Polo Shirt Fabric – Explained

Polo shirts are by far our most popular product and we are always looking out for new ideas and innovations. They have come a long way from their origins in the 19th century, when they were developed by British army soldiers to play Polo.

Choosing the right fabric is important when deciding on what Polo Shirt to buy and we are always being asked to recommend fabrics. So I thought it might be quite useful to do a little fact file.

Most of us have busy lives, we’re time-poor and usually need to turn-around clothes pretty quickly. I have three rugby playing boys at home and I know how important it is the get their clothes cleaned and dried quickly!

So, where do you start? Sometimes you can be overwhelmed with choice, especially today when there seems to be so much out there.

One rule to remember is that a man-made fibre (Polyester) will always be more durable and resilient than a natural fibre but of course natural fibres (cotton) have the added appeal of their natural properties.

Knitted or Woven?

A knitted fabric is made by looping together long lengths of yarn. Its properties are distinct from woven fabric in that it is more flexible. Most Polo Shirts are knitted and there are two main types: Pique and Jersey


Pique (pronounced “Pee-Kay”) is characterized by its visible waffle-like texture. It generally has a looser weave and is the more traditional choice for Polos. The looser weave allows the air to circulate giving the fabric that important breathability which is why it was first used for Tennis and Sports Wear in the 1920’s. This textured weave helps to create heavier weights and increased durability. Pique is a popular choice as it is associated with both quality and durability.


Jersey is  smoother and flatter and is also used for t-shirts. It tends to have more elasticity than pique and a lighter feel and so is a popular choice for sport and active wear. Slim fitting and stretch Polos are more likely to be made of Jersey for the same reason.

See you soon for the next instalment!  Liz

BUBBACUE – Champion Ethical Customer

Made in Britain Impact Trading

John from Bubbacue contacted us a couple of months ago.

John was specific.  Bubbacue was about to be reborn. Starting out as a “pop up”  three years ago in Callender Street Belfast Bubbacue had evolved into a fully fledged restaurant. An adventure in food with total commitment to quality produce coupled with great ethics.

Bubbacue made in Britain Organic T Shirts
Aprons and T Shirts “Made in Britain” especially for Bubbacue.

Now a relaunch was imminent along with a rebrand of the restaurant, menu and uniform.
John is American, the restaurant is in Belfast.  In keeping with his ethos John ordered our organic “Made in Britain” T Shirts which were manufactured for him in organic cotton,and Pantone dyed to his exact specification. We now call it Bubbacue red.

imagesJohn ordered Fairtrade and organic black t shirts.  Cotton grown by Pratima Growing Group in Odisha India.

John wanted aprons for his team to match the t shirts, so contrast thread was used to bring the style together.

Staff having a break before the grand opening.                                                                           


Every t shirt has a message on the back which highlights an Ethos of Bubbacue.  The restaurant opened again on the 27th of November.  Our very best wishes from Impact Trading to John and Karen and all at Bubbacue.

Ethos #3

Why Charities and Campaign Groups Choose our T Shirts

One of the most popular garments worldwide is the t shirt.  With more than 7 billion people on our planet how many t shirts, on average, does each person own?

Have a look at what 7 billion looks like http://www.worldometers.info/watch/world-population/

Phenomenal figures don’t you think?

If you count without stopping until you reach a billion, you’d be counting for around 31 years, 259 days, 2 hours.

So many of us, the 7 billion of us, wear t shirts every week. It was estimated that 60% of people in the UK have 10 or more t shirts each. Wow – that’s a lot of t shirts.

We wear them at weekends, every day for work, at pop concerts, Olympics and other large events, to commemorate special occasions, festivals, sports, holidays, celebrations, and of course as campaign support.

Yes campaign support.  Often charities, faith based organisations, run by people with conviction in what they do.

Unfortunately the t shirt manufacturing industry has a well-earned reputation for paying tiny wages to those at the start of the whole manufacturing chain – the cotton farmers, pickers, weavers and spinners.

Not only tiny wages, but poor unsafe working conditions, blocked fire exits, structurally unsound buildings, cramped conditions, poor lighting, conditions which would be completely unacceptable in the UK for example.

The environmental impact of manufacturing a t shirt has equally phenomenal figures for example to manufacture one t shirt can use up to 2,700 litres of water – and often the cotton is grown in countries where water is in short supply.

Take a look at this video for the World Wildlife Fund for some interesting facts.  https://youtu.be/10ypcpbWIFo

You will notice on our websites www.impacttrading.co.uk and www.cottonroots.co.uk that above products image we show what certifications each garment has.  The certifications let you know what ethical and social considerations have been in place throughout the manufacturing process. This is very important to our customers who are looking for a sound supply chain which mirrors their work and commitments.

For example Prostate Cancer UK wanted ethically sourced t shirts of retail quality and selected certified organic garments.

The Salvation Army wanted to use Fairtrade certified t shirts, polo shirts and hoodies whenever possible for their recent international Boundless conference. They wanted their commitment to “Transforming Lives” to be reflected in the merchandise.

The Labour Party wanted to use t shirts manufactured in Britain for their 2015 campaign.  You can still see them making the BBC news even now – scroll down and you will see our famous t-shirt complete with graffiti .  I think it was appropriate for the labour Party to support workers in the UK.

Made in britain T Shirt

Neal’s Yard Remedies have selected aprons for their shop staff using organic fabric and we are manufacturing these for them here in Britain as well.  The Eden Project are another customer who have decided on our aprons because sustainability n at the absolute core of all their work.

Organisations who commit to so much wonderful work can back up their convictions by carefully choosing the t shirts which send out their message.  T shirts with good sound manufacturing which is audited.

You can find out what each of the certifications mean by clicking on each product, then clicking on the certification for example -Fairtrade certified, organic, Fair Wear, Wrap certified.

If I were to put them in order of moral and ethical class themselves it would be:-

  1. Fairtrade
  2. Organic
  3. Fair Wear
  4. WRAP

If you want to know why you can always give me a call for a chat.  I love Fairtrade is starts with the cotton farmers the most vulnerable in the whole chain and ends (but includes) us.  The t shirt can be traced all the way from the farmers to you the purchaser.

What a story for those in your organisation.  Your courage and conviction shining through.

I love this quote – I want to possess enough courage to fill a Campbell’s soup can. And then I want to use my courage to feed the homeless. Isn’t courage not only filling, but delicious? ~ Jarod Kintz

Why Buy British?

More so than ever people are interested in the provenance and sustainability of the products they buy and that’s one of the reasons why our output is 25% up on the production levels of the early eighties. And it’s continuing to rise. You wouldn’t be the first person to think that Britain doesn’t manufacture anything anymore, but you’d be wrong! Britain is producing high quality goods and they are in demand!

Buying British isn’t about parading about with the Union Jack, it’s about choosing good-value British basics and locally sourced goods.

But why should we buy British? Or buy local? It’s a good question. But there are many economic, social and environmental reasons for it.

1. It’s environmentally friendly

Lots of people would like to do more to conserve and protect our natural resources, but don’t know where to begin when it comes to being environmentally friendly. We all have a role to play when it comes to supporting an eco friendly environment and buying British (or buying local) means we are taking responsibility for the environmental impact of our own consumption. Nowadays, eco friendly products are readily available; and so too are British goods. When you buy British, you create a smaller carbon footprint. It’s as simple as that! Mass produced products are often flown into the UK from the other side of the world, leaving a massive carbon footprint behind it and buying British Made goods helps counteract this. People are now more aware than ever. The UK trend reflects a global rise in interest in environmentally friendly products, with consumers prepared to pay more to protect the natural world doubling in recent years.

2. You are investing in quality

Globalisation has opened up many opportunities and has helped provide mass volumes that retailers need, but it’s also changed the way businesses think. Globalisation is about producing the largest amount of products for the cheapest price, rather than focusing on quality. British made products may be more expensive but are often better made, meaning that you have long, lasting products.

3. It helps create employment

Wouldn’t it be nice to help boost the British economy by keeping people in jobs? Local business has the opportunity to place people in careers, educate them and promote a good work ethic. When buying British Made products you are helping to keep the manufacturing market in the UK exciting and vibrant.

4. Your spending will boost the local economy. 

When you buy local more money stays in the community. Research on spending by local authorities shows that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business 63p stayed in the local economy, compared to 40p with a larger business.

So how do you know when it’s Made in Britain?

In January 2011 cooker manufacturer Stoves commissioned independent market research among 1,000 British adults which found that almost half of those surveyed admitted confusion about which brands could still claim to be made in Britain. More than a third (37%) of those questioned stated they would buy British if it was easier to identify authentic made in Britain products.

Introducing the Made in Britain Marque

The idea for a logo to identify products made in Britain was conceived by Stoves following their research. The marque is designed to be used by British manufacturers on their marketing material, websites and products to help consumers and businesses understand the origins of the goods they are purchasing. The chosen design was unveiled in July 2011 and in November 2012 a committee was formed to oversee the marque and assist with the ongoing promotion of the campaign.

In 2013, further research was carried out by Make it British, which found that many people were willing to pay more to buy British, particular the older generation. Superior quality, support for the UK economy, and job creation were the main reasons cited for their choice.

In June 2013 the logo was redesigned the new one is based on a quadrant of the Union flag.

Their mission:

“To be the definitive Made in Britain campaign, endorsed by government, supported by manufacturers and recognised by consumers, at home and abroad.”


Their Objectives for 2015:


So will you buy British?

Made in Britain – T Shirts – Election 2015

Whew – the election is over.  A very important time for the country and the decision has been made.  I stayed up all night because I love election night.

Whatever your political convictions I am sure you will agree with me that we were proud to supply a political party with “Made in Britain T-Shirts”.    T-shirts are one of the most popular garments world wide and usually manufactured overseas.

4cm wide

The Labour party approached us to supply a t-shirt, pantone matched to the C199, printed with an election message – all within two weeks!  They wanted them to be made in Britain.

It was exciting to be manufacturing something so topical and we realised that it would take a super human effort on our part to make sure all went to plan.

Labour Party Made in Britain T Shirts

The fabric which was also manufactured in the UK was dyed to match C199, the fabric cut to a lovely modern style t shirt,  manufactured, then printed with their design.  All in the UK, within two weeks.

That’s some achievement to be proud of, and good on The labour Party for supporting British manufacturing!

Has the UK restored the “Made in Britain” tag to its former glory?

The words ‘Made in China’ are three words which are engraved into an enormous amount of products in the UK. For decades, companies have shifted manufacturing overseas, to places like China and India, tempted away by cheap labour costs. This had a devastating impact on domestic manufacturing in the UK, which declined from about 30% of national GDP in the late 1970’s to 14% before the recession to little more than 11% after that. But as wages and costs are escalating overseas, will more people  begin to invest in British manufacturing again? Is “Made in Britain” really making a comeback?

There is no denying that British manufacturers were hit hard by the recession, struggling to keep up with falling orders and cheaper competition from abroad. However the “Made in Britain” brand may be heading for a genuine revival as more UK companies choose to swap their international suppliers for UK based ones. In fact our output is actually 25% up on the production levels of the early eighties and it’s continuing to rise. So if you thought British manufacturing was dead, it may be time to think again.

The demand for British-made goods is particularly high from overseas, where the perceived quality and craftsmanship is well respected. In fact, new research independently commissioned by Barclays Corporate Banking has shown that products labelled “Made in Britain” are gaining a considerably higher premium when sold abroad than those with no declared country of origin. When consumers in eight export markets see the the Union Flag on a product, their desire to buy increases.

It is also in demand at the wealthier end of the spectrum as the “Made in Britain” label promises to add a further level of value to the consumer. In luxury fashion for example, the “Made in Britain” label means owning something more unique and more customised, adding value to a product.

But what about the rest of us? Does a “Made in Britain” label matter to us too?

Well according to a YouGov poll, which was carried out last year for the EEF, seven out of ten respondents said they prefer to buy goods that have been made in Britain. The poll, which was carried out on over two thousand British adults, also found that 91% agreed that manufacturing is essential for the UK economy to grow.

So what are British manufacturers doing to support “Made in Britain”?

There are welcoming signs of life for Britain’s textile industry. In fact, employment in UK manufacturing has risen and continues to rise as companies invest in machinery and skills. The UK fashion industry and the government are beginning to sit up and think of new ways to sustain the “Made in Britain” brand, from its craftsmanship to it’s manufacturing, with now lots of investment in apprenticeships to train the next generation of skilled workers.  Luxury UK labels like Mulberry and Burberry are bringing production back home and high street stores like John Lewis are looking to bring textile manufacturing back to the UK from foreign factories as part of its big campaign to sell more “British made” goods. Not only that, according to the Manufacturing Advisory Service, one in nine SMEs reshored their production from overseas last year, with top reasons for doing so being to reduce costs, improve quality and shorten lead times.

So why should we buy British?

“Made in Britain” labelling is actively supporting communities, offering opportunities for employment and skills development in a sector of the UK economy, which has declined rapidly in recent years. The creation of jobs should be a good enough reason alone for Buying British made goods,

So we now have a real window of opportunity to build manufacturing back up in the UK and it seems we are taking the opportunity by both hands. A recent report suggested that there will be 50,000 manufacturing jobs in the UK manufacturing sector over the next two years as a consequence of manufacturing being moved back to this country. This estimate is echoed by the accountants, PWC, that suggest that 100,000 to 200,000 additional jobs will be created over the next decade and that annual national output will be enhanced by £6-12 billion at today’s prices by the mid-2020’s.

So what can we do?

As consumers, we need to actively seek out products that are made in Britain and retailers need to continue to make these products easier to come across. Places like China and India aren’t the cheapest places in the world to manufacturer anymore and therefore there’s no need for them to be dominating the world’s manufacturing. Once upon a time, Britain was famous for it’s manufacturing and it’s about time it happened again. The “Made in Britain” label has always been held in high esteem, but the industry began prioritising profit over quality and now out of the recession, we are looking at things differently. I guess only time will tell if the “Made in Britain” brand recovers fully.

New Customer In Gibralter

Lisa wanted to visit them when she won an order from Bassadone Motors in Gibraltar!  We sent them sample garments from our corporate clothing collection so that they could make sure they were the right size for their staff –  and the perfect choice from their team.

They wanted a professional look for their staff to inspire confidence with their clients.  I really do believe that first impressions count and a good choice of company clothing goes a long way to achieve this.  Staff need to feel comfortable but look really smart and well presented.

Although we supply many customers overseas from Finland to British Honduras – even a yacht in Barbados, I am really pleased to have our first customer in Gibraltar 🙂  Thank you Bassadone Motors and sorry Lisa you can’t visit we need you here 🙁

Finalists in Northamptonshire Excellence in Business Awards

Business Excellence Awards

Yes we have gone it!  We have been shortlisted for the Northampton Business Excellence Awards in TWO categories.

1. Northamptonshire Most Enterprising Business


2. Environmental Award

We have visitors galore coming along to see us. Well I say visitors I mean judges.  Two judges from the Northampton Enterprise Partnership on Friday, another judge from LLoyds bank on Monday morning, filming in the afternoon, and the photographer in the afternoon.  PHEW!

Just writing the entry made me realise all that everyone does here at Cotton Roots and Impact Trading.  Little things like sorting the recycled paper through to bigger things like purchasing only biodegradable bags.  We are the only company in our industry I know that do this.

Enterprising because we have won major contracts this year against much larger organisation, developed new products and lead the industry with our new ethical products.  You can already watch us on the BBC when we featured on Working Lunch with Declan Murphy.

Now these awards! We will go along to an awards ceremony where the winners will be unveiled and Tom O’Connor is the celebrity host.  We hope we win. Yes we do. Exciting.

SO watch this space 🙂

English National Opera choose our Corporate Clothing Range

Well this was exciting.  Garments from our Brook Tavernerrange were selected by the English National Opera for performers to wear as part of   for Idomeneo.  Not the usual use of our corporate blouses, shirts and suits but perfect for the part.

To see a trailer of the English National Opera wearing the range – and of course wonderful singing click on the video above.

It is always lovely to work with people for unusual projects such as this and exciting to see the end product.  The Brook Taverner Range of corporate clothing has a variety of “collections”.  We have been really pleased with the feedback from our customers and the range has been one of our best sellers this year.

Business Suit - Corporate Uniform

Africa’s Fairtrade Cotton Farmers

I read this article today.  It is a little old, written by Elizabeth day in November 2010  for The Observer.  However it is still very much up to date.

It explains the subsudies given to USA, European and the Chinese cotton farmers – and then the impact this has on the cotton farmers in the very poor nations.  The subsidies really manipulate the price of cotton and has such a negative impact on the farmers in such places as Mali, West Africa.

Liz outlines the way in which Fairtrade has a positive impact.  The “Premium” resulting in access to health care, clean water and some education.

There is also an interesting video.

I have recently had an update from the Fairtrade Foundation regarding the fair trade cotton production for the garments we have made for us in India.  The organisation at the start of our Fairtrade chain is an organisation called Delight.  What a great name. 

The premium has partly financed water tanks for the groups livestock, as well as a communal stage for meetings and entertainment. They have also spent their premium on helping to finance and construct an English medium school called Swayam Academy through the Mahima Education and Welfare Society trust. The children of the tribal farmers (approx. 110) receive free education, transport, stationary and books at this school.  I have visited this school and some of the cotton farmers.  Once again I am reminded that when I read articles like the one Liz has written and think back to my visit then the inspiration it gives me results in our range of Fairtrade t shirts, aprons, school uniform and and polo shirts.

The real idea is to share.  Although the recession is having an impact on us here in the UK.  Our wealth is beyond the experience of the cotton farmers  I met.  If we at Cotton Roots together with our customers share just a little, the effects are magnified in such a important way to those growing the cotton in India and Africa.