How it all started
Mechanical cotton pickers of today do the job of separating the seed pods (bolls) with the fluffy cotton fibres inside everything else. The ginned fibre is called lint, and it is stored in bales. The leaves, stems, dirt and all impurities are discarded – and can be composted.
The cleaning is accomplished, usually, by massive machines called cotton gins. Mechanical gins were invented by Eli Whitney in the late 18th century. But cleaning cotton isn’t only about removing impurities. This is why some still prefer the traditional way over science: handpicking.
Lint is by no means a finished product, and the work and care that is put into this product, even if it is already remarkable, is what separates good textiles from great textile mills.
The first step is for the lint to go into a carding machine to be cleaned again. What comes out is a soft, untwisted, rope called a sliver. This is what goes into the spinning frames of a cotton spinning machine to become yarn. The spinning devices can rotate fibres up to 2500 times to complete this process.
Looms weave cotton yarn into fabric in much the same way the first hand-weaving frames did. They interlace lengthwise yarns (warp) with crosswise yarns (weft) at incredible speed.
Because of colonial influences in Brazil, Portugal’s cotton industry took form during the eighteenth century with production centred in Lisbon. By importing the necessary machinery from Britain, the Portuguese were able to outfit dozens of factories and set their economy in motion.
Many Portuguese bedding companies still work with a 100% traditional method when making their range of home and interior design collections. These are particularly noteworthy with hand embroidery found in luxury bed sheets and towels as well as in the making of decorative bedspreads made with traditional, manual looms.
All companies in Portugal have to comply with environmental legislation in order to be able to operate. Over the years Portuguese apparel and textile industry have worked towards harmonizing systems, procedures and process with European Union and ISO environmental standards and we are now up to a stage of implementing coherent and harmonised strategies with the other environmental concerned countries.
For these and many other reasons, Portugal is a symbol of high quality and luxury in the textile market and as a result, more and more famous brands from around the world are relocating their production to the towns and villages of Portugal.