Usually, 100 percent cotton is used to make cotton T-shirts, although some manufacturers use polyester or a blend of polyester along with cotton for the same. In fact, the use of any of the fabrics varies as per the choice of raw material of the designers and the budget of sourcing. Elastic knit fabrics are affordable and ideal for screen printing and heat transfer applications to make T-shirts. Below is a rundown of the many processes that go into the making of a cotton T-shirt.
Raw Material Sourcing
After the cotton ball is sourced from the crop fields, they are placed into a gin wherein the cotton gets filtered mechanically from the seeds as well as the chaff. Known as ginning, this is a phase that filters the cotton balls and other materials from raw cotton in order to make cotton fabrics. In fact, cotton gins nowadays are capital intensive using multi-powered cleaning cylinders as well as saws.
From the Spinner to the Loom
Cotton fiber bundles are spun in knitting mills once the material is carded, combed, and blended. In fact, prior to the carding phase, which comprises of filtering the fiber material into loose strands of cotton, the material gets removed from a cotton picking machine. Then in the weaving phase, the spun cotton is knit on the loom into a coarse and grayish looking fabric.
The Wet Processing
Wet processing is where the fabric is treated with heat as well as a chemical that imparts it the softness and color. It is usually segregated into 3 stages –preparation, coloring, and applying the finish. The phase also comprises of bleaching, printing, and dyeing, as well as checking the cotton fabric for grey residues.
Cut and Sew and Transformation
Oftentimes, the fabric gets its shape and appearance from a sewing unit. Up to 15 percent of the fabric reaches the facility where the sewers make the cotton garments from the finished fabric. Then, to make the T-shirt appealing, screen printing is done following finalization of the specs regarding the pattern. The color pantone, placement, ink-type, and sizing are also finalized in the screen printing phase.
Each of the color in the artwork is filtered and then printed onto a clear film named ‘film positive’. The films are then used to exert the print onto the mesh screen having a photo-sensitive emulsion – each of the screens is then exposed to an Ultra Violet light table having vacuum sealing. The screens get rinsed, the photos inspected for the accuracy, and then they get put on a screen-press which prints the design and pattern on the T-shirts.