24 février 2022

What is brushed cotton?

brushed cotton

How is brushed cotton made?

In our last article on cotton, we already noted cotton is the most widely used natural fiber in the world. And for good reason, because cotton has many advantages. In addition to its hypoallergenic properties, cotton is a fiber that can be made into a nice variety of fabrics with very different textures, from a silky smooth cotton poplin to a fluffy soft cotton flannel. Have you ever heard of brushed cotton? Of combed cotton? Of carded cotton? Today, we'll shed light on the various processing steps of cotton, from growing to brushing, so that the different terms are no longer a mystery to you.

crop growing

The cotton plant is known to be extremely hungry for water and sun. During its growth, it needs about 120 days of abundant rainfall to thrive. Later, during its ripening period, it needs sun, warmth and dryness, otherwise its fruits will rot. Therefore, the climates that are naturally best suited for cotton cultivation are the subtropics and tropics with changing seasons. Other climates must compensate for the lack of rain through irrigation.


During the summer, the cotton bush begins to bloom. When summer is over, the delicate white flowers have withered and make way for the fruit. Only when this "capsule", which has enclosed and protected the seeds and white fibers, is completely dry, the cotton is harvested by machine or by hand.


The harvested cotton ball thus contains fibers and seeds. The first step in processing cotton after harvesting is therefore to separate the two. The seeds are used for replanting or as livestock feed, or they are processed into vegetable oil. Used as an edible oil in Africa or Central Asia, cotton oil finds its main purpose in cosmetics.


In this step, the cotton fibers are unraveled in their raw state and cleaned. This is because impurities such as dried leaves remain attached to the cotton balls during harvesting. After ginning, the bale is sorted in the carding machine according to its length, known as staple. Fibers with a staple length of more than 10 mm become spun yarn, and those with a staple length of less than 10 mm are used as raw material for cellulose production. Finally, the cotton merchant packs the carded sliver into standardized bales of 500 kg.


These cotton bales are then bought by spinning mills, which carry out further processing steps, such as combing, as required. Arranged parallel and lengthwise, the cotton fibers are well combed to retain only the longest and therefore highest quality fibers. Did you know that Sea Island cotton is considered the highest quality cotton and has a staple length of at least 25 - 35 mm?


Cotton yarns are twisted by machine and spun into packages. When two cotton threads have been twisted together, it is called a two-ply yarn. Logically, two-ply cotton is more robust. After this step, the yarn is usually dyed. Thus, the colors adhere better and do not fade when washed.


Everything finally comes into shape when weaving: basket, twill or satin weave, plain or patterned - the weaver has the threads in his hands. The weave is the way the warp and weft threads are woven together. For example, an oxford fabric is made in a basket weave with either double the amount or different thicknesses of warp and weft threads. Oxford often uses undyed weft threads and dyed warp threads to give the fabric a slightly grainy appearance.


Let's continue with our example: we have a beautiful oxford fabric that could very well be made into a great shirt as is. However, to give it a fluffy texture and a softness similar to your favorite sweatshirt, the fabric has to go through one last processing step: the brushing. Thus, when a cotton fabric has been roughened on one or both sides we speak of brushed cotton.

brushed cotton

Now you know, brushed cotton or cotton flannel is a cotton fabric whose surface has been roughened to give it a soft and fluffy appearance.

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