Silk filaments have a gummy outer layer called sericin. If the sericin is left on, the filament is called raw silk. The filament also is said to be “in the gum” or unprocessed. The sericin is removed either at the yarn- or fabric-making stage.
The silkworm (Bombyx mori) produces its cocoon of silk fiber which is made up of two proteins: fibroin, which is the core of the fiber, and sericin, which is the gum that coats the fiber. The gum is the glue that holds the fibers together to form a cocoon.
For the production of fabric, the sericin-coated fiber is called raw silk. The sericin is removed either at the yarn- or the fabric-making stage.
The trademarked name, dating from 1960, of a nylon fiber. The trademark was originally held by Dupont is and now held by INVISTA (used as commercial carpet fiber). Dupont’s Antron nylon III dates to 1970. See Nylon
Courtelle is a trademarked name for an acrylic fiber. The trademark was originally owned by the British company Courtaulds, but after that company was broken up in 1990, the trademark registration went to Rowlinson Knitwear, also based in the UK.
The now-defunct British chemical company Imperial Chemicals Industries Ltd. (ICI) developed and trademarked Crimplene in the 1950s. The thick polyester yarn is called Crimplene as is fabric made from this yarn. The yarn can be woven, but was most usually seen in a double knit. Crimplene fabric is heavy, wrinkle-resistant, wash-and-wear and easy to sew. The decade of the 1960s was Crimplene’s heyday (it made many an A-line dress) with lighter-weight polyester beginning to supersede it in the early 1970s.
Crimplene may have been named after the Crimple Valley which is near the ICI Laboratory where the fiber was developed. It has also been suggested that it is a name compounded from crimp (as in the crimp of the yarn) and Terylene, ICI’s trademarked polyester fiber.
A ditsy print is a very small scale all-over pattern with a random look, not linear or geometric. Flowers are often depicted, but are not exclusively used.
American textile manufacturers, particularly from the 1920s through 40s, mass-produced cotton ditsies, dumb-dumbs and bread-and-butters. These were popular and inexpensive, and the names refer to their innocuousness, as well as their saleability.
Although hand sewn homespun cloth bags were used for grain, feed, sugar, and flour from the early 1800s, the invention of the sewing machine in the mid 1800s made stitching quicker and seams stronger. Textile mills began producing inexpensive cotton fabric for feedsacks. Bags soon went from homemade and reused to mass-produced and the markings on the bags went from farmers’ brands to the brands of the commodity producers. When these bags were empty, penny-wise farm wives found them to be useful as inexpensive fabric for household purposes.
In the 1920s, feedsacks, previously made of cotton without decoration other than a brand, started to be produced in prints. If the thrifty housewife could use the cloth bag as well as its contents, wouldn’t she want it even more if it were pretty? The answer was a resounding yes, and a great variety of prints went into production. Many were multicolor florals, but there were also solids, stripes and other geometric patterns as well as novelty prints. Since the sack fabric became clothing, towels, aprons, pillow cases, toys, laundry bags, curtains, quilts, table cloths and diapers, a variety of prints were called for. The commodity suppliers’ branding was still present, but on a removable paper label.
Feedsack fabric only gained popularity and usefulness during the Great Depression and World War II. Some of the novelty prints on feedsacks of the time include comic book and cartoon characters, movies and popular children’s book themes. A most timely print depicted events, people and locations of WWII.
The popularity of the feedsack started to decline after The War, with new paper sacks and plastic containers providing less expensive and more sanitary packaging. By the late 1940s, half the fabric sack market had been cornered by new forms of packaging, and by the end of the 50s, the fabric feedsack had almost completely disappeared.
The charming prints, the sheer variety produced, the connection to our resourceful mothers and grandmothers—all have made the collecting of vintage feedsacks very popular today.
Wool is obtained from sheep, but the name hair fiber is used to indicate fiber obtained from animals other than sheep.
The animals from which hair fiber is gathered include angora goats (from which we get mohair), cashmere goats (cashmere), angora rabbit (angora), alpaca, camel, and vicuña. More recently the ancient Tibetan craft of spinning yarn from yak fiber (khullu) has become globally known.
Very popular in the last several decades of the 19th century, mill engravings were intricate prints made by hand engraving steel rollers, which would then be used to emboss larger copper rollers by repeating the pattern evenly over the entire roller. Copper was not as durable as steel, but steel was hard and difficult to engrave. When the copper roller became worn, the original steel pattern would be used again on the smoothed-off copper roller, or a new pattern would be used.
Intricate florals, and many whimsical patterns were made using this printing method. The number was staggering—as many as 300 prints might be produced by a single factory in one season.
The prints are small, detailed, and with obvious repetitions—most often in one or two colors. White cotton was printed, and the fabric was used for women’s and children’s clothing, and quilts.
Woven fabric consists of warp and weft yarns crossing each other one at a time or in groups. Plain weave always consists of one warp yarn crossing one weft yarn, a 1/1 weave. When two warp yarns cross a weft yarn, this can be indicated as 2/1 weave. 2/2 weave has two warp yarns crossing two weft yarns.
These fractions are read, for example, “three up, one down” for 3/1, indicating that three weaving harnesses are raised, then one is lowered for three warp yarns on the face, then one weft yarn.
See also Weaving
Experimentation toward creating a man-made fiber out of tree pulp dates to around 1860, but only in 1894 was the production of the fiber cellulosic acetate patented—by Arthur D. Little of Boston. It was the second manufactured cellulosic fiber, following rayon, and it was used for film, celluloid plastic and “artificial silk” (as both rayon and acetate were called at that time). The brothers Camille and Henri Dreyfus of Switzerland were the first to develop a satisfactory process for commercially producing the fiber in 1905.
Acetate was first made commercially in England after World War I, by British Celanese Limited, calling its fiber celanese. The fiber was first spun commercially in the U.S. in 1924, and it was trademarked as Celanese.
Acetate was given a grouping separate from rayon by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 1953. Acetate is manufactured under many trade names, including Celanese, Acele, and Estron in the U.S., and Dicel and Lansil in the U.K.
Unlike rayon, which also starts with cellulose from wood pulp, the making of acetate employs the use of acetic acid or acetic anhydride. The resulting liquid can be dyed brilliant colors, then spun. The finished fiber is silk’s closest man-made competitor for drape and sheen.
Acrylic, a synthetic fiber, was developed in 1941 by the DuPont Corporation, and introduced to the public in the early 50s. DuPont trademarked acrylic using the name Orlon, while the British company Courtalds trademarked the name Courtelle. Acrylic is used as a soft and warm wool-like staple fiber, most often for sweaters, blankets, and other uses one would expect for wool. It can also be made to imitate cotton. Acrilan (Monsanto) and Creslan (American Cyanamid) are two other U.S. brand names for acrylic that can be found in vintage garments, but are no longer produced.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission defines acrylic as “a manufactured fiber in which the fiber forming substance is any long-chain synthetic polymer composed of at least 85% of weight of acrylonitrile units.”