Education Cotton Theads

From Cotton Boll to Cotton Fibre

Cotton is one of the most important and widely used fibres in our society. It is used in the production of so many products that also include food, for both human and animal consumption. In fact, one acre of cotton produces about 100 – 120 litres of edible cottonseed oil per acre. The average person consumes about 3 pints of cottonseed oil annually. Many consumers are unaware that the food service industry relies heavily on cottonseed oil to serve up helpings of French fries and chicken nuggets for example.

Cotton has been farmed and cultivated for centuries. Currently, there are five prominent types of cotton being grown commercially around the world. They are: Egyptian, Sea Island, American Pima, Asiatic and Upland. By far, the largest producers of cotton are China, India, United States, Pakistan, Brazil, and Australia. One of the most well known and most luxurious cotton crops is grown in Egypt. However, Egypt only produces a single percentage in comparison to the largest world growers.

The strength and quality of cotton thread is often measured by the length of the staple. A staple is the individual fibre from a cotton boll, usually measuring between 1" - 2" depending on the specific cotton crop and from the country and region it is grown.

From planting to maturity, it takes 140 days to produce a cotton crop. As the plant matures, the fibres within the cotton boll grow and thicken with their primary growth substance, cellulose. An average boll is about two inches in diameter and contains 500,000 fibres of cotton. Each cotton plant can bear up to 100 bolls.

For the textile industry, the cotton is processed to remove the cotton staples from the cotton seed. Once separated, the staples are dried to reduce the moisture content and to improve the staple quality.   The staples are then cleaned to remove bits of leaf, sticks and other foreign matter leaving the raw fibre called lint, which is then compressed into bales, sampled for classification, wrapped and shipped to textile mills. The mills produce cotton yarn and cloth by first carding the cotton. Carding is the process of pulling the fibres into parallel alignment to form a thin web. The web is then combed, which removes impurities and makes the fibres smoother. The final step is spinning the fibres to make long, uniform strands.The cotton is then processed further to produce the spun cotton yarn that will be woven into fabric or twisted into thread. There are three additional processes to make the threads we know and love, not all are used on every cotton thread apart from one process, which is known as mercerising. 

Mercerising is a process where the cotton threads are passed through an alkali solution.  The solution causes the fibres to swell so that when the threads move to the dying stage, the dye penetrates the cotton better increasing the lustre, increasing the strength of the thread and reducing the amount of lint.  Every cotton thread is mercerised, it’s a good thing.

Gassing is an additional process used on the higher end cotton threads where the cotton thread is passed at high speed through a flame. The flame burns off the excess fuzz in order to create a beautiful high sheen and reduce the lint.

Glazing involves heating the thread and then coating it with a mixture of wax, starches, and other resin-type chemicals. After coating the thread is then polished to a high lustre. Glazing results in a glossy thread with a hard, spring like finish. Glazed thread is often stiffer than unglazed thread and is intended for hand stitching only. We do not recommend using glazed cotton thread in a machine, as the wax coating can rub off and gum up within your machine.

Here at Barnyarns we focus on quality. We know that if you use high quality threads in the production of your quilt or embroidery, not only will you have fewer interruptions due to thread breaks and skipped stitches, but you will enjoy the process of creating so much more. 

I have ensured that the cotton threads we sell are manufactured using a perfect marriage of high-quality raw materials and advanced processing techniques to produce threads that look good and perform over and above your expectations.  Each thread is made of hundreds of thousands of small fibres. There is a direct correlation between the length of a staple and the quality of a thread. The longer the staple length, the smoother and stronger a cotton thread will be. All our cotton threads are, at an absolute minimum, long staple, to provide the quality we all require.

Aurifil 50 For Machine Appliqué 
Ideal when a very fine finish is desired. This weight disappears so your fabric is the feature. Use for a straight stitch, small zig zag , Blind hemming stitch , and Blanket stitch.

Aurifil 50 For Machine Embroidery 
Great results every time. Use 50wt in the bobbin as well, or your regular bobbin thread – in which case tighten the top tension a little. Use a Microtex 80/12 needle.

Aurifil 50 For Machine piecing
 Gives a great result with a nice flat seam every time.

Aurifil 50 For Machine quilting 
Use for very detailed machine quilting with a lot of back tracking such as feathers and heavy background quilting . Perfect for quilting that creates texture when you don’t necessarily want to see the quilting lines. Use the same thread in the bobbin and a Sharp/Microtex, quilting or even denim needles 80/12.

Aurifil 50 For Longarm quilting
 Perfect for creating texture where you don’t want the thread to be a feature. Backgrounds, stitch in the ditch, basting quilts, whole cloth quilting, micro quilting for dense background designs. Match bobbin thread.

Aurifil Cotton Thread Number 50 is available on 1300m Reels

The recommended machine needle for this fine thread is a size 70/10 to 80/12. Take a look at the Superior  Titanium needles, which would be perfect. The Microtex needle may also be used for the most delicate and straight stitch