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.
Terry-Cloth. [Supposed to have been derived from Fr. terre, high, from the elevation of the loops above the foundation of warp and weft] A cotton fabric with a looped pile surface, used as cloaking for children and in the manufacture of Turkish towels. The first terry-cloth was made of silk, in France, in 1841. In 1845 John Bright, the great statesman of England, began to make worsted terry-cloth at his mills at Rochdale. The fabric proved to be a great success, and many a manufacturer endeavored to solve the problem of producing the article in cotton. All of them failed, however, until Samuel Holt of England succeeded in making the first cotton terry-cloth, in 1848. He patented the process both in England and the United States. In 1864 Holt left London and came to Paterson, New Jersey, where he formed a company and erected a plant for the manufacture of terry-cloth. Two years afterward the company disposed of Holt's patents for $250,000. This, according to Holt's claim, violated their contract and caused a lawsuit, in which Holt lost a large amount of money. Terry-cloth is composed of two warps and one weft, the extra warp producing the loops. The operation of weaving is accomplished by winding each warp on a separate beam, one for the loop pile and the other for the foundation warp, the latter being always kept tight. After two wefts have been inserted and tightly beaten up, the reed is allowed to fly loose by a peculiar arrangement, and both warps being kept tight, two wefts are put in without being beat up. Then the reed is fastened and the loop warp made quite slack, and on the next weft being beaten up, the two previous are also driven home, and with them the loop warp which was made slack between the fell and the two neglected warps, thus forming loops on both sides of the fabric. This weave is not confined exclusively to the making of fabrics with an unbroken pile surface, but is adopted in stripes for both towels and wraps, in checks and even figures for quilts, combined with color in other effects. Terry velvet is simply uncut velvet, being entirely of silk, and having fine ribs or cords on the best side. Inferior kinds are also made with a cotton back. It is chiefly used for trimmings, particularly for children's garments. Although called velvet, it has not the nap or pile that is the distinguishing characteristic of such a textile. [See Velvet, Turkish Towels]