This section is from the book "Scientific Sewing And Garment Cutting", by Antoinette Van Hoesen Wakeman. Also available from Amazon: Scientific Sewing And Garment Cutting: For Use In Schools And In The Home.
In the beginning, when the brown pods burst open, the cotton is as white as newly fallen snow; but by the time it has been picked, and has passed through the cotton-gin, and been prepared for shipment, it has gathered much grit and dirt, which must all be taken out.
Catkins and Leaues of Birch-Tree.
After it has been thoroughly cleaned, it is placed upon feeding-tables, and from these tables it passes to big revolving rollers. These rollers are called cylinders, and are studded with strong teeth. As the cotton flies over them it looks like a great flock of white-winged birds; but it comes out from them in big sheets. It then passes over another series of cylinders, with small, sharp teeth, which make it into a fine white fleece just as thick in one place as in another.
As it conies from these cylinders, the pretty fleece is caught in a tube, and rounded into a coil so light and fragile that the least touch breaks it. And do you know, that if in any way the coil is broken, the machinery is so adjusted that it stops at once, and will not move again until it is perfectly joined.
When the cotton has been made into a little coil, it is put through the drawing-frame, where it is drawn out and doubled until all the fibers lie side by side. After this it is slightly twisted, and then wound on bobbins.
The thread I am telling you about was made in one of the largest factories in the world; and how many acres do you think it occupied? Between fifty and sixty acres. It is a pretty sight to see the white bobbins lying in long rows in the big building in which they are wound, ready for what is known as the spinning-mule. The spinning-mule is a machine mounted on a carriage that moves backwards and forwards; and the yarn is swiftly transferred from the fixed bobbins, and is twisted as it is wound onto the moving spindles. In this way several hundred threads are twisted at the same time. Some of them are twisted for four and some for six cord thread. Some are fine and others coarse; but each number and kind of thread is made separately, although in the same factory.
A Cotton Pod.
When the thread is twisted as much as is necessary, and is ready to be finished, it is passed from the bobbins over a small peg of glass which acts as a guide, leading the swiftly flying thread to a little slit in an upright bar of steel called a cleaner. This cleaner detects a knot or unevenness of any kind, and at once stops the swiftly moving thread. In this way the thread is rendered absolutely without a flaw of any kind.
When the thread has passed through the cleaner, it is taken so rapidly through a flame of gas that it is not scorched, but all the little fibers on it are burned off. If you wish to see how it is done, take a piece of darning-cotton, and pass it very quickly through the flame of a lamp, and you will find that all the little fibers are burned away, but the cord is not injured.
When the thread has been passed through the flame, it is wound by a machine that fills a spool almost before you can see it. The spools are then labeled with a little round bit of paper on each end, on which is printed the kind of thread, where it is made, and the number. The spools are then packed in boxes, and are ready for the market.
Cotton which is to be used for making cloth is cleaned just as it is when it is to be made into thread. Before it is shipped to the factories, it is sent to great presses, where it is packed so tightly that it is almost as hard as a piece of wood. To clean it, and make it light and soft, the cotton is put six and sometimes seven times through a blower, inside of which is a beater of steel which turns many times in a second. Below it is a fan which revolves very fast, blowing out the dust, seeds, and sticks, and at last leaving it as light and white as sea foam.
There are two ways of spinning cotton, - one with the spinning-mule already described, and the other on the throttle or spinning-frame.
If you will take a piece of cotton cloth of the ordinary kind, such as calico or muslin, you will see that the threads go under and over each other just as they do in the first darn. The length-thread, which is the warp, is usually throttle spun; and the weft, which is the thread that goes from selvage to selvage, is spun on the mule frames. The warp threads are fixed on the looms; and in common cloth the weft is put under and over them by means of shuttles, which fly back and forth so rapidly that the eye can scarcely follow them.
The raising of cotton and its manufacture form two of the chief industries of the United States. Five-sevenths of all the cotton used in the world is raised in the Southern States; and a great deal of it is made into cloth and thread in the great factories of this country.