Fiber to Fabric


While browsing through books at a local used bookstore yesterday, I came upon interesting old business education textbook published in 1945.  It describes the entire commercial process of manufacturing textiles from beginning to end and includes a detailed comparison of cotton, wool, linen, silk and rayon.

As I read through the first chapter called “Differential Qualities of Textile Fiber”, I began to understand why I enjoy working with rovings that include silk.  My current spinning project (in the picture) is a roving with a combination of merino wool and tussah silk. Pure merino can be somewhat difficult to spin since the individual fibers can be quite short but when combined with long silk fibers, drafting the roving becomes much easier. This roving has a little too much white so I’m planning to ply it with a deep red pure merino single.

After learning more about the qualities of various fibers, I flipped to the third chapter called “Fiber to Yarn: Spinning”. In this chapter the author give an overview of each stage in spinning cotton  and summarizes them as,

1. Lap to card sliver by the carding process.

2. Card sliver to comb sliver by the combing process (if the fiber is combed).

3. Sliver to roving by the drawing-out process.

4. Roving to yarn by the twisting process.

5. Reeled on bobbins, spools, or cones by the winding process.

So that clears up the difference between sliver and roving. If the book is correct, sliver is what is produced after combing/carding and drafting sliver produces roving.

In the 1940’s roving could be processed into fine yarn on a mule frame or ring frame. The book shows a picture of the mule frame, which I found quite fascinating. Here’s a picture from the library of congress that shows an early version of this machine (click on the photo for a closer view).


The picture in the book has a caption that says, “The mule spinning frame travels forward to draw out the roving, spinning it into yarn of a desired size. As the frame returns to its original position, the yarn is wound on bobbins.”  In this picture it looks like the boys are fiddling with the spindles. Notice the wheels in the lower left corner. These wheels must help in moving the row of spindles to draw out the fiber and then wind it back on. Now if I only had one of these frames, I’m sure my production capabilities would sky rocket.

By the way, did you know that John Edwards has a bachelor’s degree in textile technology?

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