Knitted fleece is one of the most popular fabrics in the world. It is used in sweatshirts, pullovers and activewear because it is cheap, soft and has a smooth finish that is perfect for screen printing or embroidery. Almost everyone has made at least one item in their closet from knitted fleece, but few of us have long thought about how it is actually made.
Although knitted fleece may seem simple, it is really not at all if you look at the production process and the many variables that ensure that it is of high quality. Nowadays, many manufacturers have not only changed their knitting processes to achieve better, more high-quality products, but they have also added "extras" to the garment, such as Lycra in the ribboard and decorative stitching.
When the cotton comes to the factory
The process starts with bales of cotton, which are laid down so that the cotton can be mixed. The cotton is opened and then filtered; pull out foreign materials and make the cotton form more uniform strands. This is the step that brings staple fibers into a shape that can be reduced in bulk and eventually turned into a spun yarn. The cotton then goes through a drawing process, whereby the length per unit weight of the strands increases. Depending on the spinning system used to make yarn, the cotton must then undergo various other processes.
There are three spinning systems that create the yarn that is used in nonwoven; open end spinning, ring spinning and airjet spinning. Open-end spinning is popular because it is cheaper. The disadvantage is that fabric made from open-end yarn tends to be rougher than that made from other methods, has a rougher feel. Ring-spun products are softer and have a nicer hand. Sweatshirts made with air jet yarn are becoming increasingly popular because the air jet yarns are less hairy than their counterparts. This greatly reduces dust pilling. (Pilling is caused when cotton fibers come loose on a fabric and are hung on fibers that protrude from the surface of that fabric. If the loose fiber does not break down, it forms a pill.) However, air-jet yarn is only used in cotton / polyester blends.
Knit the yarn
Fleece knitting is performed on one four-track recording sewing machine. Fleece can be a construction with two or three ends. The difference between the two lies in the number of yarns knitted into the fabric. Sweating higher is usually three-quarter fleece, which means that the mill uses a surface yarn, a back yarn, and a twine that intertwine and take a nap. Three-end fleece is considered more stable and durable because it uses three yarns in the knitting process as opposed to two. Double-sided fleece does not use the twine when knitting and therefore does not have a smooth surface than the three-point. You end up with less thickness on a fleece product with two ends than a product with three ends.
After knitting, the greigeor unfinished fabric is rolled in large rolls. These rolls are combined for wet processing. Excess oil, waxes and dirt are usually extracted at this point, after which the substance is stabilized and prepared for bleaching (for white fleece) or paints. Typically, the body and rib are bleached and dyed together to ensure color compatibility. The substance content and color determine how long the substance stays in the paint barrels. At the end of the dyeing or bleaching process, the fabric is rinsed to remove excess dye and then passes through an extractor, which acts as an old-fashioned washing machine where water is pressed under a continuous rolling device. Fabric softeners can be added at this point.
The fabric is then turned inside out to prepare for napping. The snoozer is a large drum with rollers on the outside. The wire hairs on those rollers alternate between straight and curved hairs. Called straight wires travelers move the fabric around the drum. The curved bristles actually do the fleece by grasping and breaking the loops, creating the down at the bottom of the fabric.
After napping, the fabric is turned with the right side out calendared or compacted to reduce shrinkage. calendar call is a process of spreading the fabric to the desired width and pressing between metal rollers with steam present to stabilize the fabric,
During compaction, fabric is fed into a heated machine to push or push the loops in the fabric closer together. In short, the fabric enters the compaction chamber faster than comes out, so the fabric is compressed. An additional advantage of compacting is that it softens the material.
Once the fabric has reached this stage, it is ready to be cut and sewn into the custom embroidered sweatshirts, jogging pants, sweaters we wear every day. By knowing a little more about the production process behind the knitted fleece itself, you may have a little more understanding when shopping for the clothing that is made from it.