Thursday, September 23, 2010

Terry Cloth, Dobby Looms, and All That

"What is Terrycloth?"
WiseGEEK (September 8, 2010)

"Terrycloth is a type of pile fabric which is famous for its softness and high absorbency. It is often used for towels and bathrobes, and it may be utilized to make athletic warmups and other accessories. Many department stores carry items made from terrycloth, and it is also possible to purchase this fabric by the yard for the purpose of making custom towels, robes, and other objects. Many sewing suppliers carry terrycloth, and it can also be ordered online or directly from manufacturers....

"...Industrially, terrycloth is made on a dobby loom, a specialized loom which allows for greater control of the tension of the threads. People can also knit or weave it by hand, using several different techniques, although handmade terrycloth is time consuming to make. Industrial methods of manufacture have been in use since the mid-1800s, which is around the time that this specialized fabric began to achieve widespread popularity...."

It's a pretty good discussion of what terry cloth (AKA terrycloth) is, but doesn't tell much about where it came from, historically speaking. Happily, the Lemming found this piece:

"Terry Cloth" (June 8th, 2009)

"Terry cloth, also know as terry, is a fabric with loops that can absorb more water than a traditional cloth. There are many types of terry cloth in the market today....

"...Towels are a woven fabric made of Cotton or a Cotton-Polyester (Cotton-Poly) blend and are a usually loop or pile pattern. Special looms called Dobby Looms are used to weave the fabric into the finished product. Modern looms are fully computerized and make the job much easier than it was in the past.

"Early in the history of Terry cloth nearly everything was made by hand. Due to the time it took to make this cloth towels were usually reserved for the wealthy. Towels were generally smaller and most were hand and facial towels. ... By the end of the nineteenth century, weaving became automated and the terry cloth industry was changed forever.

"After the mechanizing of looms we started to see a greater variety of materials being used and a greater market for towels because they were less expensive. This also created a large market for Bath Towels for the first time. Like most textile cloth throughout the manufacturing process everything is bleached a bright white before it is dyed its final color. This is almost always done to the fabric in large rolls or yards before any weaving or other alteration takes place. Terry cloth is woven on a dobby loom, which means that it has two steps or processes. The first one is referred to as the ground warp and forms the body of the towel or cloth. The second one is called the pile warp, which forms it forms the terry loop or pile...."

There's quite a bit more - some of it a bit on the promotional side, letting readers know how many products are made of terry cloth. Naturally enough, since the page is on a commercial website.

Hats off to for this backgrounder on terry history.

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