by Rogier Ducloo April 16, 2018
There is a lot involved in making a tri-blend garment and there are a lot of different factors that come into play. Materials need to be planted, cultivated, and harvested. The cotton is ginned. All materials that go into our tri-blend are combined together at specific ratios and spun into yarn. It is then knitted into fabric before it is dyed, finished, cut, sewn, and finally shipped out. We choose to be as transparent as possible with you about all things Allmade, so check out the blog below to learn about our manufacturing process.
Allmade Tri-blends are made of 50% Repreve™ Brand recycled polyester, 25% Lenzing TENCEL™ Modal, and 25% organic cotton. The recycled polyester, derived from plastic bottles diverted from landfills around the United States, comes together in Yadkinville, North Carolina, where the bottles are washed, de-labeled, shredded, melted into pellets and ultimately polyester fiber. It takes six plastic water bottles to make one medium size Allmade tri-blend. Talk about a lot of bottles not ending up in landfills!
The TENCEL™ Modal is regenerated plant cellulose extracted from sustainably harvested FSC™ Beech trees grown in central Europe and processed in Lenzing, Austria. This closed-loop process is very environmentally friendly.
The cotton in Allmade Tri-blends is 100% organic grown in the United States without the use of pesticides or any other chemicals. After removing the whole boll from the plant is transported to the gin where it is dried and the fiber is separated from seed and plant debris.
The processed raw materials come together in the spinning process. Our tri-blend is spun at Spunlab, a division of Parkdale Mills in Graniteville, South Carolina. Opening and blending are the first steps in this process. In the case of Allmade, the organic cotton is blended with Repreve™ brand recycled polyester and Lenzing TENCEL™ Modal.
The purpose of blending the different fibers is to improve the performance and aesthetic of the fabric. The Repreve™ Brand recycled polyester is strong, resists shrinkage, stretching, and wrinkles, abrasion resistant, and easily washable. The Lenzing TENCEL™ Modal, aside from having a much lower carbon footprint than traditional rayon and cotton, adds softness, drape, and comfort.
After blending, the fibers are carded. In this step, the fibers are further cleaned, a proportion of the short fibers are removed, and the remaining fibers are aligned and condensed into single continuous strands of overlapping fibers that are called a sliver.
The sliver then goes through a number of drawing passages to improve the uniformity of the sliver and achieve that desired density of the end product. Combing is an optional step we take to remove a final proportion of short fibers and to further align the remaining fiber to end up with a finer stronger, smoother, and more uniform end product.
Next, the sliver goes through the roving process. The roving frame draws out the sliver to a thickness of a couple of millimeters and twists it ever so slightly to keep the fibers together.
The sliver is then ring spun. The ring spinner continues to draw and twist the fibers before winding the yarn on a bobbin. The final step in the spinning process is winding. This is the transfer of spinning yarn from the bobbin to a cone. Winding also improves the quality of the yarn by removing dust and cleaning the yarn.
The next big step in the manufacturing process is knitting. For Allmade, the knitting process happens at family owned and operated knitting mills such as Clover Mills in Clover, South Carolina. Knitted fabrics consist of rows of loops called stitches. On a circular knitting machine, new loops are pulled through existing loops in a continuous spiraling way inside the knitting machine creating a seamless tube. This process eventually results in a roll of tubular fabric.
Knitting is different from weaving. In woven fabrics, threads are always straight, running parallel lengthwise or crosswise. In knitted fabrics, the yarn follows a meandering path forming symmetric loops. These meandering loops can easily be stretched in different directions which gives knitted fabrics more elasticity than woven fabrics.
Knitted fabrics have far greater stretch than woven fabrics and they will return to their original shape after being stretched. The production is less expensive and faster than weaving. Knitted fabrics are more porous thus more breathable. And, the elasticity allows for greater freedom of movement. Knitted fabrics wrinkle less.
Our dyeing and finishing process happens at Carolina Cotton Works in Gaffney, South Carolina. This process converts the fabric into the desired color and gives it the right characteristics, such as look, performance, and feel.
Scouring washes out wax and non fibrous impurities, soiling, or dirt. The natural color of cotton is yellowish. Bleaching the garment removes the natural coloration and whitens the fabric. Hydrogen Peroxide is used in this process. For darker color garments, less bleaching is needed. White garments require the highest level of bleaching. Both cotton and modal absorb the dyes used to color the fabric. The fabric is completely immersed in a dye bath according to specific procedures to accomplish the desired result.
After the fabric is colored, it is forced to shrink width and lengthwise. This helps to avoid shrinkage during the use phase of the garment, specifically the laundering of the garment.
At the very end of this process, the dyed and finished fabric is put on rolls and prepared for shipment. Once approximately 75,000 yards of fabric have been having gone through this entire process, it is loaded on a 40-foot shipping container and by road, rail, and water, it makes its way to Haiti.
The cutting and sewing of Allmade Tri-blends happen at the LIFE facility, which is located in Tabarre, Haiti, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. The Cutting tables are just slightly wider than the width the role of fabric. The fabric is rolled out from one end of the table to the other end of the table and up to 70 layers of fabric are stacked on top of eachother. The fabric is smoothed out layer by layer to avoid any folds and uneven surfaces. The pattern sheet is placed on top and is secured in place. At this point, two very capable fabric cutters with purpose designed band saws trace the pattern and cut the fabric. Immediately, additional makers will grab the stacks of now cut fabric, pack them appropriately, and moved to the sew line.
The sew line is organized for the most efficient method of production. Hems are sewn on unfinished pieces. Pieces are completed and finally attached. The product is inspected for fabric imperfections which can include pinholes, tears, cuts, dye absorption, and sewing errors. Our standards are high but our defect rate is currently less than 1%. Garments that pass inspection are stacked in sets of 12, folded over, and put into a cardboard box, also called a case. A case contains 6 folds of 12 garments for a total of 72 garments. XXL and XXXL garment are stacked 10 high because only 60 garments fit into a case.
After the cases are taped closed, they are loaded on a 40-foot high cube container in which they will be shipped to Kansas City, smack dab in the center of the United States, where we maintain inventory and distribute from to you.
From there, smaller quantities are shipped in 100% recycled polyester mailers. These mailers are designed to be reused. When opened along the perforated line, another adhesive strip can be exposed for resealing. This can either be used to return garments to us or to ship garments to your customers. Larger quantity garments are put in cardboard boxes, reusing the cases that came from Haiti. Both the recycled poly mailers and the cardboard cases are recyclable. We are counting on you doing your part to reduce our overall footprint.
Through the creation and delivery process of Allmade Tri-blends, we try to keep our practices as environmentally friendly and socially responsible as possible. We are committed to to making it better. If you want to learn more about the creation of Allmade shirts, check out our blogs on Fabrics, Fits, and Styles and the Fashion Industry and Ethical Production. To become an Allmade wholesaler, check out our wholesale inquiry page.