T-shirts are an integral part of people’s lives. They wear them almost every day, either as a part of a casual outfit or a cozy combination at home. However, not many people stop and actually wonder: how are T-shirts made? Though the product itself might seem simple, the manufacturing process is anything but.
Stay tuned as we go step-by-step from cotton fields and factories to clothing lines and wardrobes in an attempt to answer the question of the day: how are T-shirts made?
1.The Simple Beginnings
The often long life of a T-shirt starts on cotton fields. Though you can find these fields in various parts of the world where the climate is suitable, the fields we are talking about are located primarily in the US and India. These two countries are the biggest producers of cotton in the world, along with China, Australia, and Brazil.
2.To the Factory
After people pick the cotton from the fields, big trucks transport it to factories. There, machines and different processes help transform the cotton into something usable and recognizable to us.
Firstly, a gin separates the usable cotton from all the seeds and chaff surrounding it. They do that with the help of special cleaning cylinders that do their job quickly and thoroughly. Since separating cotton from the waste is hard work, the cylinders make everything much easier and more efficient.
Companies then card, comb, and blend the cotton. What manufacturers get at this stage are loose strands that they weave on a loom. The cotton is grayish in color and soft to the touch.
3.Adding In Some Chemicals
To get a material that will allow for printing and dyeing, companies need to treat the cotton with certain chemicals and heat. Different types of T-shirts require different levels of softness, so that has a big impact on what exactly manufacturers use in this step.
Most of the time, this stage requires some type of bleaching. What follows is fabric dyeing. In a lot of cases, companies also add other materials (mainly polyester) to the mix, since most T-shirts do not actually contain 100% cotton.
And just like that, manufacturers get the material they can cut and assemble into the garment you know and love.
4.Assembling, Styling, Sewing
To get T-shirts out of huge piles of thread and material, more machines are necessary. In mass production, machines complete almost every step of the production process. Human intervention is only necessary to move the cut-out pieces to different locations.
This step is where the garment takes the shape you are familiar with, as machines integrate cutting, assembling, and stitching the material. Companies can use several different colors and threads to make a single T-shirt, mostly because different styles require different approaches to production.
The order in which a company assembles a T-shirt depends on the type of the T-shirt itself. However, styling always comes first. This part is the job of designers, as they transfer their vision from paper to the material.
This stage of the process can involve more stitching, painting, or printing. Of course, it all depends on what the designer has in mind for that particular T-shirt or collection. Transferring dimensions to the fabric is also a part of this step.
When all of that is over, it is time to put the pieces together and start stitching the seams.
When it comes to the seams, manufacturers have two options. They can use white thread for all the seams, regardless of the main color of the T-shirt. Doing so saves a lot of time that would go into changing the thread the machines use to sew the seams.
Of course, the other option is exactly that: changing the thread and making sure the color of the seams matches the rest of the shirt. These T-shirts are usually more expensive since more care and time goes into their production.
Regardless of the color of the thread, most companies use superimposed seams to stitch the T-shirts.
Alternatively, some manufacturers can use bound seams as well, using either lock stitches, chain stitches, or overedge stitches.
Then, it is time to assemble the sleeves and finish the neckline. These parts are usually separate from the main (body) part of the T-shirt and are then sewn onto it. A lot of care goes into making sure the sides of the T-shirt and sleeves are sewn in one motion to give the garment a neat look. Then, the machines finish off sewing the shoulder seams with the neckline.
If manufacturers need to add in any pockets or additional details, that happens at the very end. These items can be sewn on by hand if they are too delicate or by a machine if they aren’t.
As you know, a T-shirt always has at least one label, either at the neckline or on the side. These labels contain information about the shirt size and manufacturer. In many cases, the label also tells you how you should wash the shirt based on the material.
Manufacturers should inspect every T-shirt for any tears, imperfections, and flaws in stitching. The production process cannot be perfect, and machines can always make errors. That is why this step is quite important. It is there to ensure customers get T-shirts of the highest quality.
Companies usually press top-quality T-shirts through steam tunnels before they package them. Doing so makes the packaging process much easier and more efficient. They might fold T-shirts around a piece of cardboard to ensure they maintain their shape during shipping or when they get to stores.
So, How Are T-Shirts Made?
T-shirts are everyday garments you use without thinking about them too much. However, if you stop and think about it, you’ll see that the production process is quite complex. A lot of care and time goes into making T-shirts, from picking the cotton and making threads to styling and stitching the final product.
The question: how are T-shirts made? now has a clear answer. Hopefully, that answer makes you appreciate this timeless piece of clothing more than ever before.