What is Carded Cotton?

Mary McMahon

Carded cotton is cotton which has been prepared for spinning into thread or yarn. Carding is an important step in the processing of many textiles, ensuring that debris is removed while aligning the fibers to make them easier to spin. Without carding, cotton thread would be coarse and extremely fragile.

Cotton bolls on a branch.
Cotton bolls on a branch.

Hand-carded cotton is prepared with the use of hand carders, which look sort of like the fine-toothed brushes used to smooth animal coats. Cotton is strung out across one brush, and then the other brush is gently run over the first, pulling the fibers into chunks which are aligned in the same direction, while also removing very short fibers, vegetable material, and other impurities which could have a negative impact on the thread or wool spun from the cotton.

Cotton bed sheets made of carded cotton.
Cotton bed sheets made of carded cotton.

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When the carding process is finished, all of the cotton will have been transferred to the second brush, at which point it can be divided into clumps and spun. Depending on how the fiber is treated before spinning, it may turn into a sliver, a simple chunk of material, or a roving, a sliver which has been twisted for extra tensile strength. For extra-fine cotton, people may use a cotton comb to pull out additional short fibers after carding, ensuring that the cotton fibers are all the same length. Combed cotton is extremely soft and silky to the touch, and it tends to be more expensive, because a higher volume of cotton is removed during processing.

A field of cotton.
A field of cotton.

Industrially carded cotton is prepared on large spinning drums which are capable of processing high volumes of cotton at once. For rapid processing, cotton spinning machines are usually located close to the carding area, ensuring that minimal time is wasted transferring cotton products around a factory.

It is possible to buy loose carded cotton, for people who wish to spin cotton at home, and carded cotton is also used to make products like cotton balls. The advantage to using your own raw carded cotton is that crafters can control the dye lot, thickness, and strength of the resulting thread for their own projects.

Carded cotton may be used to make cotton balls.
Carded cotton may be used to make cotton balls.

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Discussion Comments


@pastanaga - Yeah, if you aren't buying for a company you're better off just following the instructions, either on whatever guide you're following, or on the catalog listing the carded cotton.

You can actually get some really nice organic cotton yarn online and I have often hoped that I'll be able to afford a spinning wheel one day in order to make something for myself or maybe to sell.


@anon16485 - I believe the 40S refers to the fineness of the cotton. The higher the number, the finer the product. 40 is about average I think.

I believe that the 110/90 is another measure of density, but that one is a bit more complicated. I don't really understand these terms myself very well, but if you look up a guide to "units of textile measurement" you will be better equipped to figure it out.

Cotton is graded in so many different ways that you almost need a degree to figure it all out and I think that if I was going to buy some carded yarn, I would go by the description, as the manufacturer will almost always add a blurb about what that particular kind of cotton can be used for.


The warp is the vertical series of yarn and the weft is the horizontal series of yarn. When these yarns are interlaced, they produce end products like fabric or towels.


What is meant by warp and weft?


What does it means : 40Sx40S,110/90 Cotton? Does this 40S has relation with carded, and 110/90 has relation with thread count? I am confused.

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