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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Textile Fibers
Historical Sketch Of The Textiles
Mechanical Devices For Preparation Of Textiles
Cotton Production
Cotton Marketing
Cotton Manufacturing
Geography Of The Cotton Trade
Prices Of Cotton Goods
Classes Of Wool
Production Of Wool
Wool Marketing
Manufacture Of Wool
Geography Of Wool Production
Mohair, Its Nature And Uses
Raw Silk Porduction
Silk Manufacturing
Silk Waste
Imitations Of Silk
Construction, Color, And Finish Of Cloth
Dyeing And Printing
Cloth Finishing
Care Of Textiles
Textile Tests

Cotton Manufacturing

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The manufacturing processes.-When the cotton finally arrives at the factory, it must undergo many long and interesting processes before it is finally turned into the forms suitable for consumers' use. The principal group processes were named in Chapter II: spinning, weaving or knitting, dyeing, and finishing, and finally the production of ready-towear goods. We shall now trace each of these processes in order.

Business organization o f the manufacturing processes.Generally each of these processes is conducted in a separate factory and under separate management. It is the exception to find one company owning all the factories necessary to turn out finished goods, although the number of such companies seems to be increasing. In most cases the spinning is done by one house, the weaving by another, the dyeing and finishing by a third, and the cutting up into ready-to wear goods by still another. In most cases the goods change ownership with each move from plant to plant, although weavers and knitters frequently send goods to dyers and finishing houses to be colored and finished at so much a yard or a pound. Sometimes goods are handled by speculators or middlemen, known as converters, who buy the goods as they come from the loom and hire other factories to dye and finish them. There are in this country several cottonmanufacturing concerns that do their own spinning, weaving, and finishing, but none, so far as the writer knows, has added cutting to its activities. Usually the woven and finished goods are turned over to some broker or jobber who in turn sells them to cutters-up or to the piece-goods trade; that is, the dry goods wholesalers and retailers the country over.

Purchase of cotton by spinners.-It has already been suggested that the spinners must get their cotton from exchange brokers or from merchants, and also that in order to produce yarns of a certain quality they may find it necessary or economical to mix two or more varieties of cotton. All the year round new cotton is coming into the big markets of the world. For example, American cottons begin to be available in November and December. Egyptian cottons come just a little later. India cottons are picked and shipped throughout the year, as are also those of Brazil, while Peruvian cottons arrive in February or March. Besides the new cottons, the warehouses contain cotton owned by farmers, merchants, or speculators, and held for increased prices or for filling previous contracts. From these various sources of supply of new and of old cotton, the spinner must get what he needs.


The process of spinning is essentially nothing more than taking the loose, tangled fibers, drawing them into a smooth, uniform thread, and twisting the thread to give it strength. This process, formerly done by hand, is now accomplished by long rows of complicated and expensive machines in the spinning mill.

The cotton arrives at these mills in the bale. First the iron bands and the wrappings are removed that the bales may be broken into pieces. Then the cotton is loosened pretty thoroughly, after which any desired mixing of qualities or varieties is performed. The cotton is then passed through machines that clean it, remove all impurities, and reduce every lump into a fine downy mass. Next it is carded, and if of fine quality and intended for the finest goods, it is also combed. From the carding and combing machines the cotton passes into drawing frames, machines that begin to draw the cotton out into a thread. It is then ready for the spinning machines where the final twisting of the yarn takes place. In an up-to-date plant human hands scarcely touch the cotton from the time it enters the bale breaker until it comes out from the spinning machines a finished yarn.

The steps in the process.-The first machine, known as the bale breaker, takes the big lumps of hard-packed cotton as it is found after the wrappings have been removed from the bale, and breaks them into smaller pieces, which pass into another machine called the cotton opener, there to be torn into still finer portions. In some mills the bales are broken up by hand, instead of by the machine bale breaker. The lumps made by hand-breaking are fed directly into the cotton openers.

In the Southern States, in sections where a considerable amount of loose cotton is hauled directly from the gin to the mill without baling, there is of course no use for the bale-breaking and cotton-opening machines. These machines simply undo what the baler or compress has done for the cotton fibers.

Mixing.-After the cotton bales have been broken into small pieces, the next step is mixing. This is generally done by conveying the cotton from the bale breakers and openers to bins, where a layer of one kind of cotton is covered by another, and so on until all the cotton of a certain batch or "mixing," as it is called, has been deposited in the right proportions. At the end of the operation the different varieties or classes of cotton lie in the same bin in horizontal layers. When the mass is removed from the bin, it is taken out in vertical, or up-and-down, sections.

The picker.-From the mixing bin the cotton is conveyed by hand, or by machine in large modern plants, into a contrivance known as the picker. This pulls the cotton fibers into loose masses and delivers them in a flat sheet which looks like cotton batting, but which in cotton-mill language is called the lap.

The lap is immediately sent on to other machines known as the intermediate picker and finisher picker, each of which pulls the fibers into a still looser mass, and beats out sand, dust, and most of the other foreign matter likely to be found in a cotton bale. Each machine delivers the cotton in the form of a lap. In this form the cotton is much easier to handle and to feed into the next machine than loose bulk cotton would be. If the machines are not close together, the lap is wound into a roll like cotton batting, from which it is unwound when passed into the next machine.

The scutcher.-If there is considerable dirt in the cotton it is generally run through another series of machines known as scutclaers. In the scutchers the cotton lap gets a great deal of beating and shaking which removes the foreign matter.

The cleaner the cotton is at the start, the less beating or scutching it needs. This is an important matter, for beating is sure to weaken a certain amount of the fiber, and the more beating it gets, the weaker will be the final product, the yarn.

Carding.-From the pickers or the scutchers, as the case may be, the cotton lap is transferred into the carding machine, the purpose of which is to remove all dirt, sticks, particles of leaves, and other impurities that were not removed by the pickers and scutchers. It disentangles the fibers still more, and lays them approximately parallel. Drawing out the lap into a thin filmy layer of cotton, usually about forty inches wide, it then contracts this layer into a light, round cotton rope or ribbon about an inch in diameter. This rope is called the card sliver.

The carding machine or carding engine consists essentially of two surfaces both covered with great numbers of short, sharp teeth made of wire. These surfaces, called the cards, face each other with only a narrow space clear be tween the teeth. The cards move in such a way as to brush the cotton lint as it passes between them, combing out the fibers and catching all irregularities, such as dirt, parts of seeds, short fibers, and neps (little bunches of cotton fiber that have not been loosened). The lower card is in all modern machines a large revolving cylinder, while the upper card is shaped like a cover or roof over the upper part of the cylinder. A few years ago the upper card was a stationary device, but it has now been improved so that it moves also. This has been accomplished by fastening the carding surface to an endless belt or carrier, passing it around cylinders at the two ends and at the middle, and putting in devices to keep the lower side from sagging down upon the lower card. Thus both upper and lower cards revolve, but the cylinder turns at a much greater speed than does the top card, known as the flats; the cotton is therefore brushed and combed by the flats while being carried along on the teeth of the cylinder.

There are also in the carding engine other mechanical devices called respectively the lickey-in and the doffer. The first draws the cotton lap into the cards; the second removes it therefrom. The cotton is removed from the doffer by a comb. The machinery having been so adjusted that the cotton travels faster in the cards than the rate at which the lap comes in, the stream or sheet of cotton lint becomes much thinner than the lap from the scutcher that enters the carding engine.

From the doff er the thin cotton lap is carried to what is known as a trumpet mouth in which the entire lap is condensed into a round rope, three or four inches in diameter, called the card sliver. The sliver is immediately passed between a pair of calendar rollers which condense it to about the size of a broomstick. Thence it is conveyed to a little device that winds it spirally into a deep sheet-iron or tin can called the sliver can. When full, this can is carried to the drawing machinery. In case yarn of a very high count, or of a very fine size, is to be made, the sliver is taken to the combing machines to be combed before it is sent to the drawing frame. Practically all sea-island cotton, all yarn of sizes from 60's up, and certain fine yarns of lower counts are thus not only carded but combed also. In some cases, especially in producing yarn for medium-priced cotton underwear and warp for velvets and fancy woven fabrics, the cotton lint is run through the carding machine a second time instead of through a combing machine. The latter process has been found to be cheaper than combing.

Combing.-The combing machine simply does more perfectly what the carding machine starts to do in the way of cleaning the fibers, removing the neps and short fibers, and getting all the remaining fibers to lie smoothly and in parallel order. The usual combing method consists in taking several cans full of sliver to the machine and starting eight or ten, or even more, into the combing machine at once. These slivers are first converted into a smooth lap about nine inches wide and then are passed as a single stream or lap into the combing device. Here by means of rollers, nippers, and rows of metal teeth the fibers are thoroughly combed, and all short fibers, any dirt remaining, and other foreign matter are pushed aside as waste. There has been great improvement in cotton combing during recent years. The combing machines now utilize cotton fiber that is not more than seven-eighths of an inch long, and yet produce a sliver that is almost as fine as that from the best cotton a dozen years ago.

Drawing.-Next, the slivers from the carding engine or from the combing machine are taken to the drawing frame. About six slivers are introduced together. The drawing frame takes these six and so draws them out that the resulting sliver is no larger than one of the card slivers. Drawing simply mixes the cotton, causes the fibers to arrange themselves in the best manner possible for the spinning that is to follow, and draws the combined six slivers out into the thickness of one. The drawing frame accomplishes this by means of several sets of rollers through which the slivers pass, each following pair of rollers having a higher rate of speed than the pair preceding. Requirements differ, but most cotton is run through drawing frames three times.

Next the cans full of sliver from the drawing frames are transferred to the fly frames. Here the cotton is drawn out into still smaller diameters and given the small amount of twist sufficient to allow the sliver to be drawn out further without breaking. For very coarse yarns the cotton passes through but two fly frames, the ones known as the slubbing frame and the roving frame, the product from the slubbing frame being called slubbing or slub, and the product from the roving frame roving. For medium yarns the cotton passes through three fly frames, slubbing, intermediate and roving, while for very fine yarns it is passed on to a jack frame to be drawn out still more. The cotton from the fly frames, now called roving, is wound on spools or bobbins and taken to the spinning machines.

Comparison of the mule and ring frames.-Spinning completes the drawing out of the cotton roving to the required size, and gives it the proper amount of twist. There are two kinds of spinning machines in use, one known as the mule frame and the other as the ring frame. The mule frame is the older machine invented in England, while the ring frame is an American invention dating back to 1828. Each has certain advantages. For example, mule spinning produces a soft, oozy, elastic yarn that is very satisfactory for hosiery, underwear, and especially for woolen goods. The mule frame is more common in the woolen-spinning industry than in the cotton. Although it is much more complicated than the ring frame, takes up more space, requires more skillful operators, and does not run so fast as the ring frame, yet it is not so hard on the yarn, and it produces yarn of superior quality. The ring frame is not usually used for yarns running above 60's. The mule frame has three distinct and separate motions: first, the roving is drawn out; second, it is given the necessary twist; and third, the twisted yarn

is wound on the spindle. The ring frame draws, twists, and winds, all at the same time. In both cases the yarn is wound on bobbins, cops, or tubes fastened on the spindle. This is the form in which it usually leaves the spinning mill. Sometimes, however, it is rewound on wooden spools by another machine called the spooler. Cotton yarn is quoted on the market as so much a pound for a certain size on cops, cones, or tubes, or in skeins. Often the yarns are combined, twisted double or triple-or two-ply or three-ply, as it is called. Special machines perform this operation.


Warp and weft yarns.-For purposes of making cloth two classes of yarn are spun, namely, a loose, slightly twisted yarn for the filling, not requiring much strength, and a hard twisted, strong yarn for the warp. Each class is sold as such by the spinners to weavers, and the weavers insist on getting the proper qualities in each to suit their purposes.

Long fiber for warp, short fiber for weft.-In cotton spinning it is profitable to use the longer cotton fibers for the warp and the shorter fibers for the weft or filling. Some of the shortest varieties of cotton, such as Mobile, are used only for filling. The reason for this is that the warp must be spun harder and made stronger than the filling. The warp must undergo much handling and strain. It must be threaded through the heddles of the loom and stretched across the loom. Every move of the heddles up and down subjects it to new strains. Weft, on the other hand, is simply wound onto the bobbins that go into the weaving shuttles, and unwound into place between the warp threads. At no time need it be much stronger than to support its own weight; hence cotton can be spun into a much finer yarn or thread if it is to be used as weft or filling than if it is to be used as warp. Whenever warp and weft yarns of the same size are used, the warp is usually made from a longer fibered higher grade cotton than the weft. The shorter the fiber, the coarser the yarn must be made to have requisite strength, but weft, or filling, need not be so strong, and therefore not so coarse as warp yarn.

Cotton yarn sizes.-Cotton yarns used in the textile industry go by numbers, the number depending upon how many yards are required to make one pound. The unit is 84o yards; that is, yarn of size I, which is taken as the unit or standard, runs 840 yards to the pound. Yarn size 10 would contain 8,400 yards to the pound, and yarn size 100 would contain 84,000 yards to the pound. The spun cotton is reeled into skeins, and these are tied together into hanks. A regular spinner's skein contains 120 yards, and since there are seven skeins in a hank, the hank contains 840 yards. So when a hank weighs one pound it is called size z, or simply Vs. If the hank weighs half a pound, the size is 2's If the hank weighs only an ounce, 1/16 of a pound, the size of the yarn is Ws, and so on, the numbers running up as high as Zoo's, which means 168,000 yards to the pound.

What a pound of cotton contains.-It is surprising to most students to learn for the first time that one pound of cotton fibers can be turned into so much yarn. When yarns of the proper sizes are used in making fabrics, one pound of cotton produces one and one-half yards of denim. It produces four yards of sheeting, four yards of bleached muslin, six yards of gingham, or seven yards of calico. It is even sufficient for ten yards of lawn, twenty-five hand kerchiefs, or fifty-six spools of No. 40 sewing cotton. But one ceases to wonder at this when he learns that there are 140,000,000 fibers in a pound of upland cotton, and that if these were placed end to end, the line would extend a distance of over 2,200 miles.

Use of yarn numbers in handling cotton.-In speaking of the quality of a given kind of raw cotton, it is customary among manufacturers to state what size of yarn it will spin. For example, in speaking of India cotton, it might be stated that it will spin 12's This means that its fiber is so short that it will not make a yarn finer than number 12, which runs 10,080 yards to the pound-a very coarse cotton yarn, such as is used in heavy sheeting, drills, and denims. Sea-island cotton will make a yarn as fine as 200's and it has even been claimed that it has been drawn out as fine as 400's It can well be imagined that cloth made of such fine yarn, even though closely woven, would be like gossamer, as light as air. Between those two extremes occur all the sizes of yarns used in ordinary fabrics.

The numbers spun from different varieties.-The following are some of the leading varieties of cotton with the average sizes of yarn made from them and some examples of uses made of the yarns. There is considerable variation in each kind of cotton and the table aims to present simply a general idea of the more frequent cotton qualities. Remember that the filling or weft yarns can be made from a fourth to a half finer than those for the warp.

Mixing cottons.-When manufacturers desire to produce a fabric that requires a certain size of yarn, they do not always buy merely the one kind of cotton, which, according to the table, will make that size. It is not always possible to get a full supply of any one of the kinds named; furthermore the list contains only a few of the many varieties that come to market, each with its own special qualities. There may be a crop failure in some one variety of cotton, or perhaps there is strong competition for this variety, making the price too high for ordinary use. In order to produce yarn of a certain size a manufacturer usually buys part of his supply of cotton of better grade than necessary, and part of poorer. These he mixes in such proportions as will give just the grade desired. Sometimes as many as six or eight kinds of cotton are mixed in order to get the right quality in a yarn. Consequently, mixing cottons is a science in itself, and requisite not only in order to get a yarn of a certain size, but also to get the right smoothness, fineness, strength, and glossiness, or the right feeling to the sense of touch. Those who manufacture certain well-known brands of goods desire to maintain exactly the same qualities in those goods year after year. But all of the cottons naturally vary from year to year according to the season. The same variety will not have exactly the same qualities every year. To insure fixed qualities in his standard goods, the manufacturer employs blends or mixtures that will give the same result every time. The proportions of the various kinds of cottons are varied as may be necessary to preserve the same qualities in the mixture.

English cotton-mixing table.-The following table shows how cottons are usually mixed by English spinners in making first-class qualities of yarn. Only sizes of warp are given. Weft or filling can be a fourth or more finer from the same blends. Note that many varieties of India cotton are named. Practically all the India cotton is exported to England.

Under 12's-Bengal sind and cotton wastes

" 15's-One part Bengal, one part Smyrna, and one part Chinese

" 20's-One part Dharwar, one part Dhollerah or lower grades of American cotton

" 30's-Better grades of Indian with strong low classes of American

" 40's-Middling grades or Texas mixed with one-half as much Peruvian or Brazilian

Under 50's-Good, fair, brown Egyptian or higher grades of American cotton, mixed with not more than one-third Marahans, Santos, or Punams "

60's-Fully good, fair, brown Egyptian

" 80's-Good brown Egyptian alone or mixed with Joannovich or very good Abassi

" 90's-Combed brown Egyptian mixed with Joannovich or Abassi

From 90's upward-combed sea-island

The American cotton spinner mixes according to the same principles, but uses a larger proportion of American varieties.

In general, most American cottons are made into yarns running from 32 to 36 for warp or twist and 36 to 40 for weft or filling. Egyptian cotton is used in preparing yarns running from 50 to 6o warp and from 42 to 62 weft, the poorer grades and shorter fibers being used in the weft.

Forms in which yarn is put up.-Yarns are delivered from the spinners to the weavers in eight different forms, as follows:

A. In skeins or hanks.

B. Wound on wooden or metallic spools.

C. Wound on cops, the usual form in which the yarn is wound on the spindles.

D. Wound on paper tubes instead of cops.

E. Wound on double-headed bobbins, much like large spools in appearance.

F. Wound in the form of cheeses. G. Wound in ball form.

H. Wound on the warp beams ready for the weaving processes.


The steps in the process.-Preliminary to weaving is, of course, the determination of the kind of cloth to be made and the amount of yarn going into it. By arithmetical computations, it is found how many warp threads will be required to make the cloth of the required width. This is spoken of as finding the required number of "ends." The filling or weft threads are called "picks."

Winding the warp.-When the number of ends needed has been computed, arrangements are made to have these wound on the loom warp beams in the necessary manner. The threads are distributed along the beam at equal distances and wound on very evenly and carefully, each at the same tension, for this even tension in all of the warp threads on the loom is highly desirable during the weaving.

Sizing.-After the warp is strong and smooth, the warp beams with the warp wound thereon are placed in the looms, and weaving is begun. But most warp needs further treatment before it is thus ready to be used in weaving, especially if it is a single-twist yarn and not very strong. It must first be sized, that is, given a coating of some stiffening substance that will give it strength, stiffness, and smoothness. Without this sizing it would be liable to break when subjected to the strain and friction of weaving. Sizing is composed of many different substances-in most cases, of some kind of starchy substance, such as wheat flour, cornstarch, potato starch, or sago flour. This substance is usually boiled in water, and a little tallow, paraffin, or other oily substance added to soften it. 1'o this some preservative is added, such as chloride of zinc, cresol, or salicylic acid, to prevent souring, mildew, or other bacterial action or vegetable growth. The sizing applied to the warp has a purpose distinct from that used in finishing cloths. The latter will be described later.

The method of applying the sizing to the warp yarn is, somewhat as follows: The warp beams holding the warp yarn are taken to the tank which contains the sizing. The tank has a roller in it with the lower side immersed. The ends of the warp from the warp beam are passed under this of cotton fibers. This is especially true around the principal machines. This waste, known as "soft waste" until the fiber has left the spinning machines, and thereafter as "hard waste" (the particles of yarn or of cloth in the later processes), is carefully collected and used again in making cheaper yarns and goods. A good deal of the waste from the American cotton mills has in the past been exported, especially to Germany, where machines have been invented to take care of such matter and use it to better advantage than can our machines. It is used, for instance, in making cheap cotton goods for home trade among the German poor, and for export trade with China and other parts of the world where flimsy cottons are in demand. It has found a place mainly, however, as filling for cotton blankets, catton flannels, cheap trouserings, towels, carpets, mats, sacks, lamp wicks, wadding, twine, etc. Lately American manufacturers have begun to install machines in the mills in this country to use the waste and to work it up at home. The utilization of cotton soft wastes will no doubt in time constitute an important part of our cotton industry.

Cloth inspection and repairing.-After the cloth has finally come off the looms, it must be inspected for any weak places, tears, or other imperfections. These are repaired as well as possible and the loose ends of warp and weft trimmed off, a process known as bztirling. Next the cloth is suitably marked if it is to be sent to bleacheries or dyeworks, and finally it is measured, rolled into bolts, and packed in paper. The bolts are then put into wooden boxes or cases. The cloth is now ready for the finishing processes.

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