If you want to buy a cotton t-shirt made entirely in Uganda, farm to coathanger, (I know you do), then Phenix Logistics are your guys. Today they kindly gave me a grand tour of their factory in Kampala so I finally got to find out how our cotton lint gets turned into school uniforms, amongst other things. Here’s some pics!
Here’s cotton lint, ready to go. Phenix receive our cotton in big 190kg bales, wrapped in cotton covers & tied up with metal bale ties. They break open the bale ties with an axe (really) and break up the lint again by hand, ‘til it looks nice n fluffy like this….
First the lint gets cleaned in about three different machines. The stuff that gets removed is basically dirty tumble-dryer fluff (its that same weird shade of grey-ish purple too). Then, the cotton is pulled into straight lines by tiny-teethed combs going round a roller. The machine pictured below was off, so its hard to tell, but the combs are in the grey rows and they go round the green roller.
The streamlined cotton gets coiled into these big drums. It’s like giant loopy cooked spaghetti, and the thick airy strands break just as easily….
The machine below is an added extra - it removes the shorter fibres (somehow) to leave only the long ones…which means less weight, but better quality, more expensive cotton. Some cotton gets this treatment, some doesn’t.
Next the big soft loopy loops are flattened into smaller strands, and twisted at the same time to make them stronger. Then that process is repeated in another machine, making the strands even smaller. (In this photo the cotton starts top-left, and gets woven onto the bobbins at the bottom).
At this stage, you have yarn!
Then this crazy machine takes over. All the yarn is fed in at the top - about 30 pieces at once - and somewhere in the middle it all gets stitched together, and the cotton cloth falls out the bottom!
For blue cotton, head over to the blue dye house (blue overalls is a coincidence I think, although that would be cool).
And finally to the sewing hall, to make some blue school-shirts, crafted from cotton grown on Ugandan farms.