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.
Lace Curtains. The use of curtains originated during the brilliant civilizations which were developed in a very remote antiquity by India, China and Egypt. The manufacture and arrangement of curtains and draperies then received as much attention as any of the nobler arts. Throughout all the centuries the use of curtains has ever formed an important feature in household decoration. Of the many materials utilized for this purpose, lace forms by far the greater part. Since the invention of machines for the manufacture of bobbinet, in 1809, Nottingham, England, has been the greatest center for the production of curtain lace in the world. At the present time, however, the city is not enjoying so flourishing a state, owing to the decrease of the export trade of this industry, and especially to the fact that within the last 10 years the United States have turned their attention more fully to this branch of manufacture. Loom-made curtains, pillow shams, borders and edgings are now made in large quantities in this country, principally at Wilkesbarre and Philadelphia, Penn., and in Rhode Island and Galveston, Texas. The most expensive curtains made by American mills wholesale at 84.50. A brief account of the method of manufacture may be of general interest.
The warp is placed in a perpendicular position, the threads being wide enough apart to pass a quarter between them. These threads may be from 700 to 1,200 in a yard of width, stretched from a roller. The filling is wound upon small bobbins, which consist of two discs riveted together, permitting a space between them for the thread. These bobbins are placed in a comb bar behind the warp. At the first movement of the loom, each bobbin that carries the thread with it passes through two of the parallel warp threads to another comb bar in front of the warp. The front bar has an additional motion from right to left, so that after it has received the bobbin by its forward motion and has drawn back, bringing bobbin and thread through two upright warp threads, it moves to one side; it again moves forward and passes the bobbin and thread through the next two warp threads, the bobbin being lodged upon the rear bar, one space beyond its last position; this it recovers by its next movement, and again passes through the first space, and is again received by the front bar. As a result of these movements, the weft thread is entwisted about one upright warp thread. The bobbin is then shifted, so that it will pass through the next pair of upright threads, and so continue its work; the warp threads, in the meanwhile, are being continually unwound from their lower and rolled upon their upper beam. Each comb bar has a set of bobbins, which it exchanges with the other, there being in the aggregate twice as many bobbins as there are warp threads. The movements are so nicely adjusted that a width of lace is made in an incredibly brief space of time. The narrow strips are made upon the same loom; these are united by a temporary thread, which is afterward pulled out. A jacquard is attached to some looms for working in the thick thread of gimp for artificial work. Subsequently, the work of bleaching, calendering and washing is performed. Then follows the drying process, in which the fabric is stretched on a cushion, a pin being fixed in each hole to prevent shrinking.
Lace Curtains are not valued for the amount of cotton which enters their construction, but for the beauty and taste of the design with which they are woven. The cheapest lace curtains have a weight of not over one-half pound; the best pair of Nottingham curtains has a weight not exceeding three pounds. The cotton yarn for the cheapest pair costs but 20 cents, and for the best pair of lace curtains costs but $1.20. They are retailed from 90 cents up to $15 per pair; the difference between 90 cents and 20 cents, and $1.20 and $15 being covered by wages, designing, tariff and the profits of manufacturer and dealer. If made in Nottingham the cotton passes through many hands before the curtain reaches the final purchaser. Perhaps the second best cotton in the world is Texas cotton. The Texas farmer sells his cotton to a buyer at the county-seat; cotton brokers in Galveston buy the cotton from the county-seat dealer and ship it to Liverpool with a profit; the Liverpool buyers sell it with a profit to a Manchester spinner, who makes cotton yarn of it and sells it with a large profit to the Nottingham lace curtain maker; this maker produces the curtains and sells his product with about 15 per cent net profit to the Nottingham commission houses. These commission houses sell the lace curtains with about 30 per cent net profit to American jobbers, who import them, paying Uncle Sam 60 per cent import duty and 5 per cent custom house expenses, and high freight - selling them with profit to the retail dealer, who in turn sells them to the consumer if the pattern be good, at from 25 to 50 per cent profit. '