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Finishing of the cloths. Part 7

Updated: May 21

Woven fabrics go through many processes following fabric formation to make them suitable for end use. Finishing today is a very flexible process resulting in a wide range of finishes with different looks and feels, from high press merchant finishes to dull distressed vintage looks, and everything in between. The classic merchant finish is built up over several processes and the combination of machines used is unique in the world.

The cloths will be washed, flattened and shrunk to consolidate and stabilize them. These processes will improve the appearance, feel and performance of the fabric. Many fabrics are almost unrecognisable between what comes off the weaving loom and the finished fabric.

All good cloth will go through the mending process, where small faults will be corrected centimetre by centimetre - a task requiring a great deal of concentration and precision. This is done at several stages of the weaving and finishing process.

First, the fabric will be washed to remove dirt and impurities, but also importantly to create a soft surface and make it "feel expensive". This is done by passing the fabric through heavy wooden rollers that squeeze it and move the fibres in the yarn, creating a uniform surface.

The machinery used for this purpose is very old but still running. Less expensive cloths are dyed at this point. The result is a plain and solid colour which is flatter and with less depth than a yarn which is fibre-dyed. The tendering process is the drying of the fabric after scouring when the cloth is held at its required width by tenter pins whilst passing through heated chambers.

During cropping, any surface fibres that could cause abrasion and make the fabric look untidy are removed. This is done by a cylinder and blade arrangement much like a lawn mower. The hairiness of the cloth can be influenced by this shearing; conversely, a lack of shearing will produce a flannel, for instance. This is a high-precision process that influences the look and feel of the cloth the most.

After this, the fabric will be stretched and stabilised. During this decreasing, or setting process, the fabric is pressed at high temperatures created by pressurised steam. The resultant press is then permanent, i.e. it will not be lost during garment manufacture because it is done at very high temperatures.

In the end, the cloth looks better, feels better and lasts longer. The final stage is the pressing and labelling of the cloth •

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