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Mercerized Cotton

Mercerized cotton is also known as pearl or pearle cotton. This yarn undergoes a number of processes to provide it extra luster and sheen. Cotton is naturally found as a boll. Each string of the yarn is a produce a single seed. The fiber grows on the inner side of a sheath where each night a new layer of cellulose is added. When thirty such layers form, it gives an appearance of cylindrical pole. When the boll at the tip of the cylindrical pole bursts open, the sun and air dry it up.

There have been any number of attempts to alter the appearance of the fiber since long, but not with much effect. John Mercer worked on the cotton fiber for long and got a British Patent for his efforts on cotton, linen and other fibrous products. He was able to bring about certain changes to the fiber when he treated it with caustic soda, sulfuric acid and other chemicals. He recorded these changes, finding caustic soda to make the fiber to swell, rounded and straighten. However, this could not bring change in the luster. The changes that Mercer brought to the cotton fabric hardly had anyone from the British cotton trade and industry interested. His work had remained in the dark for about forty years until Horace Lowe was granted a British patent in 1890. According to Lowe, Mercer’s caustic soda treatment on cotton yarn under tension resulted in providing high luster to the fiber. The idea was accepted by the industry and Mercerized cotton became famous.

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