This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Crape. [The same word as French crepe, formerly spelled crespe, from Latin crespus, crisp, curled, frizzled] A thin, semi-transparent fabric made of silk or cotton, finely crinkled or crisped, either irregularly or in long parallel ridges. It is made white, black and also colored. The black has a peculiarly sombre appearance, and is hence considered especially appropriate for mourning purposes. Mourning or "hard" crepes are woven of hand-spun silk yarn "in the gum", or natural condition, the crimp being produced by pressing the fabric between heavy steel rollers, the surface of which are so creased and indented as to produce the pattern desired. Commercially the qualities are distinguished as "single", "double", "3-ply" and "4-ply". Albert Crepe is a variety composed of a union of silk and cotton. Victoria Crepe is of all cotton. Canton Crepe is a very cheap, soft cotton material woven with a wrinkled effect similar to Crepe de Chine. Crinkled Crepe is another airy fabric, woven after the manner of crinkled seersucker, dyed in solid colors. Imperial Crepe is a crinkly gossamer silk fabric used for ladies' neckwear. India Crepe is a fine silk crepe gauze, of extremely light texture. Japan or "soft" crepe is, after silk damasks the favorite fabric of the Japanese for dress, and of late years has become very popular in the United States. The wavy appearance of this fabric is due to the peculiar manner in which the weft thread is prepared, the yarn from bobbins being twisted together in the reverse way, that is, one to the left and the other to the right. The cloth is then woven with two shuttles, four wefts being beat up of the left-twisted thread from one shuttle, and the same number of the right-twisted thread from the other shuttle. On the removal of the cloth from the loom it is placed in a bath and boiled for some hours, and then washed, after which it is found to have shrunk considerably in breadth. It is then stretched and rolled on a wooden cylinder, and dried in the sun When finished the cloth has the uneven surface liked by the Japanese, and which it will always retain. Formerly Japan crepe was woven in narrow widths, from 12 to 14 inches, but at present the width in the cheaper qualities runs from 24 to 27 inches. From the weaver the cloth passes to the printer. The printing factories are, like all those which are truly Japanese in origination and management, very small and primitive, from 20 to 40 workmen being usually employed. The sheds are open on three sides, and are filled with rows of long narrow tables or boards on trestles. On these are stretched the cottons or crepes to be dyed, and to the rafters above are hung the boards on which the stuffs partly printed are drying before completion of the process ; the machinery consists solely of a few stencil plates, brushes and saucers of fluid paints, and the human hands -which, however, are the most ingenious, obedient and successful machines when guided by the mind of an artist workman. The process is simple. Imagine, for example, that a real Japanese pattern, such as that of a white fan decorated with a design of birds, is being printed. Each fan may contain a different design if wished ; the method is the same. A stencil plate made of stout water-proof paper is temporarily fixed by broadawls to the cloth and table beneath, and with a bamboo spatula a paste made of rice and other materials is spread rapidly and evenly over the surface of the plate. The paste passes on to the cloth through the patterned spaces of the stencil plate, and thus covers the parts it is intended to leave white in in the design. The plate is then removed and the rice paste allowed to dry. The workman passes down the long table, which is the length of the entire piece of cloth, and, using the same stencil plate, he quickly covers over the intended white spaces throughout the whole extent of the cloth. A series of stencil plates are then used in succession in order to draw in the outlines and put in the colors and shades of the design.
Thus, one plate will give the outlines of one-half of the birds and flowers, the rest of the outlines being completed by the next plate. With a third plate the brown tints of the birds' wings are put in, with a fourth their beaks and claws, with a fifth any other color of their plumage, with a sixth the pink shades of the plum blossoms, with a seventh the green leaves, and so on, the number of the stencil plates being only limited by the complication of the design and by the variety of the color and tints in it. The colors are laid on moist, with flat round brushes. The depth, tone, and shading of the colors depend on the taste and skill of the workman, and it is delightful to watch him at work and to find how instinctively and rapidly he feels that a tone is here too strong, there too weak, and to see him shade and temper it by dipping his brush into the dish of clean water always at hand, or deepen it with a few strokes of the paint brush. Rapidly the design in all its complication grows beneath the apt fingers of the printer, and soon the long strip of cotton or silk crape is covered with fans and birds and flowers; but the base of the cloth still remains white. To dye it blue the parts which have been already printed are covered with a thick layer of rice paste. When dry the whole surface of the cloth is brushed over with a paste of indigo and rice, or, it is dipped into the indigo vat. The cloth is then steamed to obtain fixing of the colors by the mordants with which the dyes are mixed, add finally the rice paste is washed off, when the design of birds and plum blossoms, on a white fan on a blue ground will appear as clean and distinct as if just drawn with the brush. The simplest designs of mere dots and lines are executed by the same process, as well as the most elaborate.