Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Cotton Spinning

Cotton Spinning. A distaff and spindle, when cotton was spun by hand, in course of time gave place to the spinning wheel, either plain or of the Saxony pattern which had a flyer attached to its spindle. In 1764 James Hargreaves, a poor weaver of Hanhill, Lancashire, invented his "spinning jenny," which combined the movement, of the wheel with a travelling carriage. But his machine was superseded in 1769 by that of Richard Arkwright, a man who, originally a Derbyshire barber, died a rich knight. He projected with Kay, a clockmaker, the "water frame," which was in principle a continuous spinning wheel. It dispensed with Hargreaves' travelling carriage, but added drawing rollers. Six years later Samuel Crompton, an ingenious weaver of Bolton-le-Moors, began the construction of his "mule," so called because he united the travelling carriage of Hargreaves with the drawing rollers of Arkwright. Arkwright's principle is perpetuated in the throstle and ring spinning, but Crompton's hand-worked machine, with the carriage and intermittent motion, was the prototype of the present day self-acting mule. One other point in the history of cotton spinning is of special interest. The largest weaving and spinning factories in the empire are to be found in what Dr. Taylor described as a "secluded nook," which forty years ago was almost open country, where Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cheshire all meet. Here the power-loom driven from West Houghton found refuge, in consequence of the obstacles raised by the operatives to its introduction elsewhere.

Cotton is received from America, Egypt, India, Peru, or Brazil in bales covered with coarse sacking and bound with hoops of iron. Liverpool is the great cotton market. In a Lancashire mill, in the mixing room, it is opened out. Abroad the process of "ginning" has to some extent separated from it the fibre and the seed, but much foreign material, dirt, and sometimes large stones remain to be removed. As they are pulled apart into pieces, the bales are mixed according to the quality of the yarn required, for the best all American being used. The larger the mixing the better, for one of the fundamental rules of cotton spinning is to secure uniformity, evenness, and regularity. One reel of cotton may indeed be composed of filaments from innumerable plants. A handful of raw cotton, on examination, will be found to consist of a number of fibres, matted together, and entangled one with the other. These fibres in the lowest quality cotton (East Indian) will average 3/4 inch staple, and the best will measure 1-1/8 inch in length. A staple may be broken, but the one fibre will cling at one end to another, if the two are parallel. The loose cotton is stacked, and quantities are taken from the sides of the pile just as hay is, and they are conveyed on an endless lattice frame or "creeper" to an opening machine, and afterwards to a scutcher, or to a combined opener and scutcher, which takes out dirt and impurities from the cotton by bringing it into contact with beaters, finally delivering the material between cylinders in the form of a "lap," rolled upon a bobbin. Strong draughts blow away the dust; the process is, therefore, sometimes called "blowing." Five of the laps, resembling rolls of wadding, are fed into a finishing scutcher, further to purify the cotton and to attain the desired regularity, and from this machine one large lap emerges ready for the Carding Engine, in which it will be again cleansed. To this stage the fibres are still matted together, and lie in confusion, but the machine secures a beautiful and orderly arrangement of them. At one end of the machine the flat web from the scutcher is drawn in, and at the other a fine gossamer film, or "sliver," issues, coiling itself automatically in a can placed to receive it. The fibres have, in passing between large and small rollers and "clearers" working on a cylinder, revolving at 165 revolutions per minute, been combed out, and laid parallel by means of the wire teeth, with which the opposing surfaces of the rollers are covered. Two forms of carding engines are in use - the "roller and clearer" and the more modern machine, which presents to the cotton a series of jointed flat cards as they revolve round the cylinder.

The cans of ribbon-like slivers are now taken to a drawing frame, in which, again to ensure strength and regularity, a number of the skeins will be united into one by what is known as a "finger and thumb" movement. Six slivers are led between pairs of rollers, and the front pair travels six times faster than the back pair, the result being that the cotton is drawm out correspondingly; and is then coiled once more into a can. Six of these slivers are removed to the next "head," and the process is repeated. A third time the combination of six is made and the sliver drawn out, so that it now contains within itself 6 x 6 X 6 = 216 slivers. Should one of these slivers break the machine stops instantly. The drawing frame initiates the cotton to a prolonged series of drawings and doublings. No twist has, however, yet been imparted to the cotton, the filaments having been simply drawn out, and placed as parallel as possible. In the next machine, the slubbing frame, the cotton receives its first twist which enables it to be drawn out still finer. The slubbing frame has four separate motions, each working in conjunction with the other. (1) A roller motion for drawing out the sliver; (2) a spindle for giving the twist; (3) a bobbin for winding the sliver; and (4) a lifting motion which raises the bobbin up and down in order that it may be properly filled. The cotton wound upon the bobbins is removed to the intermediate frame, which unites the contents of two bobbins into one, the cotton being made finer and more rounded, giving this time in the result a combination of 432 of the original slivers. All these "fly frames" resemble each other in mechanism, the difference being in the varying arrangement of the rollers to give out a fixed quantity of sliver, and to impart the needful twist to the filaments. In winding the roving upon the bobbin it is necessary to adapt the motion to the shape of the cone. This does not seem a difficult matter, but, as an expert points out, "it involves the nicest calculations in mechanics; and is far too complex to be understood by the casual and unscientific observer. It is accomplished by an ingenious arrangement of wheels working with differential movements, in conjunction with a pair of cones which give compensating effects as the roving assumes the cone shape on the bobbin." Next the cotton is dealt with by the jack or roving frame which completes the work of preparation, and as another doubling takes place the number of the original carding slivers in the roving now stands at 864. The roving is weighed and tested to ascertain whether it is in accordance with the count which has to be spun. By the "count" is meant the degree of fineness. Cotton-yarn, if wound into hanks from the cop, contains 840 yards in each hank, and the count indicates the number of these hanks to a pound weight of yarn. Some spinners produce 220 hanks to the pound, that is to say, 220 x 840 yeirds of yarn = 184,800 yards.

Roving is converted into yarn by the spinning machines, sometimes by throstle and ring, which have a continuous motion instead of the intermittent one, which is one characteristic of the self-acting mules; and also dispense with the travelling carriage. A mule is a wonderful machine to behold. A pair of mules face each other, and they are in charge of a minder and a boy "piecer." Both man and boy work barefooted in the hot room, a temperature of 90° being necessary to keep certain parts of the machinery - sheep-skin covered rollers - in a condition to prevent the cotton from adhering to them. There may be as many as 1,296 spindles to each mule, and these are ranged in one long line upon a travelling carriage or frame, which runs outwards on wheels a space of 64 inches every quarter of a minute and then returns upon its little tramway. At the back of each mule are placed the bobbins of rovings in creels. Below them on the beam or fixed part of the machine are pairs of rollers which bring about more doubling by uniting the contents of two bobbins into one and drawing them out together to the required length. When the travelling carriage is nearest to the bobbins the roving is attached to the spindles, which, as the journey outwards is begun, revolve at the rate of 10,000 revolutions per minute. The yarn is drawn out as the carriage moves away, the spindles meanwhile giving the twist to the strands. Then for a moment the carriage stops, the spindles cease to rotate, and the rollers to give out rovings. The spindles then "back off" by unwinding the thread attached to them. As the carriage returns to the frame the yarn, by a kind of wire finger, termed a "faller," is wound round the spindles in the form of a cone, which is called a "cop." It may take several journeys to complete the cop, but when this is done the machine stops, and the spindles are cleared and started again with a fresh supply of roving. This is called "doffing." Obviously, during the progress of the work the slender threads are liable continually to break, and it is the duty of the piecer by a dexterous movement to unite the two ends. The piecing is done with incredible rapidity, for the moments available are limited, and quickness of eye and of hand is necessary. Underneath the machine is a piece of woollen cloth brushing over the plate beneath for cleansing purposes. Simple as it is this contrivance has been the means of saving many lives, formerly sacrificed when the work had to be done by boys. The largest mill in Lancashire contains 112.000 spindles.

Warp and weft yarns are spun by these mules - the warp having a harder twist given to it than the weft. In each thread wound upon the cop we see the combined result of 1,728 of the filmy ribbons which came from the carding engine. Supposing the count to have been 60's, the pound of yarn presenting the number would measure, we are told on the authority of some of the largest cotton spinners of the present day, 28-3/4 miles. The cops are taken to the weighing-in room, and afterwards to the warehouse until they have lost any brittleness caused by the high temperature in which they have been spun. Some "reel yarn" goes direct to dyers in Scotland, China, and India. The Scotch "doublers" unite two 40's, passing the thread through water to make it adhere. Yarn required for export is reeled into hanks on "swifts" by girls and divided into "lays" with string - seven lays of 120 yards making up the hank. Afterwards these hanks are loosely knotted and under steam pressure made into bundles, about 9 in. x 6 in., and from 5 to 10 lbs. in weight. Yarn for home use mostly remains in the cop, and passes into the hands of the weaver, to be made into cotton cloth.

In all the processes of cotton spinning there is unavoidable waste. It exists in the form of refuse from the blowing and scutching machines, and "fly" from the carding engines; in sweepings from the floors and in various other forms. Of 100 lbs. of raw cotton 10 lbs. will be thrown off in these ways. Some of the finest portions disappear altogether in the atmosphere, and form what is described as "invisible" waste. A large quantity of that which is secured is sold to waste dealers, who sell it to manufacturers of low-class goods.