Cheney Brothers Silk Piece

Dyeing and Finishing – 1916

One large class of silk goods is not dyed until after weaving. Such goods are usually woven with the gum still in the silk, and as a preparation for dyeing, must be boiled from 20 minutes to two hours in olive soap and water. After the gum is out, they are rinsed by being run over rollers through many boxes of a big washing machine, and dried over a hot cylinder or in an extractor.

The dyeing may be done by hand in large barks or vats filled with dye, or by being run over large reels which carry the goods from one bark to another.

Printing Many varieties of silk goods are now machine printed. The color laboratory has on hand several thousand samples of probably a thousand different shades which it has tested for dyeing and printing. The designs are sketched on white paper, then enlarged, traced on zinc, and cut in by hand. A pantograph then transfers all of the design that is in one color, in the proper size, upon a copper cylinder, into which it is etched by a solution of acid. Each color requires a separate cylinder, and the set of cylinders must be exactly the same size. The cylinders are placed on the printing machine, which supplies the etched parts with color thickened with gum, scrapes the extra color entirely off the cylinder, except where etched, by a very true knife blade, and prints the goods as it revolves. After printing, the goods are steamed in a steam box to set their color, and then heated with dry heat to age it. In order to take out the gum used to thicken the color, they are well washed. If necessary the color is touched up.

Finishing Like other goods, printed silks must be put through a numerous variety of finishing processes. To stretch the piece to a uniform width, a great so­called tenter frame catches the cloth between clamps and carries it through steam heat perhaps a hundred feet. The silk may be stiffened with sizing as it is run through rollers, pressed out and dried on a cylinder, and expanded on a barrel spreader to take out the wrinkles. It may be run through gas flames to singe off any loose fuzz, or through machines for embossing or watering. Very delicate material is wound on paper, heated over hot cylinders and left for a day until the paper cools. Other goods, after being folded between heavy papers, are, like satin, put under a hot pressure of several thousand pounds and left over night until cool.

A serious objection to piece dyed and printed goods used to be their liability to spot with water. In the case of Cheney goods, this has been eliminated by the invention of the Cheney shower­proof silks, the process for which prevents rain­spotting while retaining absolutely the strength and feel of the goods.

A Pause in the Story Here the history of silk pauses, ­ not ends. It began ages ago with a humble worm in far eastern China, and reached its climax in this Western Hemisphere in the greatest silk mills in the world. But this is only a pause in the story: its sequel is embodied in the wonderful fabrics into which silk is wrought; their brilliancy, elegance and lightness, ­ and the pleasure and comfort they assure.

Source:   Manchester, H. H., The Story of Silk and Cheney Silk, Cheney Brothers, South Manchester, Connecticut, 1916. Cheney Brothers Silk