Published February 1, 2023
From Seed to Sock: Sock Club's Cotton Grown in the United States
A series dedicated to supply chain transparency and tracing every step of the custom sock manufacturing process.
Where does Sock Club source our cotton?
The cotton we use to make our custom socks is blended together across multiple states into a homogenous blend. We source our cotton from Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, Missouri, Florida, and Texas.
Does Sock Club make custom socks with organic cotton?
While we used naturally sourced cotton, organic cotton is not primarily a part of our supply chain. Our US spinner currently purchases and processes Certified Organic Cotton from Texas Organic Cooperative for their organic yarn programs.
Organic cotton is a small part of overall cotton production and estimated at only 1-2% globally. The US is a small piece of organic cotton production with most organic cotton produced primarily in India and China. The dying process for organic cotton can take a considerable amount of time especially for much darker colors like black or navy. Treated cotton saves time, labor and reduced dying times cut back on water-waste usage all while providing a shorter time to market.
What grade of cotton yarn does Sock Club use to make branded socks?
We use Upland cotton, it is a special, longer than normal fiber length resulting in a softer touch. In the industry this is referred to as long staple cotton, the longer the staple the softer the cotton.
An employee in Sock Club's cotton yarn spinning facility changing out a finished cotton yarn spool
Our cotton Spinning Mill
Our spinning mill was founded in 1967 and specializes in carded and combed cotton. We pride ourselves on quality and make a point to reduce waste whenever possible.
Sustainability Methods in our Cotton Production
We recycle all filter waste and thread waste to a company that reclaims the fibers with other cotton and it goes into cotton balls, q-tips, make-up pads, medicine bottles, etc.
We recycle the cotton bale bagging along with metal recycling.
We have an option for farmers to pick-up their fine cotton lint and filter waste to spread on their fields. The farmers plow it into the field to help add decay and loosen up their soil for better soil amending.
How is cotton grown?
Cotton is a major agricultural crop in the United States, with the majority of it being grown in the southern states. These states, including Texas, Georgia, and Alabama, have the ideal climate and soil conditions for growing cotton. Collectively, they are known as The Cotton Belt.
A map of the Cotton Belt in the United States (source: Hundred Percent Cotton)
The process of growing cotton begins in the late winter or early spring, when farmers prepare the fields for planting. This includes tilling the soil, adding fertilizer, and controlling weeds. Once the fields are ready, farmers will plant the cotton seeds using a cotton planter. The seeds are planted in rows, and are typically spaced about 18 inches apart.
After the seeds have been planted, they will germinate and begin to grow. The young cotton plants will need to be kept well-watered and protected from pests and diseases. As the plants grow, farmers will also need to control weeds by using herbicides or hand-weeding.
Once the cotton plants reach maturity, which typically takes around 120 days, they will begin to produce bolls. These are the protective capsules that contain the cotton fibers. The bolls will start to open and reveal the cotton fibers, which can then be harvested.
Mature cotton boll ready for harvest
How is cotton harvested?
Harvesting cotton is typically done with a cotton picker, which is a large machine that removes the cotton fibers from the plant. The cotton fibers are then collected and transported to a gin, where they are cleaned and processed. After the cotton fibers have been cleaned and processed, they are ready to be spun into yarn or fabric.
A cotton gin harvesting mature cotton
Cotton Production in the United States
Cotton is grown in many states in the US, but some of the major cotton-producing states include Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and California. Texas alone produces more cotton than any other state, accounting for over one-third of the total cotton production in the United States. Georgia and Alabama are also significant cotton-producing states, and together with Texas, these three states account for over 70% of the total cotton production in the United States.
Graph showing the leading cotton producing states in the US from 2018-2020 (source: USDA)
Cotton production in the United States has been on the decline since the mid-20th century, due to a combination of factors. This includes a shift in consumer demand towards synthetic fibers, as well as increased competition from other countries. However, cotton remains an important crop in many southern states, and continues to be a major contributor to the agricultural economy of the United States.
Cotton production in the United States is also facing a challenge of sustainability, the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers can have a negative impact on the environment and human health. Therefore, many farmers are working to implement sustainable farming practices, such as reducing the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and using more efficient irrigation systems.
In conclusion, cotton is a major agricultural crop in the United States, with the majority of it being grown in the southern states, such as Texas, Georgia, and Alabama. These states have the ideal climate and soil conditions for growing cotton, and cotton remains an important contributor to the agricultural economy of the United States. However, cotton production in the United States is facing challenges of sustainability and competition from other countries, farmers are working to implement sustainable farming practices to mitigate these challenges.