Tag Archives: textiles

Tree of Life Times Two

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Cathie’s “Fantasy of the Squirrels” on the left. My “Garden Party” on the right. Click on the picture to open it larger in a new tab.

One of the things I love about quilting is how two quilters can interpret a pattern or an idea completely differently. The photo above shows two quilts made using the center panel designed by Julie Paschkis. My sister Cathie made the one on the left side of the picture. I made the one on the right. Frankly, I think they are both terrific.

If you click on the picture, you’ll see the details of both quilts better. With hers, I love the way the split-striped border creates movement with the light/dark bars’ contrasts. Those contrasts are offset by the soft brown on either side. The triangle points extend the center outward, giving it even more presence. The outside border is a leaf print of blues, greens, and black swirling through, continuing the “fantasy” of the center, and playing well with the green and black print that squares the center. She repeats both the reds and blacks from the center with the corner four-patches, adding to the unity of the design.

In mine the colors are more saturated, the value contrasts stronger. This is a typical difference of how she and I work.

I enjoyed seeing the finished quilts side by side.

 

 

Cotton — Printing Designs

Last time I showed you batik production. Today I thought you might be interested in printed cotton production. It is a largely automated process, rather than with such intensive manual labor like batiks.

There are two videos below. The first one is from Robert Kaufman and lasts less than 10 minutes. It gives an overview of the printing process. It includes recognition of design and the interaction of the U.S. offices with printing factories in Japan and Korea. There is no narration but there are a few captions and some pleasant music.

The second one is almost 19 minutes long, and includes narrated detail about the factory process. Fabric preparation (after weaving), printing, and finishing are included. If you have time, I think this one is more informative. If you have a half hour, you may enjoy both.

If you’d like to read my posts on quilting as a business, you can find them here:

Cotton — Where Does Your Fabric Come From?
Cotton — What Happens After Harvest?
Cotton — Weaving Fabric
Cotton — Batik Production
Cotton — Printing Designs

Quilting for Pay — The Longarm
Conversations with Artists
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 1
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 2
You Should Write Patterns
“It Feels Weird Asking for Pay”
Pay for Quilters (And other Crafters and Artists)
You Should Sell Those: A Play in Three Short Scenes, With Commentary

Cotton — Batik Production

Do you use batiks in your quilts? Their beautifully illuminated colors and organic designs work well for many quilt patterns. The firm, smooth texture makes applique easy with little fraying. Their potential for bleeding in the wash scares me a bit, though, and I don’t use them a lot.

But they do work well in some projects. When I use them, I mix them with solids, traditional florals and geometrics, and more contemporary prints. For me, batiks are just one more way to obtain the colors I want.

Below are two different videos. One is a short video by Hoffman showcasing the creation of batiks in Bali. The other is about Moda batiks and takes about 17 minutes. I do not know if it is officially a Moda video. It shows the process in Indonesia. Neither video includes narration, so if you don’t like the music, you can mute the sound.

Both videos show how incredibly labor intensive batiks are, with multiple hand applications of dyes and resists. If you have time, you may find both very interesting. I won’t make any claims about the safety of conditions for workers, but it did give me pause.

If you’d like to read my posts on quilting as a business, you can find them here:

Cotton — Where Does Your Fabric Come From?
Cotton — What Happens After Harvest?
Cotton — Weaving Fabric
Cotton — Batik Production
Cotton — Printing Designs

Quilting for Pay — The Longarm
Conversations with Artists
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 1
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 2
You Should Write Patterns
“It Feels Weird Asking for Pay”
Pay for Quilters (And other Crafters and Artists)
You Should Sell Those: A Play in Three Short Scenes, With Commentary

Cotton — Weaving Fabric

Earlier this month I began a series of posts on where our quilting fabric comes from. There are so many steps in the process, from growing the cotton, cleaning and spinning it, weaving it, and then making it beautiful. Agricultural workers, biologists, engineers, designers, textile laborers, and more, all contribute to creating the raw materials of our craft. When I consider all the moving parts, I give thanks to all those who help make my projects possible.

The first post looked primarily at planting and harvesting cotton. Next came cleaning and spinning the cotton into yarn. Now we’ll look at weaving.

After creating yarn (threads,) the yarn is woven into fabric. In the most basic weaving process, there are warp yarns, which run lengthwise away from the front of the loom. These are the yarns that are pre-strung. Weft yarns (or filling yarns) are interlaced at a right angle through them using a shuttle or other mechanism such as a rapier.

From the National Cotton Council of America:

Traditionally, cloth was woven by a wooden shuttle that moved horizontally back and forth across the loom, interlacing the filling yarn with the horizontally, lengthwise warp yarn. Modern mills use high-speed shuttleless weaving machines that perform at incredible rates and produce an endless variety of fabrics. Some carry the filling yarns across the loom at rates in excess of 2,000 meters per minute.

The rapier-type weaving machines have metal arms or rapiers that pick up the filling thread and carry it halfway across the loom where another rapier picks it up and pulls it the rest of the way. Other types employ small projectiles that pick up the filling thread and carry it all the way across the loom. Still other types employ compressed air to insert the filling yarn across the warp. In addition to speed and versatility, another advantage of these modern weaving machines is their relatively quiet operation.

Though the speed has changed, the mechanics of weaving are much as they’ve been for thousands of years. This video shows the high speed process.

When the weaving of fabric is done, the product of the loom is called “greige” goods. This is pronounced as “grey.”

The weight of quilting fabric (not including batiks) is approximately 4 ounces per yard. If you check Spoonflower, a service that allows you to custom print various weaves of fabric, their basic combed cotton is 3.2 oz per square yard and has a thread count of 78×76. The Kona cotton is 4.5 oz per square yard, with a thread count of 60×60.

The unprinted, unbleached greige fabric then goes through a design phase. It may be simply dyed, or it may be elaborately printed or batiked. I’ll cover those processes next.

If you’d like to read my posts on quilting as a business, you can find them here:

Cotton — Where Does Your Fabric Come From?
Cotton — What Happens After Harvest?
Cotton — Weaving Fabric
Cotton — Batik Production
Cotton — Printing Designs

Quilting for Pay — The Longarm
Conversations with Artists
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 1
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 2
You Should Write Patterns
“It Feels Weird Asking for Pay”
Pay for Quilters (And other Crafters and Artists)
You Should Sell Those: A Play in Three Short Scenes, With Commentary

Cotton — What Happens After Harvest?

Before 2012, I didn’t think very much about where our quilting fabric comes from, or about the history of cotton as a textile. That changed when Jim and I visited the Lowell (MA) National Historical Park. The park museum includes of one of the original textile mill buildings, built in the early 1800s by Francis Cabot Lowell and a group of investors. The industry created in the area signified the birth of the Industrial Revolution in America. Ginning, spinning, weaving, and printing, the textile mills did everything to process cotton after harvest. The museum at Lowell does a wonderful job of telling the story, including the dark side of cotton’s involvement in the growth of slavery.

Since visiting, I’ve tried to be more appreciative of textile history in the United States, and its connection to the riches of goods we enjoy today. I’ll have more to say about the history of the industry another time. This post will focus on contemporary processing.

The last post looked primarily at planting and harvesting cotton. After creating all that fluffy white goodness, what comes next?

From the field, the cotton goes to the gin. The “gin” is the engine or the machinery that separates the harvested cotton into usable parts. The cotton fiber is used for textiles and other cotton goods, while seeds are used for cotton seed (to plant,) for animal feed, and to press cottonseed oil, used in many human foods.

From the National Cotton Council of America,

Today, nearly all cotton is stored in modules, which look like giant loaves of bread. Modules allow the cotton to be Cotton Module stored without loosing yield or quality prior to ginning. Specially designed trucks pick up modules of seed cotton from the field and move them to the gin. Modern gins place modules in front of machines called module feeders. Some module feeders have stationary heads, in which case, giant conveyors move the modules into the module feeder. Other module feeders are self-propelled and move down a track that along side the modules. The module feeders literally break the modules apart and “feed” the seed cotton into the gin. Other gins use powerful pipes to suck the cotton into the gin ginning cottonbuilding. Once in the cotton gin, the seed cotton moves through dryers and through cleaning machines that remove the gin waste such as burs, dirt, stems and leaf material from the cotton. Then it goes to the gin stand where circular saws with small, sharp teeth pluck the fiber from the seed.

From the gin, fiber and seed go different ways. The ginned fiber, now called lint, is pressed together and Cotton Balesmade into dense bales weighting about 500 pounds. To determine the value of cotton, samples are taken from each bale and classed according to fiber length (staple), strength, micronaire, color and cleanness. Producers usually sell their cotton to a local buyer or merchant who, in turn, sells it to a textile mill either in the United States or a foreign country.

The seed usually is sold by the producer to the gin. The ginner either sells for feed or to an oil mill where the linters (downy fuzz) are removed in an operation very much like ginning. Linters are baled and sold to the paper, batting and plastics industries, while the seed is processed into cottonseed oil, meal and hulls.

After separating the fibers from the seed, the fibers are spun into yarn. This video from the series How It’s Made shows the process of cleaning the fibers and spinning it into yarn.

Only after creating yarn (threads,) the yarn is woven into fabric. We’ll look at that process next.

If you’d like to read my posts on quilting as a business, you can find them here:

Cotton — Where Does Your Fabric Come From?
Cotton — What Happens After Harvest?
Cotton — Weaving Fabric
Cotton — Batik Production
Cotton — Printing Designs

Quilting for Pay — The Longarm
Conversations with Artists
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 1
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 2
You Should Write Patterns
“It Feels Weird Asking for Pay”
Pay for Quilters (And other Crafters and Artists)
You Should Sell Those: A Play in Three Short Scenes, With Commentary