|Antiques Digest||Browse Auctions||Appraisal||Home|
Historical Sketch Of The Textiles
Mechanical Devices For Preparation Of Textiles
Geography Of The Cotton Trade
Prices Of Cotton Goods
Classes Of Wool
Production Of Wool
Manufacture Of Wool
Geography Of Wool Production
Mohair, Its Nature And Uses
Raw Silk Porduction
Imitations Of Silk
Construction, Color, And Finish Of Cloth
Dyeing And Printing
Care Of Textiles
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
United States first in silk manufacturing.-With the possible exception of China, for which no complete statistics are available, the United States is now the largest silk manufacturing country in the world. This position has been taken from and maintained against France since 1905.
Rapid growth of industry.-The development of the silkmanufacturing industry of the United States during the last few years is one of the most interesting features of the country's progress. The phenomenal growth is shown by the fact that, since the Civil War, the increase in the gross value of such products is the difference between slightly less than $4,000,00o and nearly $197,000,000. The increase has thus been by leaps and bounds; trebling between 1860 and 1880; more than doubling during the next two decades; and increasing 83 per cent between 1899 and 1909. The United States now consumes more than one-third of the total amount of raw reeled silk produced in the world. More than 20,000,00o pounds of raw silk are imported each year.
Where the raw silk comes from.-Over half of it comes from Japan; a quarter comes from China; Italy supplies almost as much as China; and the remaining small amounts come from France, India, and other silk-producing countries.
Quality of the raw silks.-The finest raw silk to be found in any large quantity is that produced in Piedmont, Italy.
Chinese silk is ordinarily the poorest, not because of inferiority in silkworms, but rather because of the Chinese methods of handling it. Now and then some of the finest silk in the world comes from China, but too often great quantities of very poor fiber, wild silk, and weighted silk impair the Chinese product. Because no standards have been insisted upon by the government, the Chinese silk production and trade have degenerated. Japanese silk, however, is rapidly gaining in quality and reputation. The government has carefully promoted the industry, insisting on honesty and on scientific care in handling the fiber.
Silk consumption in the United States.-The Americans wear more silk than any other people. It is safe to say that the value of our per capita consumption of silk for men, women, and children is close to $2.50 per year. When times are good there is a tremendous increase in the sale of silks in this country, but in hard times, as in 1893, 1897, and 1907, silk sales fall off, the manufacturers' demands are checked, and the silk producers in Japan, China, and Italy are severely hit by our financial difficulties.
Fashion changes frequently, but there is no indication that silk will ever go out of style. Style ranges from one class of weaves to another, and from one kind of finish to another, but the "queenly fabric" continues to be the central thing in dress goods fashion.
Uses of the various kinds of silk.-The methods of manufacturing silk depend upon the uses to which the finished goods are to be put, but, generally speaking, reeled silk is used in the manufacture of fine cloth, ribbons, and fine sewing thread, while waste silk is used in making knit goods, hosiery, coarse cloth, braids and bindings, embroidery silk, crochet silk, and so on.
Kinds of silk yarn.-Various cloths require threads of different sizes. The warp and the weft usually vary considerably in all textiles. In making the finest silk webs, threads known as "singles" are required. Singles are simply the silk threads as they are produced at the reeling. Sometimes singles are used as weft, and occasionally even as warp in the very thinnest fabrics.
Organzine.-In silk goods made from reeled silk the warp is called organzine and the weft is called tram. Organzine is prepared by twisting a single and then combining with other twisted singles, the number depending upon the size of thread wanted. The several threads are then twisted into one by twisting in the direction opposite to that given the singles. For example, if the singles are twisted by a turn toward the right, the combined singles are given a lefthand twist. The result is a hard-finished, smooth, strong thread that is comparatively small in diameter. The completed thread ready for the loom usually has from ten to fourteen turns to the inch.
Tram.-Tram is produced by combining singles in sufficient number-two, three, or more threads that have not already been twisted-and by giving these threads a rather loose twist. The thread or yarn resulting helps to give body to the cloth and shows the silk characteristics such as sheen and smoothness splendidly, but is not, of course, as strong a thread as the organzine. It usually has from three to six turns to the inch, depending upon the kind of fabric for which it is made.
Crepe yarn.-If the cloth to be produced is a crepe, the threads need a special treatment, especially the tram. The singles are put together as in making the regular tram, but instead of being twisted loosely, the thread is twisted very hard. Instead of two or three turns an inch as in tram, the yarn is twisted forty to eighty turns an inch. When woven into the fabric the elasticity of such threads causes them to "kick up" or crinkle. It is this that creates the crepe effect in the cloth. Crepe yarn is used in making crepe de chine, crepe charmeuse, crepe meteor, crepe faille, crepe organzine in satin charmeuse, and the chiffons, as well as other fabrics. Crepe yarn is variously combined with regular yarns and in the different weaves, each variation producing a new effect in the appearance and feeling of the goods.
Special doublings.-In making gauze and certain fabrics with a watered appearance the yarn is prepared by twisting a coarse and a fine thread together. When this uneven combination is woven into cloth it gives a peculiar watered effect. This sort of yarn is called by the French soie ondee.
Other kinds of silk threads.--When we turn to the various kinds of silk threads and yarns which are not intended for use in cloth making, we meet with a very great variety. Among others there are machine twist, sewing silk, buttonhole twist, crochet silk, lace silk, filo silk, Persian floss, Roman floss, rope silk, etching silk, embroidery silk, dental floss, surgeon's silk, purse twist, knitting silk, and darning silk. In fact there is a different silk thread for practically every textile use. Silk is so useful that it may serve wherever any other textile can be used and in a number of other ways besides.
Sewing silk.-The manufacture of machine twist and sewing thread is a branch of especially great importance in this country. No other country makes any better; hence a considerable amount is every year exported to other countries. Nearly the entire process from raw reeled silk is conducted by machinery which is largely automatic. Sewing thread was the first silk product manufactured in this country and is the only one that has become important in America without the help of a protective tariff.
Machine twist.-In making machine twist or sewing silk, the reeled silk fibers are combined as in making tram, but they are twisted much harder than ordinary tram. Next, two of these twisted threads are combined and twisted in the direction opposite to that used in twisting the strands. The product is sewing silk. In making machine twist three strands are used instead of two and the whole three hard twisted. Sewing silk is commonly called two-ply, and ma chine twist three-ply thread. After the twisting, the thread is passed through stretching machines that smooth and harden the fibers, giving the thread uniformity and evenness throughout. The thread is next washed, dyed, steam finished, softened, and then spooled, skeined, balled, or put up in whatever form the trade demands. There is about twice as much machine twist used as sewing thread. Practically all of it is taken by manufacturers of clothing, shoes, cloaks, gloves, and dresses. Manufacturers also use about half of the sewing silk produced, the other half finding its way into the homes of consumers through the channels of the dry goods trade. A fair assortment of sewing silk now includes not only the regular sizes but also upwards of two hundred colors or shades and tints.
Embroidery silk.-Embroidery silk is made by winding the raw silk, using a large number of single threads, giving them a slack twist, and then doubling and twisting in the reverse direction with a slack twist.
The other forms of threads and yarns are all prepared on the same principle, varying only in the number of single threads, the amount and direction of twist, the number of strands used, and so on.
Spun silk yarns.-Silk waste or floss is used in making spun silk yarns that are in turn used in the manufacture of lining silk, knit goods, hosiery, mufflers, cheap silk neckties, coarser numbers and qualities of sewing thread, pile fabrics, elastic webbing, dress goods of certain kinds, and in union goods such as mixtures with wool for fancy effects. Spun silk is also used in the manufacture of laces and embroideries. It can be used with very fine effects, but is less fine and strong than reeled silk.
Process of silk manufacture.-Silk throwing.-The first process of manufacture through which raw reeled silk must pass corresponds in some ways to the carding, combing, and spinning in cotton and wool. In silk manufacturing it is called throwing. When the silk arrives at the throwing mills it is usually in the form of skeins just as it came from the filatures in Japan, China, or Italy. Throwing naturally does not include the common processes of carding and combing, for the reason that the reeled silk is already in the form of thread. The only difficulty with it is that it is alto gether too fine and delicate for use. Throwing is essentially a process of cleaning, doubling, and twisting the single fibers as they come from the filatures. To do this requires about a dozen processes, most of which used to require different machines, although modern machines often perform two or three processes at the same time.
Opening bales, assorting skeins, and scouring.-The first process includes opening the bales containing the skeins, assorting according to sizes, colors, and qualities of fiber, and laying up the skeins in piles of about five pounds each. Each of these piles is weighed carefully, placed in cotton canvas bags, and then taken to the soaking room. Here the bags containing the raw silk are placed in tanks of warm water in which considerable soap has been dissolved. The temperature is usually regulated at about 90° to zoo', and the silk is allowed to remain here for ten or twelve hours. This soaking softens the natural gum of the silk and makes it possible to unreel the silk from the skein with little difficulty or breakage.
Drying.-When the soaking has been concluded, the bags of silk are removed and the silk is placed in a drying machine which extracts the moisture by whirling the goods in a rapidly revolving, circular, sieve-like can. The centrifugal force of the rapid revolutions throws most of the moisture out of the skeins. Another drying method in common use, but one taking longer time, is simply to hang the skeins on poles in a steam-heated chamber.
Softening.-When the skeins are fairly dried by either process, they are twisted, rolled, and rubbed either by hand or by machinery so as to soften any stiff or hard spots left after the soaking. When this is completed, the silk is ready to be wound on spools, or bobbins as they are called.
Silk throwing or winding.-Each skein is then carefully placed on a reel and made ready for unreeling. The tiny silk fiber is unrolled from the skein gently, yet at a high rate of speed. The winding apparatus here, as in nearly all other mechanisms used in textile industries, is fitted with apparatus that automatically stops the machine if anything goes wrong. Hence if the silk fiber coming off the reel should break, the machine would stop. This makes it possible for an operator in a silk winding room to take care of a great number of reels and bobbins. All that needs to be done is to replace empty reels with new skeins, to take away the full bobbins, and to attend to the difficulties causing breakage or stoppage of the machines.
Spinning or twisting.-The full bobbins are now taken to other machines that twist and combine the silk fibers into silk threads of various sizes. In making organzine, the single fiber is given a twist of several turns an inch before it is combined with others. The machine that combines the fibers is called the doubling frame, and the machine that twists the thread is called the twister. In some of the latest models of throwing machinery, the doubling and twisting is done on the same machine. These machines are so made that the number of turns to be given to the thread per inch can be exactly regulated. After the machine is once set and started, all that the operator needs to do is to replace empty bobbins with full ones from time to time and take away the twisted yarn bobbins when full. The doubling and twisting machinery is also equipped with automatic stop motions. If a bobbin runs out, or if a thread breaks, that part of the machine stops at once until the operator has attended to the difficulty. One operator in a modern plant can watch a great number of spinning threads.
How the different yarns are made up.-It will be recalled that organzine is made up of several twisted singles, twisted hard in the direction opposite to the twist given the singles. Tram is composed of two or more singles twisted only a little. Sewing thread and machine twist is made by combining two or three tram twisted threads or strands into one hard twisted thread. Sewing thread is composed of two such strands, while machine twist is composed of three. An average size machine-twist thread contains about thirty singles; as each single for this purpose was originally made up of about twelve cocoon threads, the completed thread would contain about 36o cocoon threads.
Stretching.-After the twisting, the silk threads are run through another machine called a stretcher. In this machine the thread is first passed through a bath of soap and water and then drawn over rollers which stretch the thread at every point where it is larger in diameter than it should be. The process equalizes the diameter of the thread so that it becomes uniform throughout. Such inequalities result from uneven tension in the various threads in the doubling or twisting machines. After the stretching, the silk is reeled into skeins about fifty inches in length, containing, according to the size of the thread, from 500 to 2,500 yards.
Dyeing.-These skeins are then taken to the dye house if the silk is to be dyed. The first step in dyeing is the "boiling off" or scouring process. This removes the gum that is found in all natural silk. The skeins are immersed in boiling hot soapsuds and washed thoroughly. This process usually takes about four hours, and leaves the silk of a pearly white color and very glossy. Any discolorations that remain are bleached out by means of sulphur fumes. Silk, as it comes from the scouring, is ready for any dye tint or shade. The number of colors that can be applied i4 very great. But the silk, while it gains in its adaptability to dyeing and also in its high gloss, loses about one-fourth of its weight and not a little strength. If the scouring and bleaching are not well and carefully done, the reduction in strength may be serious indeed.
Not all silks are scoured. Those to be used in making gauzes, crepes, flour bolting cloths, souples, and others are left in the natural gum. Other silks that are to be dyed with dark colors are only half scoured. After the scouring is completed, the silk threads or yarns are washed in cold water, reeled into skeins, dried, and then sent to the dye rooms. The process of dyeing is in general the same as for other textiles and will be considered in a later chapter. After dyeing, the skeins are again dried, run through another equalizing machine similar to the stretcher, and then rewound into the form in which they are wanted by consumers and the trade, such as spools, bobbins, skeins, etc. This completes the process of silk throwing. The silk is now ready for the weaver, the knitter, the lace maker, or the embroidery maker.
Use of machines in silk throwing.-Silk throwing is, as we have seen, highly mechanical. American machines are almost entirely automatic. The tending they require is very simple. No other country produces thrown silk any cheaper than this country, and American machines are fast displacing other types in other countries. The laborer in a silk-throwing mill (except for an occasional expert overseer or superintendent) needs little skill, and draws a small wage. Throwing mills are usually built in communities where cheap labor is abundantly available, especially that of women and children.
Localization of silk-throwing mills.-A typical section of this kind is in the mining and heavy iron- and steel-manufacturing regions of Pennsylvania. Here large numbers of men are employed in the mines and in the steel mills, whereas the women of the workmen's families, especially the younger and unmarried members, have little opportunity to earn any money in a mining or manufacturing town of this class. The coming of the silk-throwing mills opens the doors of industrial opportunity to these classes. In such centers as Scranton, Wilkesbarre, Carbondale, Honesdale, Pottsville, Bethlehem, York, Altoona, Harrisburg, Lock Haven, Marietta, Phoenixville, Sunbury, and Williamsport, silk-throwing mills have thrived. Suitable labor has been abundant, fuel has been cheap, transportation from and to the great New York silk market has not been high, and the towns themselves have welcomed the mills with open arms, supplying them with suitable sites, low taxation, and in some cases even with bonuses sufficient to build the plants. From beginnings in silk throwing, other plants have sprung up in the same towns, producing finished articles such as ribbons, broad goods, linings, and other goods made with highly developed automatic machinery. A high protective tariff has for several years been a big help to the silk throwsters of this country. No wonder that silk manufactories have grown numerous during the last few years.
Preparation far weaving.-In the manufacture of silk fabrics, the process just described is the one followed where the warp and weft are dyed before weaving. Such goods are said to be "yarn dyed." From the throwing mills and dye works the silk is taken to the weaving mills to be made into cloth. The process of weaving is very similar to that previously described in the chapter on cotton manufacture.
Warping.-The bobbins holding the warp are sent to the warping room. About four hundred or five hundred bobbins are placed on a frame called a creel. From the creel the thread is unwound upon a warper reel in the proper lengths which, for broad silks and dress goods, usually run from three hundred to six hundred yards per piece. If different colors are used, they are all properly arranged in order and number at this point.
From the warper reel the warp is wound onto the warp beams in sections, usually about thirty in number for yardwide cloth. Cloth of this width will require from nine thousand to twenty-one thousand warp threads, depending in number upon the size of the warp used and the size of mesh desired. The process of winding the warp requires about one day's work of one skilled operator. Every layer of silk that goes onto the beam is separated from the rest by a sheet of stiff paper the width of the beam. This paper prevents the warp from becoming entangled on the beam.
Next the warp ends are passed through the loom harnesses, every thread being passed through its proper heddle eye. The ends are passed similarly through the reed, and then all is ready for the loom.
The process of threading the harness is usually shortened in a weaving mill by leaving in the harness and reed the last part of the warp of the piece previously woven, and then tying or twisting the ends of the old warp to the new. The new warp can then be pulled through into the harness at once. This process can be carried out much more quickly than when the new warp threads are to be passed through the heddle by hand. After the new warp has been passed through, the old ends are cut off, and the new ends knotted together in clusters to prevent their slipping back again.
Weaving.-The principle of the silk loom is the same as that of the cotton or wool loom, and need not be again described here.
Yarn-dyed and piece-dyed goods.-Silk goods are often woven before the dye process is begun. In this case, the raw silk wound upon bobbins is simply warped and beamed and then woven in just about the same way as the yarndyed goods. Such goods are frequently dyed or printed after the weaving. The name "piece-dyed goods" is given to those that receive coloring after the weaving has been completed. The next process for either piece-dyed or yarndyed goods is the finishing.
Where American mills excel.-In the weaving of plain goods, ribbons, and all goods that do not require a very high class of skilled labor, American mills now lead the world. Nearly all the ribbons used in this country, taffetas, dress goods, and staple lines are made here. The importations are largely high novelties, hand-made silk velvets, hand-made laces, and so on. For such goods as the highest class and most stylish ribbons, America still looks to St. Etienne, France. For the highest grade, soft finished, lustrous satins, and decorative silk brocades, people still look to Macclesfield, England. London still leads in the production of crepes. America also imports from Japan a considerable amount of extremely light weight and useful silk fabrics, such as habutai and kaiki silks.
Wherever automatic, high-speed machinery can be used and large-scale production carried on, there this country leads the world; but where cheap labor or very highly skilled labor is demanded in abundance, America must still give place to the older silk-manufacturing nations. The recent progress in textile invention has been so great and the promise for the future so bright that even in the highgrade novelties, this country may soon rival Europe. But if so, it will probably be through further improvements in mechanical means rather than through changes in labor conditions.