- Textile industry
The Textile industry (also known in the
United Kingdomand Australiaas the Rag Trade) is a term used for industries primarily concerned with the design or manufacture of clothingas well as the distribution and use of textiles.
Prior to the manufacturing processes were mechanized, textiles were produced in the home, and excess sold for extra money. Most cloth was made from either
wool, cotton, or flax, depending on the era and location. For example, during the late medievalperiod, cottonbecame known as an imported fiber in northern Europe, without any knowledge of what it came from other than that it was a plant; noting its similarities to wool, people in the region could only imagine that cotton must be produced by plant-borne sheep. John Mandeville, writing in 1350, stated as fact the now-preposterous belief: "There grew there [India] a wonderful tree which bore tiny lambs on the endes of its branches. These branches were so pliable that they bent down to allow the lambs to feed when they are hungry." This aspect is retained in the name for cotton in many European languages, such as German "Baumwolle", which translates as "tree wool". By the end of the 16th century, cotton was cultivated throughout the warmer regions in Asiaand the Americas. In Roman times, wool, linen and leather clothed the European population: the cotton of India was a curiosity that only naturalists had heard of, and silk, imported along the Silk Roadfrom China, was an extravagant luxury. The use of flaxfiber in the manufacturing of cloth in northern Europe dates back to Neolithic times.
Cloth was produced in the home, and the excess woven cloth was sold to merchants called clothiers who visited the village with their trains of pack-horses. Some of the cloth was made into clothes for people living in the same area and a large amount of cloth was exported.
The process of making cloth depends slightly on the fiber being used, but there are three main steps: preparation of fibers for spinning, spinning, and
weavingor knitting. The preparation of the fibers differs the most depending on the fiber used. Flax requires rettingand dressing, while wool requires carding and washing. The spinning and weaving processes are very similar between fibers though.
Spinning evolved from twisting the fibers by hand, to use of a drop spindle, to a
spinning wheel. Spindles or parts of them have been found in very, very old archaeological sites; they may represent one of the earliest pieces of technology available to humankind. was invented in Indiabetween 500 and 1000 ADCotton: Origin, History, Technology, and Production By C. Wayne Smith, Joe Tom Cothren. Page viii. Published 1999. John Wiley and Sons. Technology & Industrial Arts. 864 pages. ISBN 0471180459] It reached Europevia the Middle Eastin the European Middle Ages. Weaving, done on a loomhas been around for as long as spinning. There are some indications that weaving was already known in the Palaeolithic. An indistinct textile impression has been found at Pavlov, Moravia. Neolithictextiles are well known from finds in pile dwellingsin Switzerland. One extant fragment from the Neolithicwas found in Fayumat a site which dates to about 5000 BCE. There are many different types of looms, from a simple loom that dates back to the Vikings, to the standard floor loom.
History during the industrial revolution
The key British industry at the beginning of the 18th century was the production of
textiles made with woolfrom the large sheep-farming areas in the Midlandsand across the country (created as a result of land-clearance and enclosure). Handlooms and spinning wheels were the tools of the trade of the weavers in their cottages, and this was a labor-intensive activity providing employmentthroughout Britain, with major centers being the West Country; Norwichand environs; and the West Riding of Yorkshire. The exporttrade in woolen goods accounted for more than a quarter of British exports during most of the 18th century, doubling between 1701 and 1770 [http://socserv2.socsci.mcmaster.ca/~econ/ugcm/3ll3/toynbee/indrev] . Exports of the cottonindustry – centered in Lancashire– had grown tenfold during this time, but still accounted for only a tenth of the value of the woolen trade.
The textile industry grew out of the
industrial revolutionin the 18th Centuryas mass productionof clothing became a mainstream industry. Starting with the flying shuttlein 1733inventions were made to speed up the manufacturing process. In 1738 Lewis Pauland John Wyatt patented the Roller Spinning machineand the flyer-and-bobbinsystem. Lewis Paul invented a cardingmachine in 1748, and by 1764 the spinning jennyhad also been invented. In 1771, Richard Arkwrightused waterwheels to power looms for the production of cotton cloth, his invention becoming known as the water frame. In 1784, Edmund Cartwrightinvented the power loom. With the spinning and weaving process now mechanized, cotton mills cropped up all over Great Britain.
Textile mills originally got their power from
water wheels, and thus had to be situated along a river. With the invention of the steam engine, in the 1760s to 1800s, mills no longer needed to be along rivers.
Post industrial revolution
Many of the cotton mills, like the one in Lowell MA, in the US originally started with the intention of hiring local farm girls for a few years. The mill job was designed to give them a bit more money before they went back to the farm life. With the inflow of cheap labor from Ireland during the potato famine, the setup changed, as the girls became easily replaceable. Cotton mills were full of the loud clanking of the looms, as well as lint and cotton fiber. When the mills were first built a worker would work anywhere from one to four looms. As the design for the loom improved so that it stopped itself whenever a thread broke, and automatically refilled the shuttle, the number of machines a worker could work increased to up to 50.
Originally, power looms were shuttle-operated but in the early part of the 20th century the faster and more efficient shuttleless loom came into use. Today, advances in technology have produced a variety of looms designed to maximize production for specific types of material. The most common of these are air-jet looms and water-jet looms. Industrial looms can weave at speeds of six rows per second and faster.
By the later
20th Century, the industry in the developed worldhad developed a bad reputation, often involving immigrants in illegal " sweat shops" full of people working on textile manufacturingand sewing machines being paid less than minimum wages. This trend has resulted due to attempts to protect existing industries which are being challenged by developing countries in South East Asia, the Indian subcontinentand more recently, Central America. Whilst globalizationhas seen the manufacturing outsourced to overseas labor markets, there has been a trend for the areas historically associated with the trade to shift focus to the more white collarassociated industries of fashion design, fashion modeling and retail.
Areas historically involved heavily in the "rag trade" include
Londonand Milanin Europe, SoHodistrict in New York Cityand the Flinders Lane and Richmond districts in Melbourneand Surry Hillsin Sydney.
In popular culture
The Rag Trade, a British sitcom
Textile manufacturing terminology
Rags to riches
History of textiles
* [http://inventors.about.com/cs/inventorsalphabet/a/textile.htm History of the Textile industry]
* [http://www.textile.fr/site/home_en.asp union of textile industries]
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