1.CULTIVATING COTTON

The process of making towels at IKEUCHI ORGANIC begins with cultivating organic cotton. Farmers grow cotton with organic methods under supervision of the bioRe Project. Seeds sown in spring grow into short shrubs around 60cm high before lemon colored flowers bloom in summer.

2.HARVESTING COTTON

When the cotton bolls burst and the surrounding leaves start to die off, harvesting begins. No defoliants are used here. The whole farming family takes part walking through the fields picking ripe cotton by hand.

3. COLLECTING RAW COTTON

Cotton harvested by each family is taken to a collection point and weighed. It is then bought by the bioRe Project with a 15% premium added to the market price. This premium is decided with representatives from the farming community based on the average price of cotton over the past five years.

4. GINNING

After purchase, the raw cotton is taken to a certified organic ginning factory where it is passed through rotating cylinders to separate the fiber from seeds. Each cotton boll contains around 15-30 seeds which account for around 2/3 of the weight, meaning 90kg of harvested cotton provides around 60kg of seed and 30kg of cotton fiber.

5. SPINNING

Cotton grown in different fields is blended to create a uniform quality. Once impurities and short fibers are removed, the cotton is carded into a thick sliver. These slivers are then combined for consistency and separated into thinner rovings which are used to spin yarn of the desired twist and weight.

6. TRANSPORTATION

Cops of yarn are packed into containers and transported by ship from ports in Tanzania and India to Japan. Four to six weeks later, after stopping at other ports such as Singapore and Korea for loading and unloading, the yarn arrives at Imabari port, home of IKEUCHI ORGANIC.

7. YARN PROCESSING

The raw yarn arrives in Japan in ‘single’ strands, and must undergo a process of plying two strands together before it is re-wound into long cylindrical ‘cheeses’ for easier processing.

8. SCOURING, BLEACHING, SIZING

To maximize the natural absorbency of cotton, yarn is scoured and bleached to remove residual impurities and natural wax. By using ozone bleaches, we eliminate the need for environmentally destructive chemicals used in chlorine bleaches. Yarn is then sized with an adhesive to protect it during weaving. At IKEUCHI ORGANIC, we use a starch adhesive to reduce environmental burden.

9. WARPING

After processing, the yarn arrives at the IKEUCHI ORGANIC head factory on wooden pipes. It is first set onto large warping frames that hold around 500 strands and wound onto beams to be woven. Each strand is wound at just the right tension as dictated by the plans, creating the foundation for beams that are able to weave towels with a variety of characteristics.

10. WEAVING

When a new beam is attached to the loom, the new yarn is joined to the existing warp. Approximately 3,000 – 5,000 strands of yarn are carefully combed and set in a tying machine to be joined before weaving can resume. In our factory where once famous TOYODA 8 automatic looms run alongside the latest high speed looms, training to pass on knowledge from seasoned weavers to a younger generation of workers is indispensible. The woven cotton fabric is checked for damage and soiling then unwound to aerate it before being send to the dyeing factory.

11. DESIZING, DYEING

After washing out the starch adhesive, the pure white fabric is dyed using reactive dyes that don’t contain heavy metals. The greatest issue with reactive dyes is wastewater treatment; however our facilities which achieve COD of less than 12ppm meet strict Seto Inland Sea wastewater standards.
After dyeing and washing with virgin groundwater from Mt. Ishizuchi, the highest peak in western Japan, the fabric is dried to raise the pile and create a gentle but firm texture.

12. FINISHING EDGES AND HEMS

The towel fabric is cut into long rows with a slitter, and the edges sewn to prevent fraying before towels are cut by hand to the desired length. Once the top and bottom hems are sewn, the towel is finally finished. At this stage, the yellow IKEUCHI ORGANIC tag is also sewn on. A lot of expertise is required to create each towel.

13. INSPECTION, SHIPPING

Completed towels are checked one by one in line with strict standards for blemishes, loose pile, soiling and deformation. Only towels that have been carefully checked and pass these standards can be shipped from the factory as IKEUCHI ORGANIC towels.

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