Research point: Stages of textile product life cycle

A textile product life cycle in stages

For this Research Point I’m taking the life cycle of a cotton product as an example. The stages are based on those identified by Creative Arts Today at page 184.


Stage 1 – Agriculture/raw fibre production

The cotton seeds are planted into a frost-free fairly heavy soil, in sunny conditions with moderate rainfall,  and in around 8 weeks the cotton bolls tear open and the cotton is ready to be harvested on the grown plants that are treated as annuals.


Stage 2 – Ginning

The harvested cotton is fed into a cotton gin, a machine that separates the fibres from the seeds, a process that for thousands of years has been done manually. The ginned cotton is called lint and it is then pressed into large bales and transported to the textile mill.

Image of a gin machine from:


Stage 3 – Carding and spinning

In the textile mill the bales are picked apart and fed into a carding machine that disentangles, cleans and intermixes them to produce a continuous web or sliver of cotton and thus prepare them for spinning.


Image of a carding machine from:



The carding is followed by the spinning, a process the turns the sliver into a twisted yarn. Before the invention of the spinning wheel, for thousands of years the fibre has been spun manually using the spindle and distaff.


Stage 4 – Construction of the fabric by weaving/knitting

Once it is formed the yarn can either be processed at this stage – for example it can be dyed – or it can be used to construct a textile most often by weaving or knitting and be processed at a later stage.

Weaving is a method of textile production in which threads or yarns are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric. Traditionally the longitudinal threads – the warp – were fixed to a wooden frame – a loom – and by means of a shuttle the lateral threads – the weft – were interlaced back and forth across the loom forming a fabric or cloth.

Alternatively the cloth can be formed by knitting either by hand or by machine – a method of construction using a series of needles to interlock loops of yarn.









Stage 5 – Processing

The yarns or the constructed fabrics can be further processed by cleaning, bleaching, dying, printing, treated to enhance special performance characteristics like water repellency, flame resistance and others or otherwise finished to alter the look and feel.


Stage 6 – Manufacturing

At this stage the fabric or cloth is cut and sewn to make a garment, which can then be further decorated through stitching, embroidery and other numerous methods of embellishment to produce the final product.


Stage 7 – Distribution/retail

The final product is shipped to distribution warehouses and retail outlets by using different means of transportation.


Stage 8 – Use/consumption and end of life

The product is purchased and enters in its use stage, where it is worn and washed repeatedly until it is disposed of as waste or recycled.


In the cotton industry as in the other crafts and industries dealing with the manufacturing of products, all stages can bring their own issues of sustainability, which shall be the focus of the next posts of Project 1.


Internet sources used in research

All accessed 5/07/2015










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