I ended up going down a rabbit hole on this subject tonight, I’ve watched a bunch of “how it’s made” episodes and similar things, and I feel like I get the overall process, but there are still parts I can’t wrap my mind around.
Once cotton has been harvested, and had all the debris removed, it seems to be typically packed into a large bail.
Now, at this point, what you have is a gigantic bail of short hairs. I mean, an individual cotton fibre, hair, whatever you want to call it, is probably only a few inches long, right? And they’re all tangled up at random.
I don’t really understand how you go from that, to having a single long thread of cotton – like, the kind of thread you’d sew with. How do all those short hairs get combined into one long continuous thread, and how does the big mess of a bail get untangled into that?
And then, once you have a spool of thread.. I still don’t fully grasp how you get from thread to fabric. I’ve looked up things on knitting, and sewing machines, and looms, and it still seems like black magic to me. You’re basically making lots and lots of tiny little loops/knots into a grid, forming a 2D sheet, out of what is essentially a 1D line, right..?
I suppose what I don’t get here is how it stays intact. Why, when you get say, a tiny rip in a cotton T-shirt, the whole thing doesn’t just completely fall apart and unravel entirely back into thread.
I found [this really cool image](https://www.cotton.org/journal/2008-12/3/images/Cover-12-3_1.jpg) of cotton fabric under a microscope, and I can see how it’s all sort of held together with an under/over thing, basically each crossing trapping another piece of thread. But.. logically to me it seems that if you broke that at any point, the whole thing would just fall apart. And fabrics don’t do that. You can maybe pull on a loose thread, but it stays mostly together even when cut.
I find this whole concept fascinating, but I also just sort of don’t get it on a fundamental level, so I’d appreciate if anyone could break it down as an for me 🙂