Everyone has t-shirts. But, how exactly are t-shirts made?

“T-shirts are durable, versatile and affordable garments with mass appeal, making them a staple item in every wardrobe around the world.”

T-shirts are probably one of the most popular apparels today – men, women, children and even the elderly wear them. It’s not surprising, though. T-shirts are durable, versatile and affordable garments with mass appeal, making them a staple item in every wardrobe around the world.


While you most likely know what a t-shirt is, how much do you know about the process of making a t-shirt?

“After that, the slivers are put together to produce very thick ropes of fibre, which are then thinned and twisted. The result of this process is the yarn.”
FARMING


Because t-shirts are predominantly made of cotton, the first step to making a t-shirt is of course, farming the cotton. Once the flower buds in the cotton farms turn to blossoms, to becoming cotton balls, they are harvested by hand or machine before they are sent for ginning.

Image : Unsplash
GINNING


The cotton gin machine is used to separate lint (the cotton) from the seed. This is a very important process that determines the monetary returns for the resulting lint and seeds. After compression, a sample of each bundle of bale (containing cotton) is tested for staple length and quality before it is packaged for shipment.

Image : Pixabay
SPINNING


Spinning is the process where the compacted and ginned cotton is turned into yarn. The compacted bale is first beaten and picked to loosen the cotton into a more manageable state. Then, the bale is carded, combed and blended to smoothen and straighten the cotton fibres into slivers. After that, the slivers are put together to produce very thick ropes of fibre, which are then thinned and twisted. The result of this process is the yarn.

Image : Unsplash
KNITTING


The spun yarn is turned into cloth by pulling loops, called stitches, through one another. The cotton is commonly circularly knitted to create a seamless tube for the body, resulting in fabric that is extremely high in quality.

“Sewing is the last step in the actual construction of a t-shirt. This labour-intensive process involves using a multitude of sewing machines to attach each piece of the fabric – from bodies to sleeves and even the collars – together.”
Image : Pexels
WET PROCESSING


Now that the fabric is taking shape, it is treated with heating and chemical processes like bleaching, printing and dyeing. At this stage, the fabric is inspected for grey textile, which is unfinished woven fabric that is yet to be dyed or bleached. Wet processing is typically divided into 3 separate stages – prepartion, colouration and of course, finishing, which is when the fabric is processed to the desired softness and colouring.

Image : Unsplash
CUTTING AND SEWING


Moving on, the fabric is cut into the shape of the body and sleeves. The fabric is usually cut several stacks at a time with modified jigsaws; this is to allow a large number of pieces to be created simultaneously. The cut bodies and sleeves are then sent to the sewing facility. Sewing is the last step in the actual construction of a t-shirt. This labour-intensive process involves using a multitude of sewing machines to attach each piece of the fabric – from bodies to sleeves and even the collars – together.

Image : Unsplash
SCREEN PRINTING


After being sewn, the t-shirts arrive in a screen-printing facility. This is where the design specifics, Pantone colours, sizing, placement and even ink types are finalised. Next, each colour in the artwork is separated and printed onto a clear film.


The films are used to expose the image onto mesh screens that have a photo-sensitive emulsion. Each screen is exposed on a vacuum-sealed UV light table. The screens are also rinsed with water and the images are checked to ensure that everything is in place. Now, this is when a t-shirt begins to come alive. Once the screens are in place, the automatic screen press begins to print the designs onto the t-shirts.

Image : Pexels

And that is how t-shirts are made. We hope that you have learned something new today and have also understood the true value of your t-shirt. While t-shirts are one of the most common types of clothing around, the amount of work that goes into making a good t-shirt is extremely painstaking. So, start appreciating your t-shirts!


Want to learn about the best ways to care for your t-shirts? Check out this entry.


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