From Cotton to Floss

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

DMC_CleanRawCottonHi Stitchers! Today I’m continuing my article about my visit to the DMC Factory in Mulhouse, France.

We’ll continue the tour by following a bale of clean, raw cotton, through the manufacturing process until it is ready for mercerizing and dyeing before being transformed into beautiful, ready to use needlework thread.  You can read Part 1 of this series here.

IMG_1029It’s amazing to think that our favorite threads have such a humble beginning, from a boll on a plant in the field to skein of thread in our hands.

DMC uses the Giza 88 variety of Egyptian cotton, due to its long fibers. The cotton is spun into a plied yarn and loaded onto large cones in Egyptian mills. The cones are then transported to our mill in France.

IMG_1039At this point, the thread is still very rough and a long way from being ready to use in your stitching! The next step in the process is called gassing, which removes all the fine hairs and impurities on the thread, helping to make the thread smooth and eliminate the dreaded fuzzies.

In the image to the left, you can see the thread being passed through a flame, burning off the hairy fuzz. It happens so quickly that the process is nearly invisible to the eye – and so quickly that it does not singe or burn the thread.

IMG_1044If you look closely at the image, you can see the fiber passing through the center of the flame. You can click the image to make it larger and easier to see.

I must admit, watching this process was mesmerizing (as opposed to mercerizing, which we’ll discuss next week, LOL!)

3stepsIn the image shown above right, you can see how different the yarn looks after gassing – the cone on the left is ungassed and is slightly larger.

The the cone on the right has been run through the gassing process, and is slightly smaller – it has lost a bit of it’s bulk because all of the those unwanted hairy, fuzzy fibers have been singed off. This is a very important step in manufacturing fine hand embroidery threads.

After gassing, the cones are loaded into another machine where 6 strands of plied yarn are twisted – usually in the opposite direction of the twist of the plied, gassed yarn.

The yarn is then wound from the large spool into a huge, 1 kg hank. The circumference of these hanks is 2.26 meters or about 7.41 feet in circumference (about 3 feet in length, based on my height and holding one of the hanks).

They’re big hanks, and at this point they are starting to look like thread instead of yarn.

Next week, we’ll explore the mercerizing, dyeing and packaging process for your favorite DMC Embroidery Threads, so stay tuned!





 


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