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.
Weaving. [From Anglo-Saxon weafan, to weave or fold about] The art of forming cloth by the interlacing of yarn in a loom. Pliny gives the honor of the invention to the Egyptians, but its origin is really unknown, and was certainly long prior to that of authentic history. Homer, the Greek poet, who lived 600 B. C, gives an account of the heroine Penelope weaving at the loom. Penelope was the wife of the Greek hero Ulysses. Soon after his marriage he was unfortunately summoned to the Trojan war. Unwilling to go, he feigned madness - yoked an ox and a horse together, and resorted to other ruses to prove his lunacy, but the commander discovered his deceit by means of his affectionate care for his only child, Telemachus. Obliged to go he distinguished himself as a warrior, and was not released until 20 years had passed. Having tarried so long, many chieftains of Ithaca and the islands round about wooed the fair Penelope to marry; they behaved wantonly, wasting the substance of Ulysses, insulting his son, and corrupting the maidservants. But the faithful and tender Penelope yearned for the god-like Ulysses and bade her impatient suitors again and again to wait, before hastening her nuptials, until she had woven a winding sheet for old Icarius, the father of Ulysses, that her threads might not be lost. But every night the artful Penelope undid the piece which she had woven by day, so that the web was always unfinished. This she did for three years, till her maids revealed the secret to her wooers. Robbed at last of her pretext for delay she was in sore straits, till she was relieved by the arrival of Ulysses after an absence of twenty years. He slew the wooers, and the long-parted husband and wife were united once more. Joy! Wassail! Finis! This Homeric story is the first historical mention made by any writer of the art of weaving, and Penelope was worshipped by the Greeks and Romans as the goddess of the loom.
The Egyptians undoubtedly attained wonderful excellence in weaving, the antiquity of which is fully attested by the existence of the fine linens with which the mummies taken from the pyramids were enwrapped. Many Biblical references prove the Hebrews to have been equally facile; and Persia, Babylon, and other ancient nations likewise earned fame in this particular. The Mexicans spun and wove cotton, and the Peruvians both cotton and wool, into fabrics which the Spaniards found in every way equal to anything they had known at home. The Peruvians, in particular, were adepts at weaving. When Pizarro made the conquest of their country in 1533, he found in the empire of the Incas four species of animals little different from each other, which he called the sheep of their country, because of their general resemblance to the Spanish (merino) sheep, and the similar utilization of its fiber. Two of the species, the llama and alpaca, had been in a state of domestication from time immemorial, the remaining varieties, the vicuna and the guanaca, living in a wild state in the fastnesses of the Andes. Specimens of this Peruvian cloth, still preserved, reveals a fineness of texture and an exquisite finish which modern ingenuity rarely equals. Both sides of these cloths were woven alike. The delicacy of the texture gave it the luster of silk, while the brilliancy of the dyes employed excited the envy and admiration of European artisans. The North American Indians, when first discovered, possessed no knowledge whatever of the art of spinning or weaving, their garments being confined entirely to the skins of animals. The Navajos were not acquainted with weaving processes until after their contact with the early Spanish missionaries.
According to Pliny, the Assyrians believed Queen Semiramis to have been the inventress of weaving. Minerva, in many pieces of ancient statuary, is represented with a distaff, evidently for the purpose of conveying the impression that it was she who first taught men the art of spinning; and this honor is given by the Egyptians to Isis; by the Mohammedans to a son of Japeth; by the Chinese to the consort of their emperor Yas; and by the Peruvians to Mamcella, wife of Manco-Capac, their first sovereign. These traditions serve only to carry the invaluable art of spinning and weaving back to an extremely remote period - thousands of years, no doubt, prior to the writing of the first book. According to Melik Cassam Mirza, of Tebriz, Persia, the weaving of silk was first practiced in China, in the province of Kiang Nau, about the year of the world 1743, or 2257 years B. C. From other authentic sources we learn that cotton had its origin in India, and that shawls and carpets were first made in Persia.
In Great Britian the early inhabitants were thoroughly acquainted with the making of cloth, and the weavers of London form probably the most ancient guild in Europe. Their occupation gave rise to many surnames, which are easily recognized in the United States at the present time. For ages wool was the staple of England, and thousands of busy operatives were employed in the various processes of spinning and weaving necessary before the wool could be transferred from the back of the sheep to the back of the man. At every step, proper names indicative of the calling of those who bore them sprang up, so that, were we ignorant of the fact that our ancestors, the Saxons, dealt in wool and made cloth, we might draw perfectly correct and legitimate conclusions as to the business, its extent and various departments, from the family names still surviving. In the first place, the sheep were cared for by the Shepard or Sheepherd, a family name which, with variations of spelling, is extremely common both in this country and England. Shearing was the first operation requiring either delicacy or skill, and Shearer, Shearman, Shurman and similar names bespeak their own ancestry. The wool was then placed in bags, made by the sackers or canvassers, and was ready for the merchant, an individual often known as Stapler, Wool, Wooler, Woolman or Woolsey, or in French as Lanier or Lanyer. He consigned it to the care of persons who transported it from place to place on the backs of pack horses or in vehicles, and were thus known as the Packers, the Carters or the Carriers. The wool was then handed over to the Carders and Combers, or Kempers and Kem-sters, as they were variously called, and passed from their hands to those of the Spinners, who used implements made by the Spindlers and Slayers, afterwards going to the Weavers, Weevers, Webbs, Webbers or feminine Websters. The cloth was next " teased " to bring out the nap, a process done by the Teasers, Tosers, Teazelers, or Taylors, when the woolen cloth was finished and ready for the Dyer, Litter, or Lister. The Fullers, Ful-lertons, Fullersons and Fullmans undertook the process of shrinking the cloth, in which they were assisted by the Walkers, who trod it with their feet, accompanied by the Beaters, Beatermans, Bates, Batts and Battsman, who used sticks, bats and mallets instead of their heels and toes. The designation of the process is seen to give a name to all engaged in a special work, just as at present, and further to be adopted as a family name by some who perhaps attained notable excellence over their fellows, or were led by chance or caprice to adopt the title of their calling as their own surname.
It will doubtless interest many to learn that the domestic title " wife" is derived from " to weave," as she was distinguished so much from the balance of her family in the olden time by her labors at the loom. The Saxon word for weave was we/an, and was also applied to a woman who worked at the loom and made a web. The adoption of the name " wife " from the art of weaving is a natural sequence to that of giving the name of "spinster " to an unmarried woman - for the girl was supposed to spin the yarn, which when woven into clothing, she was to wear in the future as the garments of a wife. For untold centuries preceding Cartwright's invention of the power loom, each household was to a large degree the manufacturers of their own cloth and the makers of their own clothing. It was the common practice of the husband and sons to tend the sheep and cultivate the flax; of the " spinsters " to prepare the yarns, by the aid of distaff and spinning wheel; and of the wife, on account of her greater experience, to weave the web.
Although the hand-loom has latterly been very largely superseded by the power-loom, yet it still holds an important place in the weaving of some kinds of textiles, for the reason that it is simple and can be readily altered to suit the requirements of any particular branch of woven fabrics The wooden loom of the ancient Egyptians, as represented in pictures and sculptures 3,000 years old, bears a singular resemblance to those now in use. The upright loom of Penelope differed but slightly from the hand looms of the Gobelin factory in France, where some of the finest textures in the world are wrought. In Palestine, also, the weaver had an upright loom, but beginning at the bottom and working upwards, he was obliged to stand. During the mediaeval period the loom in England was horizontal, as is shown in the accompanying illustration.
A Loom Of The 11th Century
For figured goods, where irregular and complicated order of weft threads of several colors are used, the hand-loom is the best adapted, simply because the weaver can more easily control its motions so as to make them accord with the required method of coloring the design. Plush fabrics and various classes of tapestry cloths, carpets, and figured shawls are also, to some extent, woven on the hand-loom, but its special role is certainly pattern production. It seems almost incredible that so many varieties could be made in the material and design of fabrics by the aid of so simple apparatus. We have only to remember, however, how many melodious combinations can be made on a scale of seven notes, and what an illimitable literature has been made on an alphabet of twenty-six letters. Keeping this in mind we can see how innumerable combinations may be made by interchanging warp and weft. Each year there are new surfaces in variety. All, though, resolve themselves into the original elementary combinations possible to the hand-loom. Methods and motive power grow with the ages, but the fundamental principle of forming textiles has remained unchanged since the day of that forgotten patriarch who first passed crossway threads between two sheets of long ones, and combed them into place with the primitive reed.
A Loom Of The 11th Century
Hand Loom Of The 18th Century
In weaving, two sets of yarn are used — the warp and the weft. The warp consists of the yarn (or threads) which extends in parallel lines from end to end, the whole length of the web. The weft yarn crosses and intersects the warp at right angles and fills up the breadth of the web. Weaving is thus distinct from knitting, netting, plaiting or felting. Apparently the varieties of woven cloth are endless, but these differences are due only in part to the method of weaving. The textile materials employed, the methods of spinning and preparing the yarns, the dye colors resorted to, and the finishing processes may vary indefinitely, and so contribute to give variety of character to the resultant product. The complexities of the art of weaving, in itself, are reducible to a few fundamental operations, which do not of necessity demand intricate machinery. For producing the India muslins of the present day with their marvelous delicacy of texture, and also for the elaborate and sumptous shawls of Cashmere the native weavers have only rude and simple looms. With all our boasted civilization and modern appliances we have been as yet unable to rival the Hindoo and other "heathen" nations in the production of textile fabrics. But patient and tedious hand-work, in these instances, is devoted to produce effects which modern machinery can imitate with almost as great rapidity as in the case of the plainest fabric. The series of inventions which have led up to the ingenious looms of the present day, began with the invention of the fly-shuttle in 1733, and culminated with the Jacquard appliance in 1802; the principle of which has never since been improved upon. Woven fabrics may be divided into five main classes: Plain, figured, gauze, double, and pile weaving. Laces being formed on an entirely different structure, are disregarded. [See Lace]
Plain Weaving. - This class, which includes calico, muslin, linen and like fabrics, will on examination be found to consist of two sets of threads, the one intersecting the other at right angles, with each single thread passing alternately over one and under one in regular order.
Figure Weaving. - This is a very comprehensive group, consisting of the twills, sateens, damasks, brocades, counterpanes, cords, and almost all fancy cloths. To produce a complicated and irregular pattern, a large number of different sheds of warps must be provided, and to secure with promptitude and certainty such manifold and complicated sheddings, many of the most elegant and ingenious devices ever applied to mechanism have been invented. [See Loom, Jacquard, Damask, Twill, Brocade, Home Weaving.!
Double Weaving. - By either of the methods above described there are but two ways of producing a heavy fabric - either the use of thick, bulky threads, or the use of an increased number of fine ones. If bulky threads are used, the fabric must present an appearance of coarseness, no matter what may be the order of interweaving. If fine threads are used, the order of interweaving prevents the production of anything but a light weight cloth, hence for many purposes the weaving of double cloth is important. It permits the formation of a background of cotton or other material, with a surface of finest texture; and it affords great scope for the formation of colored patterns, allowing also the production of double-faced textures, which may or may not correspond in pattern on both sides, according to pleasure. It, moreover, increases the weight of woven fabrics, and is the basis of tubular weaving, such as is practiced in making hose, tubes, seamless bags, etc. There are three classes of double weaving: The first consists of double warp surfaces, with the weft in the center; in the second it is the reverse- a warp center and two weft surfaces; in the third case the cloth may consist of two distinct sets of warp and weft throughout, and practically be two separate cloths. These, if the weaver binds them together at the selvages, become woven tubes; or, if at regular intervals over the surface a warp or a weft thread passes from one side into the other, they are united as one solid cloth. Whenever double cloths are resorted to there is a destined object in view - to produce weight alone, or at a small cost, to make a fine surface on a fabric of a given weight, to secure additional strength, warmth and wearing powers, or sometimes for the purpose of ornamentation solely, by causing the threads to exchange places and so form figures. In addition to double cloths pure and simple there are many others known as "three-ply," "four-ply," etc., implying that the cloth is not merely a double, but a three or four-fold cloth. It does not always follow, though, that a three or four-ply cloth means that there are three or four distinct fabrics woven together, though that may be so; there may be two perfect and complete cloths and filling between them, which is not in itself, strictly speaking, a complete cloth; or it may be that two double-faced cloths are combined, as is the case with some very thick, bulky cloths which are used for covering rollers and other purposes.
Gauze Weaving. - Hitherto weaving methods have been dealt with in which the warp threads run parallel with each other, and are intersected at right angles by the weft. In gauze weaving, effects midway between lace and plain cloth are produced, the warp threads being made to intertwist more or less among themselves, producing a light, elastic, open texture. Plain gauze is simply a plain, open weave, in which two contiguous threads of warp make a half twist around each other at every insertion of a weft, the fabric being in appearance similar to a knitted fabric.
Pile Weaving. - Pile fabrics are woven with a looped or otherwise raised surface - a class of cloth not frequently met with in cotton, but generally in the silk and carpet trades. "Looped" pile is descriptive of any fabric in which the woven loops remain uncut, as in Brussels and tapestry carpet, and in terry velvet and cloaking. When these loops are cut in the finished texture, then the material is a "cut" pile, such as ordinary velvet, plush, fustian, wilton and velvet carpet, etc. For weaving ordinary pile fabrics, two sets of warp threads are required, the regular beam warp and the pile warp. The foundation, or back, may be woven plain or twilled. In weaving the foundation, at every third pick a small round wire is partially woven into the cloth, the pile warp being brought over and around this wire, thus forming a row of loops across the web. If a looped pile is desired it only remains to pull the wires out from behind and weave them in again in front, as the work proceeds. But if a cut pile is being made, then the loops must be cut along the top of the wires before slipping them out of the cloth. In some cases the wires are furnished with a knife-edge on the top side, and the loops are thus cut as the wires are withdrawn. The pile thus produced is afterward made uniform and level by shearing with a machine which in principle is very similar to a common lawn mower. This shearing operation was formerly accomplished by hand, with the use of narrow, pointed scissors, usually about two feet in length. By long practice the workmen became so skillful in wielding these that there is no perceptible difference in the appearance of the old hand work and the present machine sheared product. [See Terry Cloth, Pile Fabrics, Velvet, Carpet]
Ribbon' Loom, 36 Piece Capacity.
Cloth does not, as many imagine come from the loom in a finished state. If it is woolen cloth it has a bare, rough, fuzzy look, and is at this stage termed the raw thread. After leaving the loom it requires to be scoured and washed; burled - to remove any knots, burrs or imperfections; fulled; teasled and sheared; and boiled and scalded to impart a luster to it, and also to prevent spotting from rain. After this it is dyed (if not previously done in the yarn), and finally pressed between polished iron plates in a powerful hydraulic press, after which it is folded or rolled and is ready for shipment. When cotton cloth is taken from the loom, it has a surface covering of minute hairs or fuzz, which if allowed to remain would interfere with the uniform application of the printed colors, or dull the distinct appearance of the woven pattern. This surface fuzz is gotten rid of by the operation of singeing, by which the cloth is drawn over a red hot iron or copper bar, or through a series of gas jets. To accomplish this, the cloth is first brought into contact with roller brushes, which raise the fuzz on the surfaces, then it passes lightly over the white hot metal bar or through the gas jets, and is wound on to a roller. This process is repeated twice on the face of the cloth to be printed, and once on the back. When well singed, cotton cloth undergoes the operation of bleaching, and is thereafter calendered. [See Teasling Calendering, Bleaching, Fulling]
The weaving of fabrics in our day of magic machinery is comparatively easy and inexpensive*, and an article well woven is already half sold; but under the present commercial system of placing mill products upon the market, the worst handicap on manufacturing enterprise is the heavy charge of commissions. The most studied economy at the mill is often defeated by the most elaborate extravagance outside. The cost of selling goods bears an enormous disproportion to the cost of making them.
*The bulk of the matters required for dyeing fabrics are also comparatively inexpensive. As is well known, aniline or coal tar colors are extracted from common soft coal. One pound of the latter will yield sufficient magenta to color 500 yards of flannel, enough ver-million for 2500 yards, aurine for 120 yards, and alizarin sufficient for 155 yards of Turkey red calico. [See Aniline, Alizarin]
There is a larger aggregation of capital engaged in the production of textile fabrics than in any other manufacturing industry in the United States. Of carpets we are the largest producers in the world, and in design, colors and quality, our goods are quite equal to anything made in Europe of competing grades. Of silk, we exceed in amount the product of England and Germany combined, and are second only to France.
The erection of a modern cotton mill or woolen factory is on a far more comprehensive scale than in the early days of manufacturing. The new factories, covering large areas and constructed on the principle of good light, temperature and ventilation, are as widely different from the old style as the modern residence is from the homely cabin of the frontiers-man. The old mills were almost wholly of a narrow type, while many of the textile establishments now erected vary from 100 to 125 feet in width, being necessary in many cases for the high stories characteristic of the present building age. Perhaps the most notable difference in the modern mill structure, is the unusual facilities for natural light. Light from combustion is comparatively poor and costly. In many of the weaving departments of mills built years ago and poorly windowed, the constant use of gas or oil for lighting purposes so overheats the air that the ordinary operator loses physical vigor. In a wide mill, with high stories, the windows must necessarily be large in order to secure good natural light, occupying at least 40 per cent. of the side walls, and leaving but little width of the brick work between them. Added to the advantage obtained by high walls, mills nowadays are especially designed with the purpose of securing good sanitary conditions, entire mills being heated by means of a fan, which sucks in fresh air that, passing through steam pipes, is blown through flues and distributed in all parts of the building. This system from a health standpoint is far superior to the old methods. The "Pacific"
Mills, at Lawrence, Mass., cover with its walls fifty-four acres of flooring devoted to machinery - 180,000 spindles for cotton and 25,000 for wool; 6,800 looms for weaving cottons and worsteds, and thirty printing machines; 6,000 operatives are employed, with a pay roll of $2,000,000 per anumn.
Light Running Silk Loom.
The weaving industry of the United States offers perhaps as striking an illustration as any of the actual displacement of hand labor by machinery.
With a Hand-Loom, a weaver used to weave from sixty to eighty picks per minute in weaving muslin of good quality, with twenty threads of warp to each one-quarter square inch. A power-loom now weaves 180 picks per minute of the same kind of cloth. Formerly a weaver tended but one loom, now one weaver minds all the way from four to twelve power looms, according to the grade of goods. While the cost of labor is somewhat higher now than it was formerly, yet the expense of weaving has been reduced by the greater productive power of the machinery. The weaving of print-cloth twenty-eight inches wide and seven yards to the pound, now costs less than one cent per yard. The cost of weaving muslins and sheetings thirty to thirty-six inches wide and weighing three to four yards to the pound is from one and one-half to two cents per yard. The cost of weaving heavy muslin thirty-six inches wide, and the heavy drill thirty inches wide, each weighing from two and three-fourths to three yards to the pound is about one and one-fourth cents per yard. To weave the finest sheeting and muslins the cost is two to three cents per yard. This is the cost of the mill labor in weaving these fabrics, including wages and salaries of every one employed, but does not include the cost of the raw material, nor the processes of bleaching, printing or dyeing. [See Factory, Silk]