Padding out the stages of cloth production
I appreciate that this is quite a dry subject, or in the case of the finishing process, quite wet, but I will do my best to make it as interesting as possible. If you manage to get to the end you will find out the close association between grass cutting and cloth production. We start with the raw material and this comes under 2 headings which are natural and synthetic. The former includes both Animals and Plants and so includes Wool, Mohair, Cashmere, Vicuna, Silk, Cotton, Bamboo and Linen. There are only 2 synthetic and they are Polyester and Microfibre. Yarn is the next process and and to get to this we need to spin the individual fibres to produce a continuous thread or yarn that can be used for weaving. The fibres are sorted by hand for quality, fineness, strength, appearance and length before being washed and separated in preparation for spinning. We now move on to weaving which is the interlacing of vertical, or warp yarns with horizontal, or weft yarns.
This process can be seen all over the world from high tec factories to small communities in Peru and everything in between. It involves opening the sheet of warp yarns and passing a single weft in between which forms the interlacing or weave. This is repeated over and over again until the particular variety of weave is complete. There are numerous varieties of weave and they include Hopsack, Twill and Birdseye. We now move swiftly in and out of the design stage which the formation of colour woven on the twill weave we obtain designs such as Houndstooth, Glencheck, Chalk stripe, Pick and Pick and Prince of Wales.
Colouration can take place by dyeing the fibre, the yarn, the piece or the garment. Higher cost and colour continuity are at opposite ends of course! We are almost finished and you do not have to hang on much longer for the grass cutting story so try and hang on in there. As in all good Hollywood movies there are a number of finishes. There is the wet finish which comprises of scouring where the cloth is washed to clean it from additional spinning or machine oil. For wool qualities there is a certain degree of shrinkage and conditioning at this stage. Piece dyeing if required. Milling gives volume to the cloth which is important for Flannels and Overcoating. Dry finishing is where the fabric is dried to a certain width, the surface of the cloth is brushed which is important for Cashmere and Overcoating qualities, cropping which is where the cloth is passed over a knife edge and the raised fibres on the surface of the cloth are cut to an equal height. You may have guessed that this is where the grass cutting story appears. The lawnmower was invented by Edwin Beard Budding in 1830. He was working in a textile mill in Stroud, Gloucester, where he designed a machine originally to trim the knap off the cloth, destined for Guardsmen's uniforms. His revolutionary idea was to use it to cut grass!! I hope this was worth the wait and this great snippet will come in useful in the future! The finishing process and line are now in sight. The cloth is wrapped in a centrifugal chamber and blown using high pressure steam and this consolidates the cloth and gives the final shrinkage. And last but not least is paper press which is a traditional press given to Superfine and Ultrafine worsted qualities to give the brilliant smooth handle. The cloth is layered between electrically heated card under pressure for 24 hours.