bremen, Germany. The exhibition offers a fascinating look at cotton’s cultural history and shares surprising, new, but also controversial stories about the soft fibre.
Uster is proud that the curators of the Übersee-Museum considered the HVI as part of cotton’s essential history. The Uster cotton classing instrument was selected as an exhibit and visitors have the opportunity to try their hand as a cotton tester to determine colour, length and price.
This year’s jubilee of Bremen Cotton Exchange played an important role initiating the special exhibition. The Bremen Cotton Exchange has been shaping the global cotton trade through its competence, neutrality and authority for 150 years.
The first evidence of cotton use was found in India and Pakistan, and dates back to around 6,000 B.C. That means cotton’s been keeping people dressed for over 8,000 years. Cotton’s place in the world was even demonstrated during the recent pandemic times, when home-working became a necessity for many. In that situation, the need for smart office wear was replaced by an increased emphasis on comfort in everyday clothing. This sparked a trend for ‘sofa to street’ apparel which is still here today. People clearly love the gentler touch of their cotton gear, and that has translated into a real fashion choice.
One apt description, first applied to Indian cotton was ‘Woven Wind’ – expressing the touch and feel of these fabrics. India was the foremost cotton processing country for hundreds of years, and it’s fitting that its traditions with the world’s favourite fibre still hold good today.
About Uster Technologies
Uster Technologies is the world’s leading provider of quality management solutions from fibre to fabric.
High-technology instruments, systems and services cover quality control, prediction, certification and optimisation. The portfolio comprises quality management, laboratory testing and in-line process control instruments for fibres, staple fibre, and filament yarns, fabrics and nonwovens.
Uster Statistics, the unique global benchmarks for textile trading, complement a portfolio of value-added services that includes training, consultancy and worldwide after-sales.
The Uster philosophy aims to drive innovation forward by meeting market needs – always with ‘quality in mind’.
Uster Technologies is headquartered in Uster, Switzerland and operates worldwide. It has sales and service subsidiaries in major markets and Technology Centers in Uster (Switzerland), Knoxville (USA), Suzhou (China) and Caesarea (Israel).