Most people including some weavers, have no idea what happens to a piece of mill-woven cloth, between the time it comes off the loom until it is ready to use. These processes are collectively known as “finishing” and, in most fabrics, are as important to the quality of the cloth as the weaving itself.
For hand weavers, the finishing of linens and cottons is more or less straight forward; but wool processing presents many problems. Some weavers, who are not prepared to face the complications of home finishing, send their tweed or other woollen or worsted weaving to a mill for finishing. In order that they should know what happens to their work there, we list below the various processes as given by Morris Woollen Mills of Redbank, Queensland.
After the cloth has been cut from the loom the first process is examining. The pieces are put over a well-lit perch, table or beam, so that faults can be seen and corrected.
Felting: the pieces are placed in a milling machine, consisting of rollers in the front and a long spout with a movable, weighted tongue at the back. As the pieces are forced down the spout, felting takes place, giving the cloth body and filling in the spaces left by the weaving process.
Next the pieces are thoroughly washed with soap, washing soda and detergents in the piece scouring machine; they maybe bleached at the same time.
The wet pieces are placed in the centrifuge or spin dryer, where they are partially dried. Then they are passed over a scrutching machine in order to open the piece out. They are then folded neatly on a table for tentering. The tenter consists of two chains of small pins, like gramophone needles. The selvedges of the cloth are automatically pressed onto these pins which are set at the required width apart. The material is now passed backwards and forwards over a series of steam pipes, thoroughly drying the cloth. As it emerges from the tenter it is folded onto a trolley and taken to the dewing machine. This blows a fine spray of water onto the piece, conditioning it in preparation for the next process, brushing.
The material is passed over the brushing machine of revolving bristle brushes. These remove any loose or foreign fibres which may be present in the cloth.
The raising machine consists of rollers covered with fine wires and, as the cloth passes over the rollers, the fine wires raise a number of fibres from the bed of the material to form a nap. This nap is very uneven when raised, so the piece is passed to a cropping machine, consisting of a series of very sharp revolving blades, somewhat like a rotary lawn mower. These blades cut the nap to an even height.
At the perching stage, the cloth is placed over a stand or perch again for thorough examination and correction of faults. The material is placed in the blowing machine which consists of a hollow perforated cylinder, wrapped around with a cotton wrapper. The piece is kept in a state of tension inside the wrapper and live steam is blown right through the piece. After a period the steam is turned off and cold air is blown through the hot cloth. This sudden heating and cooling plasticises the nap fibres so that they stay in an upright position for the life of the fibre.
Pressing: if required, the material is passed over a large heated roller to iron it. The cloth is taken to the folding machine, automatically doubled over and rolled into a neat roll with the face side in. This machine automatically measures the length and the roll is then weighed.
First published in Guild News, February 1963