My Account  |  0 item(s)    View Cart

Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms:

Raw Cotton

Cotton is commonly grown in much of the world, but not all cotton is the same. The best grades of raw cotton come from Egypt, Turkey, United States, India, and China. All of these countries grow what we call "long staple" cotton. Long staple cotton means the raw fibers generated from the cotton plants are longer, so it is possible to make finer, softer yarns from these fibers. Pakistan, parts of India, and much of Africa grow shorter staple cotton. Shorter staple cotton is used to make the yarns most commonly used in terry cloth. Shorter staple cotton is used in the 10's, 12's, 16's, 20's, and 24's yarns in open end and ring spun qualities. Most combed cotton goods are made from longer staple yarns like Egyptian cotton or Pima. You will find more about cotton counts or yarns below. The larger the first number, the finer the yarn. Some people write a 10's as 10/1 which is the more accurate representation.

Cotton A cellulose fiber collected from the perennial shrub from the genus Gossypium; predominantly G. hirsutum (upland or long-staple cotton), but also some G. barbadense (Pima or extra-long-staple cotton). A vegetable fiber consisting of unicellular hairs attached to the seed of the cotton plant. Most cotton is colored a light to dark cream, and its chemical composition is almost pure cellulose. Colored cottons in shades of tan, greens, blue, and rust are also less commonly available. A distinct feature of the mature fiber is its spirality or twist. For more information on cotton, you might want to look at: "Queen Cotton" by Susan Druding from the Textile Arts Forum.

Cotton Count The cotton count expresses the number of hanks required to make a pound of yarn. A hank of cotton is equal to 840 yards. So 1 cc = 840 yards of cotton, the coarsest cotton yarn. A 10 cc yarn would then be one tenth as course and would be expressed as 10/1 cc or 10's to show that it is a single strand. Likewise plies are designated by two numbers separated by a slash such as 4/2 cc or 4'd. This equals 3360 yards (4 x 840) of two-ply yarn. This yields 1680 yards of yarn per pound (3360/2). An 8/4 cc yarns would yield the same number of yards per pound, but would be a 4 plies of finer yarn. So a Number 8 four-ply yarn is the same diameter as a Number 4 two ply yarn.

Below I will share some pictures of cotton plants.

cotton fieldHere is a picture showing a cotton field

cotton field 2cotton field 4cotton field 6

Above and below you will see 5 different close-up pictures of cotton on the plant. Makes it easy to understand where the term cotton ball originated.

cotton field 3cotton field 5

Yarn sizes and grades

The use of 's designates a single yarn whereas the use of the 'd designates a double yarn where two yarns are twisted together to form a stronger yarn.

  1. 10's Open End - 10's Open End yarns are used in most of the economy and institutional products found in the US market. Although many think of these goods as "cotton", much of what is sold is not pure cotton. The construction of the open end yarns is made from waste yarn that is made of shorter staple fibers that remain after the spinning process used to make ring spun yarns. Unless a mill has good controls of the fiber or a solid relationship with an open end spinner who tracks the fiber content, it is possible for the range of polyester fiber to reach upwards of 35%. With higher polyester content the resulting terry cloth will have than "dingy" appearance seen in the lower cost products. Another control that can impact the quality of the 10's yarn is the consistency of the yarn size. Most 10's open end goods will have yarns ranging from 8-11's in size. The larger the percentage of the larger yarns, the less expensive the yarn cost. Some of the economy goods seen have yarns as large as 6's and 7's used. This can make for an item that appears thicker at first glance, but once it is washed, the weave is so loose that it does not hold together very well. If you are shopping for 10's open end economy terry goods, the factors you should consider include: polyester content, average yarn size, reed and pick count, and quality guarantee. A product made with a higher reed and pick count will be tighter woven and will hold together better than a product that is made with a lower reed and pick. A lower reed and pick count allows the loom to run faster, so it does make for a lower cost production. A well made 10's product will be made with an 18'd or 20'd yarn in the ground, a 10's ring spun or 10's pure cotton in the warp, with a 10's pure cotton in the pile. If you want a good, economical product, you can work with blended yarns, but make sure you demand a maximum polyester content of 20% with a written spec of 86/14 cotton/polyester blend. Remember, the lower the price, the less likely you will be able to count on consistency in the product over time. As with any product made on a power loom, these goods can vary in weight by as much as 5%. Make sure you are checking your weights when you receive your product to insure you are getting full weight. A slight variance is normal, but since some should be heavy and some light, the average weight should be within a couple of percent of billed weight. We can make product to meet your desired price point, but we will explain exactly what that entails in the yarns that will be used.

  2. 10's Soft - 10's soft is a newer option that is often talked about and offered in the market. 10's soft is a 10's yarn that is finished with extra softening agents to give it a softer feel. Many companies sell terry made with these yarns in place of the 16's open end yarn products. Although 10's soft is a very nice product and tends to have a nicer hand and visual appearance than most 16's open end products, in overall performance, it does not hold up as long as the better quality 16's open end goods. As with any product made on a power loom, these goods can vary in weight by as much as 5%. Make sure you are checking your weights when you receive your product to insure you are getting full weight. A slight variance is normal, but since some should be heavy and some light, the average weight should be within a couple of percent of billed weight.

  3. 16's Open End - Open end yarns are made primarily from waste yarn that is made of shorter staple fibers that remain after the spinning process used to make ring spun yarns. Unless a mill has good controls of the fiber or a solid relationship with an open end spinner who tracks the fiber content, it is possible for the range of polyester fiber to reach upwards of 25%. With higher polyester content the resulting terry cloth will have than "dingy" appearance seen in the lower cost products. Some of the terry made as 16's open end is made using 10's yarns in the ground and warp. This can make for an item that appears thicker at first glance, but once it is washed, the weave is so loose that it does not hold together very well. If you are shopping for 16's open end terry goods, the factors you should consider are very similar to those used in 10's open end goods. You want a product that has a good reed and pick count, made using quality yarns in the warp and weft, with a good control of polyester content to insure a blend near the 86/14 cotton/poly blend. A product made with a higher reed and pick count will be tighter woven and will hold together better than a product that is made with a lower reed and pick. A lower reed and pick count allows the loom to run faster, so it does make for a lower cost production. A well made 16's product will be made with an 18'd or 20'd yarn in the ground, a 10's ring spun or 10's pure cotton in the warp, with a 16's pure cotton or 86/14 blend in the pile. Remember, the lower the price, the less likely you will be able to count on consistency in the product over time. As with any product made on a power loom, these goods can vary in weight by as much as 5%. Make sure you are checking your weights when you receive your product to insure you are getting full weight. A slight variance is normal, but since some should be heavy and some light, the average weight should be within a couple of percent of billed weight. We can make product to meet your desired price point, but we will explain exactly what that entails in the yarns that will be used.

  4. Soft Spun - Soft spun yarn is used exclusively by WTC Textiles. Soft spun should not be confused with the 10's soft yarns offered by our competitition. Soft spun yarn is made with a special process under contract for a specific company in China. Due to a special arrangement, WTC Textiles is allocated a portion of this yarn to use to make our special product. Whereas 10's soft is between 10's open end and 16's open end in quality, Soft Spun is between 16's open end and 16's ring spun in quality. Priced just a few cents over the 16's open end yarns, Soft Spun is perhaps the best product for the mid sized distributor who can't afford to stock every grade of product. With Soft Spun on the shelf, you can convert a ring spun customer on price or a 16's open end customer on quality.

  5. 16's Ring Spun - Most of the 16'sing spun goods sold for healthcare accounts in the US are produced on a power loom. Power looms make a good quality product, but they can vary in weight as much as 5% plus or minus of the weight the loom is set to run. You will find less variance on the ring spun yarns, as the yarn used is much more consistent than the open end yarns. Power Loom ring spun yarns are often offered in both a bale pack and a carton pack. For customers looking for a little better price, a bale pack product will be the way to go. The product is exactly the same in both our bale pack and our carton pack, but carton pack goods are not compressed, so they come out of the box looking fluffly and full. After washing, you will find it nearly impossible to tell the difference. Some manufacturers offer 16's ring spun terry products with a dobby border for a slight up-charge. Ring spun goods tend to be more consistent in the market, but if you want more consistency in product, pay a little more to work with a quality manufacturer.

  6. 12's Ring Spun - 12's Ring Spun is the most common item offered in the US hospitality market. Some offer a ring spun and others a compact ring spun. A compact ring spun will offer a slightly lower linting product, but at a higher price point. Most of the terry items made using 12's ring spun yarns are woven on shuttles looms. These are expensive looms that run very, very fast and have a very consistent output. Most of these items are made using a dobby border, although most manufacturers offer at least one grade of shuttles produced item that has a cam border. Most of these goods are being made with double stitched hems for a more consistent appearance and more durability. Many distributors offer both a white and a beige offering in this grade of product.

  7. Combed Cotton - Combed cotton is a ring spun terry that is made with a cotton fiber that has gone through a series of extra cleaning stages or "combing' where most of the remaining dirt and debris is removed from the fiber. What is left makes some of the softest, plushest, nicest quality yarn. When used to make terry cloth, combed cotton will offer you the ultimate softness and appearance. Combed cotton is usually made using longer staple fibers.

Construction Factors

If you are shopping for terry goods made on a power loom, the factors you should consider are a good reed and pick count, a product made using quality yarns in the warp and weft, and a mill with a good control of polyester content for blended product to insure a blend near the 86/14 cotton/poly blend. A product made with a higher reed and pick count will be tighter woven and will hold together better than a product that is made with a lower reed and pick. A lower reed and pick count allows the loom to run faster, so it does make for a lower cost production. A well made product will be made with an 18'd or 20'd yarn in the ground, a 16's or 10's ring spun or 10's pure cotton in the warp, with a 16's pure cotton or 86/14 blend in the pile. Remember, the lower the price, the less likely you will be able to count on consistency in the product over time.

Products made on a shuttles loom will have a better consistency of weight, and will be made using better grades of yarn simply because the cost of operation and the speed requires the use of higher grade yarns. That said, you still want to pay attention to the reed and pick count used in the product as well as the grade of yarns used in the warp & weft. Generally the pile will always be a very nice yarn, as this is what you touch and feel, so if a facility is going to try to find a way to reduce cost it will be in the warp & weft yarns as well as the reed and pick count.

Whether the product is made on a power loom or a shuttles loom, you want to pay attention to the finish on the edges. Most economy grade products will have a single stitch hem. This is adequate and should not cause signficant concern, but if you can get a double stitch hem this will offer a straighter, stronger hem. On economy products you will have to weigh the slightly higher price required for the double stitch hem. Compare the net weight to the billed weight upon receipt of your goods. Some manufacturers who are making superior product are giving a slightly smaller finished size to allow them to increase the reed and pick count so that after washing, the actual use size will be about the same, but the added durability will pay off for the end user in the long run.

Visit our other pages to learn about cotton, yarn grades, towels, wipers, sheets, etc.