Polartec receives yarn from one of its yarn vendor / partners, Unifi in North Carolina, on recyclable pallets. Trucks return to Unifi with empty pallets and also fabric scraps that can be recycled into new yarn. In 2009 30% of Polartec’s production uses recycled content yarn saving millions of pounds of CO2 emissions each year.
Dozens of spools of yarn feed into a circular knitting machine at Polartec’s main production facility in Lawrence, MA, USA. Different yarns and constructions can be combined to create hundreds of different fabrics with specific performance attributes. As the fabric is knit, it rolls up inside the bottom of the machine creating what looks like a giant terry cloth tube sock. Later this “tube sock” is slit down the middle to create flat fabric.
From the circular knitting machines, rolls of greige fabric await quality inspections before going to dyeing and finishing. These rolls look like giant terry cloth tube socks before the tube is slit to create a flat piece of fabric.
As greige goods come off the circular knitting machines, the fabric runs past a light for quality inspection. This happens before the fabric is slit, dyed, and finished.
Greige goods are dyed in “jets” that look like giant front loading washing machines. These jets apply heat and pressure to lock in color as well as performance enhancing treatments like odor resistance, anti-static, and wicking agents. New dye jets use 50% less water.
After the dye jets, a machine wrings out the fabric and then slits the fabric to create one flat piece which is then dried before finishing. Fabric next moves to be napped and then sheared in finishing.
Finishing the fabric is the process of the loops in the fabric and then shearing the yarns to an even height. This is a specialty of Polartec’s which creates long lasting, non-pilling fabrics. In this video, giant rollers covered with small wires break the loops in the fabric to create loft for warmth without weight.
Finished Polartec fabric is inspected for quality before it is shipped to apparel manufacturers.
A Martindale machine tests abrasion resistance on Polartec fabrics.
Pilling test for Polartec fabrics.