They say it’s the "house that cotton built." It’s the high-tech headquarters of Cotton Incorporated in Cary, N.C., where research and development are conducted to keep cotton on consumers’ minds and bodies.
Annually, Cotton Incorporated lays out the red carpet and invites cotton producers from across the country to tour the facility, which was established, built with, and funded by check-off dollars assessed on each bale of cotton marketed in, or the equivalent imported into, the United States. The assessment is $1 plus .5 percent of a bale’s value.
This year’s multi-region producer tour was Feb. 16-18. More than 120 cotton producers and their spouses and guests from the Southeast, Mid-South, Southwest and Western U.S. cotton-producing regions traveled to take part in the tour. Here’s what they saw.
1. The Cotton House
Cotton producers from California to Virginia and all cotton areas in between arrive with their spouses and guests at the Cotton Incorporated headquarters in Cary, NC, Feb. 17.
2. Spinning a yarn
Martin Schreiner, associate director of fiber processing, introduces the tour to the various spinning techniques used in the industry, and the research conducted at the Fiber Processing Lab, a yarn-producing pilot facility.
3. Closer look
The Fiber Processing Lab has yarn manufacturing equipment including opening, blending, cleaning, carding, drawing and combing machines and has three types of spinning systems including the most current Murata MVS technology as well as rotor machines from both Rieter and Schlafhorst. Also in use are two compact ring-spinning technologies. Advanced Amsler slub yarn technology and Saurer two-for-one twisting capabilities are used, too. California cotton grower Ryan Newton gets a close look.
4. Take a feel
Nancy and Tommy Flythe, cotton farmers from Seaboard, N.C., feel the softness at the fiber processing lab.
5. Spin and spun
Lemoore, California cotton farmer Chris Newton gets a video of the high-speed spinning technology.
6. Fabric fundamentals
Martin Schreiner, associate director of fiber processing, talks about how fiber processing techniques can influence final fabric patterns and quality, for good or for bad.
7. Modern research
Georgia cotton grower Bart Davis, left, listens as Rich Shoaf, fiber processing manger, explains the technology behind modern yarn spinning.
8. The Blue Group
Six groups of cotton producers and guests divided up to tour Cotton Incorporated. This is the Blue Group. In no particular order, here are William Bull, Cameron, S.C.; Tommy and Nancy Flythe, Seaboard, N.C.; Randy Hyman, Oak City, N.C.; Nyia Johnson, Cotton Incorporated, Cary, N.C., Karen Lee, Cotton Incorporated, Cary, N.C.; Clay and Jennifer Lowe, Wakefield, Va.; Tim McDaniel, Mercedes, Texas; Ryan and Janet Newton, Lemoore, Calif.; Chris Newton and Kristina Graebe, Lemoore, Calif.; James Patterson, York, S.C.; Tommy Winslow, Oak City, N.C.; and Brad Robb, vice president of communications for the Cotton Board.
9. The details
Machines are labeled throughout Cotton Inc. facility to highlight what the machine is and what it does.
10. Soft spill
Like fresh-pulled, soft yogurt, cotton pools of the machines in the fiber processing lab.
11. Design details
Tour members see and hear how the Product Development Lab produces a wide range of knit products. State-of-the art production knitting equipment ranges from fine to coarse gauge with the ability to produce the most basic constructions to elaborate multi-colored engineered jacquards. In other words, the lab looks to inspire better ways to put design to cotton.
12. Stone-washed lesson
Tony Evans, with the Color Services Lab, explains the stone-washed denim technique, either by using real stones or chemistry, with cotton farmers Randy Hyman, left, and Tommy Winslow, right, both from Oak City, N.C.
13. Quality check
Yvette Jones, left, explains the fiber quality test conducted by Brenda Patterson, right, manager of the Product Evaluation Lab, which conducts standard tests on fiber, yarn, fabric and products. PEL does fiber testing using the HVI line for cotton breeders and for the USDA calibration process. The lab provides HVI testing so breeders can use the information on average fiber length, strength and micronaire for determining breeder lines under development.
14. The Name. The Brand
In 1960, cotton apparel and home fabrics accounted for 78 percent of all textile products sold. By 1975, that share had fallen to 34 percent due to synthetic fibers, threatening cotton as a viable commercial commodity. At the behest of cotton growers, Congress passed the Cotton Research and Promotion Act of 1966, establishing a funding mechanism based on producer assessments for cotton to regain its place in the market. From this, Cotton Incorporated was created in 1970.