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Clothing Fabrics - Woolens

( Originally Published 1924 )

For woolens, the processes of carding, drawing-in, burling, and mending are carried on as for worsteds ; but making raw wool into carded yarns for woolens in which fibers cross or are mixed requires fewer processes than the carding and additional combing or gillings required for worsteds. The finishing processes of woolens, like those of worsteds, vary with different fabrics. Some are scoured and cleaned before fulling, some after.

Broadcloth, which is the best known of the "face cloths," or smoothly finished, is woven about eighty inches wide. It is kept wet with soapy water after it is placed in the fulling cabinet where it is passed over rollers which increase the matting process. When the cloth is the desired thickness and the width of about fifty-four inches it is removed from the shrinking cabinet. It is the finishing rather than the weaving of face cloths which make them so expensive. The soft, rough-napped surface of some woolens, such as tweed, is attractive and warm, but the smooth surface of broadcloth is often more desired because of its dressiness.

The finishing processes of broadcloth are very interesting. A machine, resembling a lawn-mower in its operating, shears the surface; it is then subjected to steam-lustering, a process of forcing steam through the fabric, brushing and pressing the result into a luster which is much brighter when the wool is good. With poor fabrics a special treatment has to be given to obtain a surface luster which does not endure as a natural one. The best face or finished cloths do not become rough after wear.

Some of the woolens are beaver, bolivia, broad-cloth, cashmere, cheviot, chinchilla, coatings, covert, duvet de laine, homespun, polo cloth, tweeds, Venetian, wool ratine, wool Jersey, Zebeline. In comparison with worsteds, the woolen cloths are softer, more elastic, and the colors are more blended; threads are not so easily distinguishable, and the general effect is duller. This is caused by a difference in the threads which are used in weaving. Novelty effects in fabrics are obtained by the way woolen or worsted yarns are twisted or by the sort of weave. Finishes and dressing affect the final appearance of all fabrics.

It is said that in manufacturing woolen cloth, substitutes for virgin wool equal the amount of the virgin fiber used. These substitutes are generally soft wastes which come from the wool as it goes through the various processes in preparation for being made into cloth. Defective woolen and worsted yarns, old rags collected by the rag-picker, scraps from new garments, constitute what is called hard wastes. All of these products came origin-ally from sheep, and often garments made of the worked over wool give better service than one made of an inferior quality of new wool. The sterilizing process is very thorough in this reclaimed wool, so that one need have no fear in using it. This re-generated wool is generally mixed with new fiber in woolen or carded cloths rather than in worsteds, because the fibers are very short.

Cotton, linen, and silk are mixed with wool in manufacturing certain kinds of cloth. The cotton is mixed with the wool in various ways : Cotton warp with a wool filling is used in the manufacture of brilliantine, alpaca, and mohair ; sometimes serges, Shepherd's plaid, and the pin-striped materials are woven of cotton warp and wool weft. Some-times the cotton warp is used, and sometimes cot-ton yarn is twisted with the wool, as in covert cloth, or all-cotton yarns are woven with all-wool yarns. Cotton and wool are sometimes blended before filling, and, because of the felting quality, the cotton can be easily disguised. Cotton does not hold dye so well as wool, hence materials of this mixture should be in colors which do not fade quickly.

Wool poplins are made with cotton as well as with silk; altho silk is richer, it may weaken the strength of the fabric. Heavy coatings, such as chinchilla, often have cotton in them. One should avoid the cotton-and-wool fabrics in which groups of cotton yarns appear. The wool will shrink more than the cotton in sponging, pressing, or wetting, giving the surface of the fabrics a wavy effect.

Some of the characteristics of wool which make it desirable as a fabric are: (a) It readily reacts to dyestuffs. When wool is dyed, the color is readily absorbed into the hollow fiber through its central canal and is fixed by definite chemical changes. (b) Deeper, richer, and more enduring colors are obtained in wool than in cotton or linen, because animal fibers are more reactive to dye-stuffs. (c) Wool has a natural elasticity, due to the overlapping character of the fibrous layer. There-fore a garment of wool will not wrinkle, as cotton and linen will. (d) The wrinkles in a wool garment will disappear if the garment is hung for a time in the open air. (e) A good quality of worsteds will endure hard service. (f) A garment made of firmly woven cloth will keep its shape well. (g) At the temperature of the body, wool holds moisture, so that cold is not felt even if the clothing is wet. (h) Woolen fabrics which are loosely woven hold air in their elastic fibers, which make them feel warm. (i) Closely woven fabrics keep out cold air.

Tailored suits and tailored dresses have their own fabrics—fine twills, chiefly, and Mohair, and other pleasing novelties.

Semi-tailored and dressy suits choose fine, light-weight pile fabrics, as well as the twills. Two-colored Flamingos are lovely.

The popular wool for sports wear is flannel in the striking new high colors. In dark colors, it is always liked for school and business. Checked velours vie with flannels for popular favor.

Plaids for wraps and cape-coats are striking in color combinations. The wraps are simple and the smart fabric makes them most effective.

Wool Canton crêpes, light weight, very service-able, are excellent for school and campus wear and show colors in high key, with white silk stripe or bar.

If the clothing budget demands real economy, the woman will buy the firmly woven worsteds, such as serge, tricotine, or gabardine, for service, and trust to a teazel or sandpaper to keep them from getting shiny. She will avoid buying for dresses or suits the loosely woven basket cloths or any similar material where the yarns push on each other. Such a garment will soon pull out of shape, and the yarns will push apart at the seams.

Wool Tests

Wool, when burned, gives off the odor of burnt feathers.

Tests for cotton and wool:

Animal fibers are weakened if placed in an alkali solution. Simple chemical tests consist of boiling a sample of wool for fifteen minutes in household lye in the proportion of one tablespoon to a cup of water, or boiling for one-half hour in a solution of any common washing powder in the proportions of five tablespoonfuls to a pint of water. The wool will become a gelatinous mass, and if transferred to clear water and rubbed between the fingers, will disappear in the water. Cot-ton will be left.

In the nitric acid test (for white materials), a sample of the material is fringed and covered with a fifty per cent. solution of nitric acid. Under this test, wool will turn yellow, while the cotton remains white. Washed with one change of water and then adding ammonia, the yellow will deepen to orange.

Tests for wool and silk mixtures :

In the hydrochloric, acid tests, a sample is placed for two to five minutes in cold concentrated hydrochloric acid. Silk subjected to this test dissolves, while wool is hardly affected.

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