Friday, February 26, 2010

Cotton Inc. and a Spinning Mill Tour

Earlier this week, Lance and I hopped on a plane headed for Cary, NC. Coincidentally, this was Lance's first ever plane ride! He swore he would never get on a plane, but all it took was a farming event to change his mind!

So what's in Cary, NC? It's the world headquarters for Cotton Incorporated!

Cotton Inc. is the one responsible for this logo:

And also the "Fabric of our Lives" commercials.
They also pay for so many cotton farmers to come tour their research facilities every year. It is a good way for us to see how they promote cotton and the new ways they are researching to use cotton. If it weren't for Cotton Inc., all of our shirts, socks, and jeans might be made from some "mystery fabric". I mean, have you ever seen a polyester plant growing in the wild? I didn't think so.
Unfortunately, I didn't see anyone taking any pictures inside the building, so I didn't want to be the first one to whip mine out. I can tell you that they do a whole lot of experimenting though! From dyeing fabric to stonewashing jeans (yes, they use actual stones!) they do it all. There are even new waterproof jeans! They still breathe like normal jeans, but they shed water like a raincoat. They have even developed a new technology that "prints" the colors onto things like jeans and shirts. Instead of dyeing the entire fabric and having a lot of wasted material, the color is actually printed with a printer onto the fabric in the shape of the jeans or shirt. The excess material can be recycled, and there is no wasted ink. It also doesn't fade as quickly as jeans colored with a dye.
Along with touring Cotton Inc., we also got to tour Frontier Spinning Mills. This is where a lot of cotton goes after it leaves the cotton gin. (I've never done a post on a cotton gin, so I'll get right on that!)

Frontier Mills only uses cotton from the U.S.
This is what the cotton looks like when it comes from the gin. Those are 500 lb. bales of cotton. The mill keeps about a weeks worth supply of cotton on hand at a time.

This is what the bales look like when they are unwrapped. They pick 80-90 bales that have nearly the same fiber strength and quality.

Those bales are placed in a row and a machine (that green thing above, or blue thing below) shaves a little bit of cotton off the top of each one. They do this to blend the bales together.

This is polyester. They blend it with some cotton to make those 60%cotton/40%polyester blends (and other amounts) that you see on your t shirt tags.

This is some of the machines that the cotton blows through after it is shaved off of the bales.

These are more machines that move and blend the cotton.

In this picture, cotton is flowing through a roller type machine (green thing in the back) that combines fluffy cotton into an inch and a half wide, continuous strand.

You can follow the white strand of cotton out of the machine and into a large drum. The drum holds 140 lbs. of cotton. When the drum is full, a worker rolls it to another machine (pictured below).

This machine combines 6 drums of various cotton fibers into a smaller, one inch wide continuous strand. The smaller strand is divided into several smaller drums. When the drums are full, another worker rolls them to a spinning machine (pictured below).

The worker feeds the strand of cotton into the spinning machine. The machine twists or "spins" the cotton down until it gets thread sized.

This picture shows how large the machine is, and how much cotton it can spin at once. There were many machines at this mill!

Those 3 white things are spools of thread being created by the machine. When the spool is full, a robot changes it and restarts the thread on the new spool.

The spools of cotton thread are stacked in a warehouse ready to be shipped to a manufacturer. They will eventually become socks, underwear, shirts, jeans, etc.

A special thanks to Monty Bain, the Southeast Regional Communications Manager of the Cotton Board, who invited us on this trip.
Hope ya'll enjoyed learning a little more about the cotton industry!


  1. Thanks for including us, neat to see more of the cotton business....I wear lots of cotton!

    You were a few hours from me, hope you enjoyed your visit in NC.

  2. Thanks for the tour!


  3. You should definitely be a Public Relations Director!! :) Excellent tour,...thanks for the information :) (and how did Lance like the plane ride?)

  4. Great post! How interesting! Sounds like you had a great trip. Hope your husband got along alright on the plane.

  5. Thanks for the tour, Steph. I learned some things. Great pics, too.

  6. Thanks so much for the tour. It's neat to see all of the steps that are involved.

  7. this is a great post! i loved seeing all of the 'steps' and the machines...thank you so much for sharing...i think it is so cool you grow cotton. and peanuts!

  8. Great Job, Stephanie ! I'm headed to Cary tomorrow to take 90 Cotton Producers through Cotton Incorporated's World Headquarters !

    This is a great job of explaining what Cotton Incorporated does ! COTTON is " The Fabric of our Lives ! "

    Monty - Southeastern RCM - Cotton Board