How Twisted Cotton Rope Is Made

Rope has been a tool vital to human civilizations since the
beginning of recorded history. Cotton is a popular natural fiber used to make the yarn that composes rope, and cotton rope is thought to have been used since as early as 3000 BC in Pakistan and Egypt. Cotton growing and rope-making continued to spread throughout the world as civilizations interacted and traded, and by the 18th century, with the invention of the cotton gin, twisted cotton rope was being manufactured in factories in the United States. Twisted cotton rope has maintained its popularity due to its strength, flexibility, soft and non-abrasive texture, and easy uptake of colored dye. The manufacturing process plays an important role in the quality of twisted cotton rope, and Frontier Market Solution’s entire process takes place right here in the United States.

The manufacturing of cotton rope in the United States actually begins at the cotton gin, where raw cotton is received as a roughly 20,000 lb. module after it is harvested from cotton fields. At the gin, the cotton is placed on a feeder that removes sticks, grass, burs, and leaves. It is then fed through a machine to separate the cotton lint from the seeds. The lint will eventually be used to make the yarn for our twisted cotton rope, and the seeds will go to a crusher to extract oil that is used for a variety of food products. The separated lint then goes through a lint cleaner, condenser, and ultimately the gin press, where it is compacted into 500 lb. bales and sent to a cotton mill to become yarn.

The cotton mill uses fully automated machinery that cleans, stretches, and spins the cotton into yarn. These automated spinning machines have been in use since the time of the Industrial Revolution, when they were developed to bring mass production to the cotton industry. They are still in use today because of their quality and efficiency for mass production.

At the cotton mill, the cotton bales are broken down, and the cotton is fed through carding machines, which use large rollers with wire teeth to comb out tangled fibers. These fibers are then lined up into parallel rows, where fibers that are too short to process are discarded. A coiler machine takes the rows of fibers and forms them into thick, loose, first-stage yarn called sliver. The sliver then moves through a drawing machine, which lines it up and draws it out, stretching it to form a second-stage yarn. Third-stage yarn, called roving, is formed when the second-stage yarn is stretched out and given a slight twist by a roving machine. This process is known as “drawing and roving”, and makes the yarn up to thirty times thinner while adding tensile strength. The roving moves on to the spinning stage, where it is fed into a spool through rollers. These rollers elongate the roving, and pass it through an eyelet where it is wrapped around a stationary ring at up to 12,000 revolutions per minute.        

 A rotating spindle twists the yarn to the right as it is wrapped, resulting in a spool of thin, strong, twisted cotton yarn that is ready for dyeing.

Historically, yarn dyeing generally occurred naturally with dyes being extracted from animals or plants. Since the mid-18th century cotton yarn has been produced using artificial dyes to achieve a broader range of colors and to render the dyes more stable to resist washing and general use. There most common form of cotton yarn dyeing is in the package form rather than the hank form which is common in acrylic and wool yarns. The entire yarn dyeing process ensures suitable dye penetration and bonding at the molecular level.

Once dyed, hundreds of cotton yarn tubes are placed onto a creel where they are prepared to be twisted together. A number of these yarns are then twisted to the left to form a strand, and three strands are twisted to the right to form a hawser.  Three hawsers are twisted to the left to form a cable. The method of using three strands twisted together to make the rope is known as producing hawser-laid rope, and is the most common twisting method. This alternation of twisting direction preserves the parallelism of the fibers and the mutual friction gives the rope its strength when under strain.

Different machines are used to make various diameters of
twisted cotton rope. A horizontal twisted machine is typically employed to make 1/2-inch and small diameter cotton rope. Three bobbins, with any three color combinations, are twisted together to form one cable of this smaller diameter rope. It takes a significantly larger number of bobbins, and yarn, to make a larger diameter twisted cotton rope. A vertical machine with 33 bobbins twists together 5/8-inch, 3/4-inch and 1-inch rope into a solid, heavy duty cable. There are many new, expensive twisting machines available that are made in India and China, but some of the most reliable and high quality rope twisters are American-Made Haskell-Dawes from the early 1900’s.

Frontier Market Solutions is proud to be the leading seller of twisted cotton rope. Our partnership with the yarn industry makes us the only source with access to a variety of vibrant colors of cotton yarn used to make our rope. Our American-made twisted cotton rope is composed of high-quality yarn made from cotton grown in the best soils all over the world. We also use trusted Haskell-Dawes machines, an American company that has been in the yarn business since 1870, for spinning, forming, and twisting our cotton cordage during the manufacturing process. Frontier Market Solutions has a commitment to producing twisted cotton yarn that is durable, soft, high-quality, available in colors you won’t find anywhere else, and 100% made in the United States.

Check out this video to see how we make our twisted cotton rope:


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  • How much rope (in length) can you get from one 500lb bale of cotton?

    Kyle Taubert on
  • I want to know the price of this machine

    Ahmed Ashraf on
  • Can you advise what chemicals are used in the production of natural cotton rope ?


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