Cotton is a natural plant fiber from cotton seeds. The fibers used in the textile industry are the starting point of the production chain. Cotton fibers are obtained from cotton plants and then woven into threads. The woven cotton yarn or knit is then converted into cloth. The use of cotton has a long tradition in the clothing industry because of its desired characteristics. Fabrics made from these fibers can absorb water and are known to have long endurance.
Cotton is a fine fiber that encapsulates the seeds of several species of Gossypium bushes originating from the tropics and subtropics area. Cotton fiber becomes an important material in the textile industry. The fiber can be spun into yarn and woven into cloth. Textile products of cotton fibers commonly referred to as cotton and consumers continue to buy cotton products in bulk because they prefer light and comfortable quality. Many products are made of cotton, including bath towels, clothes, pants, or even socks.
Cotton fibers are a valuable product because only about 10% of the gross product weight is lost in processing. When fat, protein, wax, and other residues are removed, the rest is a pure and natural cellulose polymer. Cellulose is arranged in such a way as to provide cotton strength, durability, and the absorption of a unique but favored fabric. Textiles made of cotton are warm in the cold and cool in the heat and also absorbs sweat.
Types of Cotton Fabric
Cotton is a fiber produced by a cotton plant called Gossypium hirsutism, this cotton plant has many species and it is estimated some 40 species spread all over the world from tropical to the subtropical area. While the most widely used for clothing production is cotton type of Gossypium hirsutism whose rate of usage reaches 90% of world cotton production
Cotton works best if it’s a sterile cotton and free of any chemicals starting from planting, maintenance to harvesting and ready-to-use production on the market. The farmers should not try to use pesticides when treating the cotton trees, including cotton bleach when the cotton begins in production.
The requirements for growing cotton is:
- The fields are in lowland areas
- The soil is fertile
- The temperature between 21C – 26C
- Lots of water availability especially when it grows and dries weather condition when the cotton starts to ripe.
Some types of cotton have unique characteristics and function. However, there are 5 types of cotton grown commercially and are in high demands, namely:
- Asiatic Cotton Cotton
- Sea Island Cotton
- Egyptian Cotton
- Upland American Cotton, and
- Prima American Cotton.
Egyptian cotton, Pima cotton, and Upland cotton are the most widely traded cotton fibers on the market today. Egyptian cotton, Pima cotton, and Sea Island cotton are all derived from the same cotton plant, the Barbados Gossypium.
Cotton plants are usually grown in spring and in good condition, this plant will generally appear on the ground within a week. The plant will then mature in about a month and a half, and then start flowering. Below will explain the process of making cotton.
- Fruit/cotton flower (boll) that has been ripe is ready to be picked from the tree. Picking can be done manually or by machine. If picking manually, then the leaves will not be plucked and only picked the fruit that is really ripe. The types of cotton vary in each region, the fruit also varies in shape.
- After picking from the tree, the cotton must be separated from the seeds. This process is commonly called ‘ginning’. In this process, the cotton is sucked into the tube to be inserted into the dryer to decrease the cotton moisture and the quality of the cotton fiber to becomes better. Then the cotton will go through a cleanser that cleans leaves, stalks, and seeds that are still attached to the cotton fibers. The cleaned cotton is compacted into a 1.5-meter ball that weighs up to 227 kg. The cotton bales are ready for further processing at the mills and then be woven into yarn or other cotton-processing products.
- Cotton bales then reopened and put into picker machine. The solid cotton is loosened back with a bat, then through some grinding to get the feathers back up. It intended to remove the plant properties and make the fibers smoother and softer. This smooth cotton is commonly called a cloth.
- The next process is called carding. Carding is a mechanical process for unblocking fibers and straightening them up so that the cotton are parallel to one another. This process can also be used to create combined textiles (blends). In this process, different types of fibers can be incorporated, such as cotton fibers mixed with silk fibers or used to combine several different fiber colors.
- The next stage is combing. Combing is the process of separating the shorter fibers, so the resulting yarn will be stronger and better. Actually, this stage can be skipped, but if the producers want a better result then they should still go through this stage. Fiber that has been through the process of carding & combing will take the form of long strands commonly called sliver.
- The next process is drawing or withdrawal phase. At this stage, some slivers are combined to produce a very thick cotton fiber band. This string is then called roving. Then the two twisted rovings that produce the weight are required for further processing into yarn. Furthermore, this merging and spinning produce the desired thickness for yarn size. The whole process above is generally referred to as spinning. In more detail, there are many other steps that can be added in this spinning process, in accordance with the quality (size, thickness, color) of the yarn to be produced.
Then after all the process above has been completed then all the threads are ready to be sent to the textile company for further processing into clothes and other consumer items.
Places of Indonesian Cotton Fabric
The best places for producing cotton fabric in Indonesia is in East Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara. This place has the best cotton in Indonesia because the quality is good. It has more cotton production per hectare than cotton production in Java and Sumatra. Cotton production in East Sumba is 4.6 tons per hectare while in Java and Sumatera only 2 tons per hectare. The soil and climate quality in East Sumba are suitable for cotton development.
Cotton Sumba is best because it is not easy to break the thread, so that it is easy to set, smoothened, clean and flexible and other character traits that are sent to Java to be furthered processed into textile raw materials in Indonesia. Other cotton plants in Indonesia are located in Palembang, Central Java (Semarang, Jepara, Rembang), East Java (Madiun, Madura), and Nusa Tenggara.
Development in New Era
For Indonesia alone, the largest cotton producing region is in South Sulawesi. Cotton from this province is mostly produced at 1,614 tons or 39.0% of the national production. Utilization of cotton is mostly used as raw material for textile industry. The raw material in the use of cotton is the cotton tree. But there is also a synthetic cotton used in the textile industry that is a mixture of polyester.
For now, the textile industry faced obstacles is an increasingly rare cotton material, then they used synthetic materials with a percentage of polyester composition increased by more than 50%. The obstacles in increasing the cotton yield are that during harvest then the cotton field faces high rainfall probability as cotton plantations lose its quality when exposed to water and turned to mushroom and greenish color.
Achievement of Indonesian Cotton Product
Indonesia apparently has to import 100 percent of its cotton requirement which is the raw material of textile products. The largest cotton imported are from Australia. Indonesia has not been able to optimally produce cotton, although textile is the largest non-oil exports. Indonesia has actually tried to reduce the dependence on cotton imports by cultivating cotton in South Sulawesi.
Unfortunately, the government’s move through the Ministry of Agriculture to produce cotton in South Sulawesi is still facing obstacles. The problem is about climate unpredictability and technological limitations. As a result, production only reaches 0.01 percent of the demand per year to reach 700 thousand tons.
Currently, cotton is widely used for underwear and socks, because of its good ability to absorb sweat. Actually, in Indonesia, the cotton tree can grow, but the quality is not good because there are characteristics of cotton that should not be exposed to water during the riping process. In Indonesia, it is difficult because the rain is hard to predict.
Meanwhile, the demand for cotton as a national textile raw material is currently not increasing because they are replaced by polyester and nylon whose price tends to be cheaper. Manufacturers are also more inclined to mix cotton and polyester as textile raw materials to achieve better economic value and disregarding comfortability.