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Textile industry

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Textile industry

An old textile factory ("Cvernovka") in Bratislava, Slovakia (1901-2004).
Textile factory (Germany, about 1975).

The textile industry or apparel industry is primarily concerned with the design and production of yarn, cloth, clothing, and their distribution. The raw material may be natural, or synthetic using products of the chemical industry.


  • The industrial processes 1
    • Cotton manufacturing 1.1
    • Synthetic fibres 1.2
    • Natural fibres 1.3
  • History 2
    • Cottage stage 2.1
    • Industrial revolution 2.2
    • 19th century developments 2.3
    • 20th century 2.4
  • 21st century 3
  • Commerce and Regulation 4
  • Regulatory Standards 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

The industrial processes

Cotton manufacturing

Cotton Manufacturing Processes
Bale Breaker Blowing Room
Breaker Scutcher Batting
Finishing Scutcher Lapping
Carding Carding Room
Sliver Lap
Roving Fine Roving
Mule Spinning - Ring Spinning Spinning
Reeling Doubling
Winding Bundling Bleaching
Weaving shed Winding
Beaming Cabling
Warping Gassing
Sizing/Slashing/Dressing Spooling
Cloth Yarn (Cheese)- - Bundle Sewing Thread

Cotton is the world's most important natural fibre. In the year 2007, the global yield was 25 million tons from 35 million hectares cultivated in more than 50 countries.[1] There are five stages[2]

  • Cultivating and Harvesting
  • Preparatory Processes
  • Spinning- giving yarn
  • Weaving- giving fabrics [1]
  • Finishing- giving textiles

Synthetic fibres

Artificial fibres can be made by extruding a polymer, through a spinneret into a medium where it hardens. Wet spinning (rayon) uses a coagulating medium. In dry spinning (acetate and triacetate), the polymer is contained in a solvent that evaporates in the heated exit chamber. In melt spinning (nylons and polyesters) the extruded polymer is cooled in gas or air and then sets.[3] All these fibres will be of great length, often kilometers long.

Artificial fibres can be processed as long fibres or batched and cut so they can be processed like a natural fibre.

Natural fibres

Natural fibres are either from animals (sheep, goat, rabbit, silk-worm) mineral (asbestos) or from plants (cotton, flax, sisal). These vegetable fibres can come from the seed (cotton), the stem (known as bast fibres: flax, Hemp, Jute) or the leaf (sisal).[4] Without exception, many processes are needed before a clean even staple is obtained- each with a specific name. With the exception of silk, each of these fibres is short being only centimeters in length, and each has a rough surface that enables it to bond with similar staples.[4]


Cottage stage

There are some indications that weaving was already known in the Palaeolithic. An indistinct textile impression has been found at Pavlov, Moravia. Neolithic textiles are well known from finds in pile dwellings in Switzerland. One extant fragment from the Neolithic was found in Fayum at a site which dates to about 5000 BC.

The key British industry at the beginning of the 18th century was the production of textiles made with wool from the large sheep-farming areas in the Midlands and across the country (created as a result of land-clearance and enclosure).This was a labor-intensive activity providing employment throughout Britain, with major centres being the West Country; Norwich and environs; and the West Riding of Yorkshire. The export trade in woolen goods accounted for more than a quarter of British exports during most of the 18th century, doubling between 1701 and 1770.[3] Exports of the cotton industry – centered in Lancashire – had grown tenfold during this time, but still accounted for only a tenth of the value of the woolen trade. Before the 17th century, the manufacture of goods was performed on a limited scale by individual workers. This was usually on their own premises (such as weavers' cottages) – and goods were transported around the country. clothiers 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. Rivers navigations were constructed, and some contour-following canals. In the early 18th century, artisans were inventing ways to become more productive. Silk, wool, fustian, and linen were being eclipsed by cotton, which was becoming the most important textile. This set the foundations for the changes.[5]

In Roman times, wool, linen and leather clothed the European population, and silk, imported along the Silk Road from China, was an extravagant luxury. The use of flax fibre in the manufacturing of cloth in Northern Europe dates back to Neolithic times.

During the late medieval period, cotton began to be imported into 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 in 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 of Asia and the Americas.

The main steps in the production of cloth are producing the fibre, preparing it, converting it to yarn, converting yarn to cloth, and then finishing the cloth. The cloth is then taken to the manufacturer of garments. The preparation of the fibres differs the most, depending on the fibre used. Flax requires retting and dressing, while wool requires carding and washing. The spinning and weaving processes are very similar between fibres, however.

Spinning evolved from twisting the fibres by hand, to using a drop spindle, to using a spinning wheel. Spindles or parts of them have been found in archaeological sites and may represent one of the first pieces of technology available. They were invented in India between 500 and 1000 AD.[6]

Industrial revolution

The woven fabric portion of the textile industry grew out of the industrial revolution in the 18th Century as mass production of yarn and cloth became a mainstream industry.[7]

In 1734 in Bury, Lancashire, John Kay invented the flying shuttle — one of the first of a series of inventions associated with the cotton woven fabric industry. The flying shuttle increased the width of cotton cloth and speed of production of a single weaver at a loom.[8] Resistance by workers to the perceived threat to jobs delayed the widespread introduction of this technology, even though the higher rate of production generated an increased demand for spun cotton.


In 1761, the Duke of Bridgewater's canal connected Manchester to the coal fields of Worsley and in 1762, Matthew Boulton opened the Soho Foundry engineering works in Handsworth, Birmingham. His partnership with Scottish engineer James Watt resulted, in 1775, in the commercial production of the more efficient Watt steam engine which used a separate condensor.

In 1764, James Hargreaves is credited as inventor of the spinning jenny which multiplied the spun thread production capacity of a single worker — initially eightfold and subsequently much further. Others[9] credit the original invention to Thomas Highs. Industrial unrest and a failure to patent the invention until 1770 forced Hargreaves from Blackburn, but his lack of protection of the idea allowed the concept to be exploited by others. As a result, there were over 20,000 Spinning Jennies in use by the time of his death. Again in 1764, Thorp Mill, the first water-powered cotton mill in the world was constructed at Royton, Lancashire, England. It was used for carding cotton. With the spinning and weaving process now mechanized, cotton mills cropped up all over the North West of England.

The stocking frame invented in 1589 for silk became viable when in 1759, Jedediah Strutt introduced an attachment for the frame which produced what became known as the Derby Rib, which allowed stockings to be manufactured in cotton. Nottingham, a traditional centre for lacework, had allowed the use of the protected stocking frame since 1728.

19th century developments

With the Cartwright Loom, the Spinning Mule and the Boulton & Watt steam engine, the pieces were in place to build a mechanised woven fabric textile industry. From this point there were no new inventions, but a continuous improvement in technology as the mill-owner strove to reduce cost and improve quality. Developments in the transport infrastructure; that is the canals and after 1831 the railways facilitated the import of raw materials and export of finished cloth.

Firstly, the use of water power to drive mills was supplemented by steam driven water pumps, and then superseded completely by the steam engines. For example, Samuel Greg joined his uncle's firm of textile merchants, and, on taking over the company in 1782, he sought out a site to establish a mill.Quarry Bank Mill was built on the River Bollin at Styal in Cheshire. It was initially powered by a water wheel, but installed steam engines in 1810.Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire still exists as a well preserved museum, having been in use from its construction in 1784 until 1959. It also illustrates how the mill owners exploited child labor, taking orphans from nearby Manchester to work the cotton. It shows that these children were housed, clothed, fed and provided with some education. In 1830, the average power of a mill engine was 48 hp, but Quarry Bank mill installed an new 100 hp water wheel.[10] William Fairbairn addressed the problem of line-shafting and was responsible for improving the efficiency of the mill. In 1815 he replaced the wooden turning shafts that drove the machines at 50rpm, to wrought iron shafting working at 250 rpm, these were a third of the weight of the previous ones and absorbed less power.[10]

A Roberts loom in a weaving shed in 1835. Note the wrought iron shafting, fixed to the cast iron columns

Secondly, in 1830, using an 1822 patent, Richard Roberts manufactured the first loom with a cast iron frame, the Roberts Loom.[8] In 1842 James Bullough and William Kenworthy, made the Lancashire Loom . It is a semi automatic power loom. Although it is self-acting, it has to be stopped to recharge empty shuttles. It was the mainstay of the Lancashire cotton industry for a century, when the [ 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.

Roberts self-acting mule with quadrant gearing

Thirdly, also in 1830, Richard Roberts patented the first self-acting mule. Stalybridge mule spinners strike was in 1824,this stimulated research into the problem of applying power to the winding stroke of the mule.[11] The draw while spinning had been assisted by power, but the push of the wind had been done manually by the spinner, the mule could be operated by semiskilled labor. Before 1830, the spinner would operate a partially powered mule with a maximum of 400 spindles after, self-acting mules with up to 1300 spindles could be built.[12]

Number of Looms in UK[13]
Year 1803 1820 1829 1833 1857
Looms 2400 14650 55500 100000 250000

The industrial revolution changed the nature of work and society The three key drivers in these changes were textile manufacturing, iron founding and steam power.[14][15][16][17] The geographical focus of textile manufacture in Britain was Manchester, England and the small towns of the Pennines and southern Lancashire.

Textile production in England peaked in 1926, and as mills were decommissioned, many of the scrapped mules and looms were bought up and reinstated in India. The demographic change made by World War I, had made the labor-intensive industry unprofitable in England, but in India and later China it was an aid to development.

20th century

Clothing factory in Montreal, Quebec in 1941
Nylon stocking inspection in Malmö, Sweden 1954.
Modern ring spinning frame

Major changes came to the textile industry during the 20th century, with continuing technological innovations in machinery, synthetic fibre, logistics, and globalization of the business. The business model that had dominated the industry for centuries was to change radically. Cotton and wool producers were not the only source for fibres, as chemical companies created new synthetic fibres that had superior qualities for many uses, such as rayon, invented in 1910, and DuPont's nylon, invented in 1935 as in inexpensive silk substitute, and used for products ranging from women's stockings to tooth brushes and military parachutes.

The variety of synthetic fibres used in manufacturing fibre grew steadily throughout the 20th century. In the 1920s, the computer was invented; in the 1940s, acetate, modacrylic, metal fibres, and saran were developed; acrylic, polyester, and spandex were introduced in the 1950s. Polyester became hugely popular in the apparel market, and by the late 1970s, more polyester was sold in the United States than cotton.[18]

By the early 20th century, the industry in the developed world often involved immigrants in "sweat shops", which were usually legal but were sometimes illegally operated. They employed people in crowded conditions, working manual sewing machines, and being paid less than a living wage. This trend worsened due to attempts to protect existing industries which were being challenged by developing countries in South East Asia, the Indian subcontinent and Central America. Although globalization saw the manufacturing largely 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 collar associated industries of fashion design, fashion modeling and retail. Areas historically involved heavily in the "rag trade" include London and Milan in Europe, and the SoHo district in New York City.

By the late 1980s, the apparel segment was no longer the largest market for fibre products, with industrial and home furnishings together representing a larger proportion of the fibre market.[19] Industry integration and global manufacturing led to many small firms closing for good during the 1970s and 1980s in the United States; during those decades, 95 percent of the looms in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia shut down, and Alabama and Virginia also saw many factories close.[19]

21st century

In 2002, textiles and apparel manufacturing accounted for $400 billion in global exports, representing 6% of world trade and 8% of world trade in manufactured goods.[20] In the early years of the 21st century, the largest importing and exporting countries were developed countries, including the European Union, the United States, Canada and Japan.[21] The countries with the largest share of their exports being textiles and apparel were as follows (2002):[20]

  • Bangladesh: 85.9%
  • Macau: 84.4%
  • Cambodia: 72.5%
  • Pakistan: 72.1%
  • El Salvador: 60.2%
  • Mauritius: 56.6%
  • Sri Lanka: 54.3%
  • Dominican Republic: 50.9%
  • Nepal: 48.7%
  • Tunisia: 42.4%

Commerce and Regulation

The Multi Fibre Arrangement (MFA) governed the world trade in textiles and garments from 1974 through 2004, imposing quotas on the amount developing countries could export to developed countries. It expired on 1 January 2005.

The MFA was introduced in 1974 as a short-term measure intended to allow developed countries to adjust to imports from the developing world. Developing countries have a natural advantage in textile production because it is labor-intensive and they have low labor costs. According to a World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) study, the system has cost the developing world 27 million jobs and $40 billion a year in lost exports.[22]

However, the Arrangement was not negative for all developing countries. For example, the European Union (EU) imposed no restrictions or duties on imports from the very poor countries, such as Bangladesh, leading to a massive expansion of the industry there.

At the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing provided for the gradual dismantling of the quotas that existed under the MFA. This process was completed on 1 January 2005. However, large tariffs remain in place on many textile products.

Bangladesh was expected to suffer the most from the ending of the MFA, as it was expected to face more competition, particularly from China. However, this was not the case. It turns out that even in the face of other economic giants, Bangladesh’s labor is “cheaper than anywhere else in the world.” While some smaller factories were documented making pay cuts and layoffs, most downsizing was essentially speculative – the orders for goods kept coming even after the MFA expired. In fact, Bangladesh's exports increased in value by about $500 million in 2006.[23]

Regulatory Standards

For textiles, like for many other products, there are certain national and international standards and regulations that need to be complied with to ensure quality, safety and sustainability.

The following standards amongst others apply to textiles:

See also


  1. ^ includes Knitting processes
  1. ^ Majeed, A (January 19, 2009), Cotton and textiles — the challenges ahead, Dawn-the Internet edition, retrieved 2009-02-12 
  2. ^ "Machin processes", Spinning the Web (Manchester City Council: Libraries), retrieved 2009-01-29 
  3. ^ Collier 1970, p. 33
  4. ^ a b Collier 1970, p. 5
  5. ^ Industrial Revolution and the Standard of Living: The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, Library of Economics and Liberty
  6. ^ Cotton: 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 0-471-18045-9
  7. ^ Hammond, J.L.; Hammond, Barbara (1919), The Skilled Labourer 1760-1832 (pdf), London: Longmans, Green and co., p. 51 
  8. ^ a b Williams & Farnie 1992, p. 11
  9. ^ [4]
  10. ^ a b Hills 1993, p. 113
  11. ^ Hills 1993, p. 118
  12. ^ Williams & Farnie 1992, p. 9
  13. ^ Hills 1993, p. 117
  14. ^ Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789–1848, Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd. ISBN 0-349-10484-0
  15. ^ Joseph E Inikori. Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-01079-9 Read it
  16. ^ Berg, Maxine (1992). "Rehabilitating the Industrial Revolution". The Economic History Review 45: 24.  
  17. ^ Rehabilitating the Industrial Revolution by Julie Lorenzen, Central Michigan University. Retrieved November 2006.
  18. ^ The U.S. textile and apparel industry : a revolution in progress : special report. United States Congress, Office of Technology Assessment. 1987. p. 39.  
  19. ^ a b The U.S. textile and apparel industry : a revolution in progress : special report. United States Congress, Office of Technology Assessment. 1987. pp. 31–2.  
  20. ^ a b Vaidya, Ashish K. (2006). Globalization: International blocs and organizations ; Other issues. ABC-CLIO. p. 413.  
  21. ^ Vaidya, Ashish K. (2006). Globalization: International blocs and organizations ; Other issues. ABC-CLIO. pp. 414–5.  
  22. ^ Presentation by H.E. K.M. Chandrasekhar, Chairman ITCB, EC Conference on the Future of Textiles and Clothing after 2004, Brussels, 5 – 6 May 2003.
  23. ^ Haider, Mahtab. “Defying predictions, Bangladesh’s garment factories thrive.” The Christian Science Monitor. 7 Feb 2006. 11 Feb 2007.
  24. ^ Standard for the Flammability of Clothing Textiles
  25. ^ Textile Standards
  26. ^ Regulations for Textiles
  27. ^ China Product Standard for Textiles
  • Collier, Ann M (1970), A Handbook of Textiles, Pergamon Press, p. 258,  
  • Copeland, Melvin Thomas. The cotton manufacturing industry of the United States (Harvard University Press, 1912) online
  • Cameron, Edward H. Samuel Slater, Father of American Manufactures (1960) scholarly biography
  • Conrad, Jr., James L. "'Drive That Branch': Samuel Slater, the Power Loom, and the Writing of America's Textile History," Technology and Culture, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Jan., 1995), pp. 1–28 in JSTOR
  • Griffiths, T., Hunt, P.A., and O’Brien, P. K. "Inventive activity in the British textile industry", Journal of Economic History, 52 (1992), pp. 881–906.
  • Griffiths, Trevor; Hunt, Philip; O’Brien, Patrick. "Scottish, Irish, and imperial connections: Parliament, the three kingdoms, and the mechanization of cotton spinning in eighteenth-century Britain," Economic History Review, Aug 2008, Vol. 61 Issue 3, pp 625–650
  • Smelser; Neil J. Social Change in the Industrial Revolution: An Application of Theory to the British Cotton Industry (1959)
  • Tucker, Barbara M. "The Merchant, the Manufacturer, and the Factory Manager: The Case of Samuel Slater," Business History Review, Vol. 55, No. 3 (Autumn, 1981), pp. 297–313 in JSTOR
  • Tucker, Barbara M. Samuel Slater and the Origins of the American Textile Industry, 1790-1860 (1984)
  • Woytinsky, W. S., and E. S. Woytinsky. World Population and Production Trends and Outlooks (1953) pp 1051–98; with many tables and maps on the worldwide textile industry in 1950

External links

  • History of the Textile industry

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