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Fashion – Enter Wales: Novelle Yarn Desk Top Research – Cotton Staple #4


This past week Eddie Bebb, Commercial Manager at Fashion-Enter Ltd Wales, has continued the ongoing desktop research for the four month Novelle Yarn recycling feasibility study with SMARTCryum with a focus on cotton staple.

Eddie was joined by Richard Carter from Potter Group for a virtual, introductory meeting with Fibre Technology expert Philip Keenan. Philip and Richard quickly identified the 2 key aspects we need to concentrate on to produce a quality yarn.

Priority 1.Staple length

Priority 2.Colour variation

It was agreed to initially concentrate on staple length as this will have the most significant impact on the quality of the product. When the recycled garments have been sorted and shredded a flock is produced which will be combined with wool to create the novel yarn. The length of the shredded material (staple) will have a significant impact on the performance of the yarn. 

Desk top research on cotton staple:

A mistake t-shirt buyers often make is thinking cotton is just cotton. That a “100% cotton” tag is all you need be assured of a t-shirt’s quality.

Extra long staple Pima Cotton Vs. Standard Cotton

This misconception couldn’t be further from the truth: with raw cotton there’s a huge difference between the top and bottom qualities – influenced by climate, soil, wind, weather, rain, frost, insect damage, right down to the attention to detail from those who pick it. And the most important quality of cotton is always the length of its fibre. The longer and smoother the fibre, the easier it is to spin – spelling the difference between a smooth cut shirt and a dish towel.

Cotton that is classified as “extra-long staple cotton”(also known as ELS and Pima) usually has cotton fibres that average above 35mm; compared to more commonly used cotton, which typically averages less than 25mm. As one of the most exclusive kinds of cotton, it is estimated that extra-long staple cotton grown in the US (American Pima) represents less than 1% of cotton grown in the world.

Are extra-long staple and Egyptian cotton the same?

Egyptian cotton is technically a comparable fibre to American ELS Pima cotton. However, experts in the industry say you don’t always know what you’re buying. As outlined in Bloomberg; research carried out in 2016 showed that 83% of tested products labelled 100% Egyptian ELS were partially or entirely made from another type of cotton.

Additionally, much of the cotton grown in Egypt that can be accurately called “Egyptian cotton” is merely long staple, not ELS, meaning the fibres are shorter, weaker, and coarser than ELS cotton.

The benefits of extra-long staple (ELS) cotton:

Cottons may look the same to the untrained eye but extra-long staple cotton and regular cotton are actually two entirely different species. Individual extra-long staple cotton fibres are 35% longer and about 45% stronger than conventional cotton varieties.

This longer fibre resists pulling, breaking, and tearing – resulting in garments that are incredibly resilient and keep their form to the last. There are also fewer short fibres, which is why garments made from longer fibres keep their shapes longer and are resistant to abrasion.

Longer fibres also secure the strength and softness of garments, while shorter fibres produce yarns that are rougher and subject to pilling (when small balls of fibre become visible on a garment after use).

Colour is another benefit: long staple cotton’s fibre density leads to a uniform colour, as fabrics absorb dye with a deep, long-lasting penetration. And items stay fresh for a longer, retaining their colour better than those made from regular cottons. This also means that white shirts made with extra-long staple cotton stay whiter than conventional white shirts.

Ultimately, yarns made of ELS cotton create the most luxurious and highest quality fabrics – ensuring skin friendliness, softness, cooling, moisture absorption, breathability and above all durability.


Also this week Eddie discussed the project with performance testing expert Bill Macbeth of the Huddersfield Centre of Textiles Excellence. Bill said that he thought the first stage would be research to identify the logistics of material collection, sorting and preparation to explore the methodologies and costs of producing a fibre or yarn from recycled clothing and Welsh wool. This should help the team to determine the potential end uses of the resultant fibre/yarn/fabric.

Bill also spoke to Sue Rainton, she manages the Future Fashion Factory project and has kindly agreed to talk Eddie through the project development processes and procedures already successfully devised, that will help to set out the key stages of the approach. Sue also has some excellent contacts, including Professors Steven Russell and Parik Goswami from the Universities of Leeds and Huddersfield, who are the real specialists in the field, so Eddie is due to talk with Sue in due course.

More desktop research on this sustainable project to follow soon! 

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