From Seed To Towel: How Towels Are Made

Have you ever driven past a cotton field? While a field of cotton initially looks just as soft as our Turkish towels are, you’ll soon find out that the cotton plant is actually a prickly, stiff shrub adorned with a fluffy white fiber. Keep reading to find out how a cotton seed eventually ends up in a luxury bath towel or robe.

Cotton Clothing Dates Back Ages

While we may think of ancient clothing as being made of animal pelts, cotton garments excavated in Mexico have dated back as early as 6,000 BC. While cotton was originally planted, picked, spun, and woven by hand, today most cotton farms and factories use machines at some point in the process.

The Cotton Plant

The cotton plant is technically a shrub that thrives in subtropical regions but is grown on almost every continent. In fact, more than 25 million tonnes of cotton are harvested each year, and cotton plants take up about 2.5 percent of the world’s agricultural land. Cotton plants need frost-free environments with plenty of sunshine and warm weather. While some crops grown for eating require nutrient-rich soil, cotton grows just fine in average soil.

Cotton is usually planted in the late winter or early spring. A few weeks after planing, the baby cotton plants emerge from the soil. About a month or so after that, flowers will begin to bloom. These flowers start off white, but eventually turn pink, wither, and then fall off. By summertime, the cotton plants should be bushy and cotton bolls (the white fluffy part and the shell that encases it) begin to form and open. By autumn, the cotton is ready for harvesting.


Many of the largest cotton-producing countries use machinery to harvest cotton, though some countries, including Turkey, mainly harvest cotton by hand. There are two main machines used to harvest cotton: The cotton picker and the cotton stripper. A cotton picker simply picks the cotton fiber out of the boll, whereas the stripper takes the entire boll (the part that encases the fluffy cotton). Both machines eventually separate most of the cotton from the plant matter and automatically wrap them into big, round bales weighing 500 pounds each. By winter, the bales are shipped off to either domestic or overseas factories to be spun into yarn. For example, China is the biggest producer of cotton in the world, but most of it is shipped to local factories. America is the third largest producer of cotton by the top exporter.

Cleaning And Spinning

At this point in the process, the cotton is in a large bale full of debris, plant materials, and other stuff you do not want in your final product. To get rid of all of this, the cotton bales are opened and spread out. Through a series of mixing, beating, and blowing, any debris and too-short fibers are separated, and the higher-quality fibers (between 1-2 inches in length) are left over to continue in the process.

After the longer fibers are separated, they go into what is called a carding machine. This machine combs and straightens the cotton fibers to make them parallel to each other. This prepares the fibers for spinning, where they will be made into yarn or thread. After a few more combing and straightening processes, the cotton is finally ready to be spun. The long fibers are rotated thousands of times to create one long, continuous thread.


Now that the cotton has been spun into long spools of yarn, it is ready to be woven together into one piece of fabric. While cotton fabric used to be hand-woven on wooden machines, today the process is entirely machine-automated in most cases. There are two parts to weaving: the warp and the weft. The warp involves anchoring thread and forming it into hundreds of long vertical rows. Afterwards, the weft is added. At this point, hundreds of horizontal rows called weft threads alternate going over and under each warp thread.

At this stage, you have a basic piece of cotton fabric. However, you’ll notice that most towels have one side that is relatively smooth, and one side that is plusher. To create the plush side, or loops, a “filler yarn” is woven loosely into the warp and weft threads. This creates slack which then forms the little loops on the backside of a plush Turkish cotton towel.

Dying, Cutting, And Hemming

The fabric that comes off of the loom is in one long sheet, much like a roll of fabric, you would see at a fabric store. This fabric is bleached and dyed using various methods in order to produce a specific color. Then, the fabric is unrolled and cut into the appropriate sizes. For example, this fabric might be cut into small Turkish hand towels, or large Turkish bath sheets, depending on the need. The edges will then be sewn and hemmed as needed to prevent unraveling, and the towel is ready to be packaged and sent to towel suppliers.

When It Comes To Luxury Turkish Bath Towels, Just Say Salbakos!

Sabalkos uses our very own mill in Turkey in order to produce the best quality Turkish towels. This allows us to oversee our processes and ensure maximum quality control in our products. That way, you know you are receiving only the best Turkish bath towels when you order from Salbakos. Want to see for yourself? Shop our collection of luxury Turkish bath towels, Turkish cotton robes, and hotel quality towels today!

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