1902 Encyclopedia > Yarn


YARN consists of any textile fibre prepared by the process of spinning for being woven into cloth. It is only in a few minor and exceptional cases, such as the weaving of hair-cloth or of wire, that there is any making of woven fabrics without the previous spinning of yarn. As weav-ing can be shown to be among the earliest and most universal of the industries of mankind, the process of spinning yarn, which of necessity accompanies or rather precedes weaving, can be claimed as one of the primal employments of the race. There is ample evidence obtain-able, not only of the great antiquity, but also of the wide —almost universal—diffusion of the art of spinning. Remains of the implements employed are found wherever traces of prehistoric and early man make their appearance. It happens that the exceedingly simple apparatus which was used in the earliest ages continued to be the spinning implements of civilized communities till comparatively recent times, and it may therefore be said that there is no art which has been more widely diffused, more uniformly practised, and which remained so long fixed and unpro-gressive, as that of yarn-spinning. On the other hand, since human ingenuity bent itself to improve the art—and these efforts only began in earnest about the middle of the 18th century—there have not been developed in the whole range of mechanical industries implements of greater variety, complexity, delicacy of action, and manifold pro-ductive capacity than the varied machines now adapted for the production of yarn.
The primitive spinning implement consists of a spindle, a rod of wood, usually from 9 to 12 inches in length, rounded and tapering towards both extremities, as shown in the accompanying cut. At the upper extremity there

Primitive spindle, is usually a notch, in which the yarn is caught while undergoing the operation of twisting, and to the spindle there is commonly added a whorl—a perforated disk of stone or other heavy material—the object of which is by its weight to give momentum and steadiness to the spindle when it is rotated by the hands of the spinner. The fibre to be spun is commonly attached loosely to a distaff or " rock" of wood, which is held under the left arm of the operator; but in the case of certain short fibres the material is made up in rolls or cardings. A rotatory motion is given to the spindle by twirling it between the fingers of the right hand; and the fibre to be spun is then drawn out in a uniform strand between the fingers of both hands and simultaneously twisted into yarn by the rotat-ing spindle to which it is attached. The portion that is sufficiently twisted is wound on the body of the spindle, and the operation is continued till the spindle is filled with yarn of a smooth and equal calibre. The quantity thus rolled up gives the name to a now definite measure of yarn, "the spindle." Simple and primitive as is this apparatus, a dexterous and experienced spinner is able to produce yarn of an evenness, strength, and delicacy such as can scarcely be exceeded with the aid of the most complicated appliances and by the numerous processes of perfected modern spinning. The cotton yarns with which the famous Dacca muslins of India,—textures which from their extreme flimsy airiness receive such names as " woven air " and "evening dew,"—are spun with the aid only of these simple and rude appliances. The spindle used by the deft Hindu is a slender strip of bamboo not much bigger than a darning needle, lightly weighted with a pellet of clay; and, as the tender thread formed cannot even support the weight of so slight a spindle, the apparatus is rotated in a socket, which consists of a piece of hollow shell. The spindle as here described was the sole apparatus with which, so far as is known, the whole of the yarn woven into cloth by mankind till comparatively modern times was made, and even at the present day it is not wholly obsolete. Apart from its use in Eastern countries and among the untutored tribes of Central Africa, the spindle in its original form continues to be used in the remote districts of the Scottish Highlands and islands, and in many other regions of Europe.
Throughout all the changes and developments of modern yarn-spinning the rotating spindle continues to be the essential implement, and all the improvements which have been effected have had for their object,—(1) the providing of mechanical means of rotating the spindle, (2) an auto-matic method of drawing out and attenuating the fibre, and (3) devices for working a large group of spindles together.
The first improvement on the simple spindle consisted in mount-ing it horizontally in bearings, and giving it a rotatory motion by a band from a large wheel, passing round a small pulley or " wharve " fixed on the spindle itself. Such was the first spin-ning wheel which, in the form of the "charka," has long been known in the East Indies ; and from a drawing in a 11th-century MS. in the British Museum it is obvious that it was not unknown, although certainly far from common, in Europe at that early date. A jewelled model hand-wheel of this description was formerly the property of Mary of Guise. This form of wheel came ultimately to be known in Scotland as the "muckle wheel," in contradistinction to one of later invention, and the method of working it is not yet an altogether forgotten art.
No strict record of the dates at which various developments of the art of spinning took place are to be found, and it is certain that many appliances were long known and to some extent used before their adoption became general. Thus it is quite clear that the flier, which is fitted around modern spindles for twisting the yarn before it is wound on the bobbin, was known to Leonardo da Vinci and probably invented by him. Among the numerous mechanical drawings left by that man of genius there is one which shows a spindle with flier and bobbin, with a device for moving the bobbin up and down on the spindle so as to effect an even distribution of the yarn. But the use of the flier does not seem to have been known in England till about the end of the 17th century. In a pamphlet issued in 1681 by Thomas Firmin, entitled Some. Pro-posals for the Employment of the Poor, there is an illustration of an improved wheel, with two spindles provided with fliers, having on them hooks or pins for directing the yarn on different parts of the bobbin. The sketch also shows the spindle and flier driven by different bands, as was the case with the spinning-wheel which sub-sequently came into common use. In hand-spinning the further application of the treadle motion, with connecting-rod and crank-axle to drive the little wheel with the feet alone, was the final development. By this agency both hands of the spinner were free, continuous and uniform motion was secured, and the spinner could work two spindles simultaneously, the one with the right and the other with the left hand. It was in this condition that the most advanced form of yarn-making was carried on in the 18th century, when a great series of inventions revolutionized the entire range of textile industries and laid the foundation of the gigantic factory system of spinning and weaving which now prevails.
The problem which lay before inventors was to bring tangled masses of fibrous material into parallel order, and to draw out and twist these fibres into uniform strands by automatic means, without the continuous application of intelligent attention. The first stage in the evolution of mechanical spinning was effected under the patent of Louis Paul in 1738, in which there was clearly described and foreshadowed wdiat is now one of the most important features of spinning machinery—the drawing rollers. In his specification he says:—
" One end of the mass, rope, thread, or sliver is put betwixt a pair of rowlers, cylinders, or cones, or some such movements, which, being turned round, by their motion draws in the raw mass of wooi or cotton to be spun, in proportion to the velocity given to such rowlers, cillinders, or cones. As the prepared mass passes regularly through or betwixt these rowlers, cylinders, or cones, a succession of other rowlers. cylinders, or cones, moving proportionably faster than the first, draw the rope, thread, or sliver into any degree of fineness which may be required."
Next, to James Hargreaves of Blackburn is due the first con-ception of the famous spinning-jenny, which he devised about 1767 and patented in 1770. In his specification Hargreaves describes his invention as a machine or engine to be managed by one person only, and that the wheel or engine will spin, draw, and twist sixteen or more threads at one time by a turn or motion of one hand and a draw of the other. At the same time the humble barber of Preston, Richard Arkwright, was busily engaged in developing the important series of inventions and adaptations which resulted in the modern throstle spinning-frame. Arkwright's principal patents were secured in 1769 and 1775 ; and in the latter year Samuel Crompton of Bolton brought before the world his mule spinning-frame, in which the drawing rollers of Paul and Arkwright were with happy effect applied to the jenny of Hargreaves. These inventions are at the foundation of all modern systems of yarn-spinning ; details regard-ing them are given under COTTON, LINEN, SILK, and WOOL.
The various methods by which the sizes or counts of yarn have been fixed in different countries have long been a source of much inconvenience in the international exchange of spun yarns. The methods of estimating sues or weights of yarn are indeed complicated in the extreme, for not only has each country different standards, which may locally be disregarded, but for the yarn from each separate fibre there may he different lengths of hank and different methods of estimating sizes. Thus, taking English standards, we find that cotton yarns are made up into hanks of 560 " threads" of 1J yards, giving 810 yards per hank, and the "counts " are the number of hanks which go to make lib weight of yarn. For linen yarns there are 2J yards in a thread, and 120 threads or 300 yards in a lea, and the count is the number of leas per lb. In a hank of worsted or woollen yarn there are 560 yards, and the count similarly is the number of hanks per lb. In Continental countries the length of the hank or its equivalent is different; the weight by which the count is reckoned also varies ; and, as the weights and measures of the several countries have only the most involved ratio to each other, to estimate comparative sizes complex calculated tables are necessary. Attempts have been made to establish an international standard of numbering yarns based on the French metric system, in wdiich the count is the number of grams which a definite length of yarn—1000 metres—weighs. No progress, however, has been made in coming to an international agreement in the question. (J. PA.)

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