FINISHING


There are very many finishing processes which can be applied to the woven cloth. One of the most basic is BLEACHING as the raw cotton has a grey appearance. You may have ancestors who give their census occupation as "grey room" hand. The grey room was where the raw cloth went prior to further processing. Bleaching was the most basic of these and at one time, before chemical methods were developed, was carried out by hanging the cloth in the sun (in tenting crofts). Regarding modern bleaching and dyeing techniques Tippett points out that these are wet processes and that clogs were a very practical form of footwear when the floor might be very wet. As a youngster in the early 1950s Ramsbottom I remember clogs very well and was very desirous of having a pair but within a few years they were hardly to be found.
STENTERING This is basically a smoothing out of the cloth. Because after bleaching, or any wet process, the cloth will get wrinkled or creased. Stentering (done by "stenterers") removes these bumps.
CALENDERING Normally follows stentering and involves passing the cloth between heavy rollers padded with cotton. It can radically alter the final appearance of the cloth, giving a shine for example. "Calenderer" is often found as an occupation in the census.
DYEING Often applied to the finished cloth to give a uniform all-over colour. But some weaving is carried out with yarns that have already been dyed. And printing can also be considered as a dyeing process. The first artificial dye, mauve analine derived from coal tar, was discovered by William Henry Perkins in 1856. Previously using natural materials dyeing took longer and the colours were often fairly sombre and muted. With artificial dyes there was a much greater range of bright colours and dyes were developed which were 'fast' and also fade-resistant.
PRINTING Printing is a very economical means of producing patterned material. The dye is applied by rollers and each colour is applied separately. My grandfather, Fred Parkinson, designed printing (and other) machines for both the textile and wallpaper industries. He started as a humble draughtsman in Ramsbottom and then went to work for an engineering firm in Radcliffe called Bradbury Saunders. He ended up as a director. I suspect that such a career path was not very uncommon for his generation. Another relative was a block printer. This was a very messy process where the pattern was applied by hand — the workers pressing dye-loaded blocks by hand on to the fabric. Naturally this was an expensive process. The Ramsbottom company, Turnbull & Stockdale if my memory is correct, that produced these luxury fabrics survived a bit longer than some of the mills that were trying to compete with cheap imports from India and the like.
MERCERIZING Called after its inventor John Mercer (of Clayton-le-Moors). The cloth is soaked in strong caustic soda and washed under tension. The process gives the cloth a lustre.

Last update 12/05/2005