“We work closely with our ag research group; when they develop new varieties they bring the cotton into the processing lab to be spun.”

He said the facility has three spinning options—ring, open-end and air jet. They also have a dyeing and finishing laboratory.

“We work with product development,” Gunter said. “We can simulate a fabric without producing it. It saves time and money.”

Jeana Hatch, manager, product development, took that concept a bit further. She said using a computer assisted design (CAD) program, she can create fabric mock-ups that show what the actual fabric will look like.

“Our goal is to encourage use of more cotton,” Hatch said. “Using CAD systems is part of our sustainability focus. Designing by CAD saves time and money versus developing, cutting and producing a fabric.”

Yvonne Johnson, associate director of the product development lab, said documenting how certain fibers run on their knitting and weaving equipment provides information they share with mills and retailers.

“We look at trends, and we show fabric ideas and share information about fibers. We provide technical assistance, too.”

In the dyeing and finishing laboratory, Paul Edwards, dyeing and finishing technician, explained that part of the process is “finishing for the feel” of the cotton fabric. They also look at various methods of finishing materials—chemical and stone-washed, for instance. Sustainability is also a part of the dyeing and finishing process as research looks into methods to reduce water and chemical use.

Studies also consider how new cotton fabrics will perform in newer, more energy-efficient washers and dryers.