1800 - 1993

Textile Machines: The fabrication of fabric  

Deutsches Museum

The principles of creating cloth with textiles – spinning, weaving and knitting – and the methods and technologies used in the past and now

Textile Machines at Deutsches Museum
This exhibit serves as a visual depiction of the principles of creating cloth with textiles – spinning, weaving and knitting – and the methods and technologies used in the past and now. Compared with the hand-operated spinning wheel, with just one spindle, the renowned spinning jenny made it possible to spin simultaneously on 60 spindles. With the loom it was similar: after John Kay’s flying shuttle doubled the output of fabric in 1733, by 1840 the first mechanized looms equipped with shuttles made it possible to produce 600 metres of thread a minute. By contrast, a modern computer-controlled air-jet loom uses blasts of air to send 1600 metres of thread per minute on the zig-zag path through the warp shed. A modern knitting machine makes a complete sweater in just six minutes and a knitted dress in 12. 

Loom with "Flying Shuttle"

The flying shuttle devised in 1733 by John Kay revolutionized the rhythm of work with the loom. Until the invention of the flying shuttle, weavers had thrown the boat shuttle through the open shed with one hand, caught it in the other, and, after forming the counter shed and beating in the Weft tread, thrown the shuttle back to the other side, a constant back and forth. A second weaver was required to produce wide sheets of cloth.

Loom with Jacquard Mechanism

Jean-Marie Jacquard, a Frenchman, designed a machine, based on designs of earlier inventors, that mechanized the "pattern-designing" process. This invention was the major impetus to the development of the modern textile industry. He introduced his loom in 1805. Until that time, weavers in Asia and Europe had used the drawloom, or "simple loom" for 1200 years to produce large area designs. Every warp thread is attached to a loop suspended from a draw cord. Before each throw of the shuttle, a "drawboy", an operator at the side or on top of the loom, pulls the draw cords, lifting the warp threads to produce the desired pattern. The weaver sitting at the loom does the actual weaving of the design. He throws the shuttle, inserting the pick, and then beats in the weft. With the Jacquard mechanism attached to a loom, punched cards control the selection of the warp threads, which are raised mechanically to form the design. This mechanism made the "drawboy" redundant. This led to hostilities which culminated in threats to Jacquard's life. Jacquard persisted and successfully proved the advantages of his invention.

Power Loom for Cotton Cloth

This loom was used between 1840 and 1900 at the SWA (Mechanized Cotton Spinning and Weaving Mill Augsburg). It was used to weave light-weight cotton fabrics for clothing, curtains, and similar products. All of the stages of production required for weaving – introduction of the warp threads, shed formation, insertion of the weft, formation of the countershed, beating-in, rolling up of the woven fabric – take place automatically. The machine was powered by a water turbine. A vertical shaft, extending through all floors of the mill, transmitted the power from the turbine to the connecting shaft and the transmission belt to the individual looms.

Semiautomatic Spinning Frame

This machine was used to spin cotton yarn at the SWA. The actual spinning process was automated: the pair of rollers in the drawing frame stretch the roving up to four times its original length, the trolley carrying the spindles moves away from the machine and stretches the yarn even further. While the trolley is moving, the spindles turn, giving the yarn its twist and its strength - producing fine yarn. As the trolley moves back towards the machine, the threads are wound around the spindles. The rollers and the trolley were driven by a transmission powered by a water wheel. A worker, using muscle power, had to push the trolley back to its starting position. The machine was also known as "semi-self-actor" since only part of the work process was automated.

The Spinning Jenny

This spinning machine was used to spin sixty threads at one time. This made the machine considerably more productive than the hand spinning wheels and flyer spinning wheels. How the machine works: The spinner clamps in the roving with the "press" across the entire width and moves the trolley out, stretching the roving. The spinner then turns the handwheel, the spindles then twist the threads. When the trolley is moved back, the spun threads are wound. The process is then repeated. James Hargreaves invented this spinning machine. The first "Jenny" built in 1767 had 8 spindles. Just a few years later, spinning Jennys with up to 100 spindles were in use. As the news of the invention spread, the fear of losing their meager wages drove many hand spinners onto the streets in protest. They broke into Hargreaves' house, destroyed his spinning machine and threatened to become violent. He was finally forced to leave his home of Blackburn. In the following decades, many band spinners used the "Jenny" and the fully mechanical fine spinning machine (self-acting spinning machine) developed from it. However, both machines were not capable of being operated continuously and therefore were unsuitable for use in the "factory system of production" of the 18th/19th centuries.

Block Printing Machine

This block printing machine was operated for almost 100 years at a fabric printing mill in Lindau until it was replaced in 1975 by a modern printing machine. Three generations worked with these machines to produce textiles of all types, in the end Bavarian print handkerchiefs. Modelled on the hand-operated block printing process, the machine operates in discontinuous cycyles. The fabric is stationary, the block of form covered with dye presses the pattern onto the fabric much like a stamp.

The fabric is then transported forward by one pattern width ("rapport" = repeat of pattern) and stamped again. The color design of the two blocks complete the final pattern. Modern fabric printing machines work continuously by rotation. The sheets of cloth race at high speeds (up to 150 m per minute) past rotating, engraved metal cylinders (cylinder roller printing) or past hollow cylinders with perforated printing screens (rotary screen printing) and are printed.


Wool Yarn Card with Rubbing Web Divider

The carder mixes, cleans, and straightens the entangled fiber material for the actual spinning process. Drums and pairs of rollers covered with steel hooks revolve, thus separating the fiber flock into individual fibers, lay them lengthwise and compress them into a thin fibrous web. The spinning material passes through two or three carding machines in order to obtain an even and well-cleaned fiber web. The "rubbing web divider" separates the wide fiber web into narrow longitudinal strips, that are then twisted and wound into "rovings" by rolling them from side to side ("rubbing"). The rovings are spun into fine yarn in the wool spinning mill. A modern carding facility or a high-speed carder processes approx. 100 kg of spinning material an hour from which approx. 4000 kilometers of yarn of medium count can be spun!

Sample Dyeing System "mini-soft"

This piece dyeing machine is used to dye patterns and fabrics in small amounts. The textiles absorb the dyes from the diluted dye solution ("dyebath"). For centuries dyeing with natural substances was the only means of improving textiles. Dyes were rare, rich colors were extravagant and costly and only available to the privileged: cardinal red, royal blue! It was not until synthetic dyes were introduced that an inexhaustible palette of colors unfolded.

Air Jet Loom

Instead of the boat shuttle, a stream of air is used to transport the weft through the shed. The stream of air is much lighter and narrower than the shuttle or the gripper shuttle. It is able to pick or enter the weft much faster: up to 1600 meters of weft threads can be woven per minute on an air-jet loom; a loom with a gripper shuttle weaves about 850 meters, a time-honored loom and boat shuttle only 600 meters per minute. An electronic system monitors and controls the machine. A computer program simplifies the design of patterns; the machine can be connected to a data acquisition and evaluation program.

Air-jet looms are used primarily to produce denim (jeans material), tent cloth, furnishing materials, feather-tight bedding, light-weight lining materials, poplin, and technical fabrics.

High-speed Ribbon Loom with Electronically Controlled Jacquard Machine

High tenacity safety belts, as well as decorative braids, labels, woven suspenders, and belts must be woven in the specified width: full-width woven materials would unravel when cut into strips! Modern textile mills use computer-controlled "needle ribbon looms" to manufacture several — solid or patterned — bands at one time. On the "needle ribbon loom", the pick is placed through the shed as a thread loop. The loop is caught at the opposite edge of the ribbon by a bearded or latch needle and twists it into a stitch. In this way, up to 3000 "double picks" per minute are produced. The ribbon has a selvage and a looped edge.

High-performance Warp Knitting Machines

The machine produces up to 3000 courses, or rows, per minute. The high speeds are possible because a single thread is not introduced into the entire row of needles, but rather every needle is provided with its own thread from a warp beam. Fabrics produced in this manner resemble a woven material more than knitted goods. They retain their shape and are often used in making underwear (charmeuse = silky tricot), sport and leisure wear, upholstery fabrics, curtains, bedding, tablecloths, and even car upholstery fabrics. The principle of loop formation goes back to Josiah Crane who developed the hand warp knitting loom from the hand-knitting frame in 1775.

Flat Knitting Machine

The flat bed knitting machine knits a nearly unlimited number of patterns fully automatic. The needles glide up and down in a "needle bed" and form one stitch after the other, row for row. The computer controlled machine is able to knit not only shapes such as arms, fronts, backs of sweaters, but also necks, button holes, etc. (“fully fashioned"). The knitter enters the data for the batch into the computer, including the size and number of the individual parts. The machine completes the task: approx. every 6 minutes a is sweater finished, approx. every 12 minutes, a knit dress. The individual parts need only then be sewn together.

Deutsches Museum
Credits: Story

Deutsches Museum, Munich

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