Cheney Brothers Weaving Department


We are now prepared to follow the dyed and un­dyed yarns together through the weaving department. The first step is to make the warp, which consists of long and comparatively strong threads that run lengthwise in the goods.

Preparing the Warp The orgazine or yarn in the warp comes into the warping room on spools or bobbins. The warp is usually, though not always, made in sections. (If a full width required 1000 ends, only 100 ends are drawn at a time, followed by another 100 until the full width is achieved. This allows the use of a smaller supply creel.) As many spools as there are to be threads in a section are placed on the iron pegs of a rack, which commonly stands up vertically. In order to keep the threads separate and make them spread evenly on the reel (or section beam), each thread is first passed between two teeth of one or more reeds, which resemble a fine comb, though closed at each end. Drawing the warp through the reed at this stage is still usually a hand process, requiring much care and labor. From the reed the threads are run upon a large reel (or beam) forming an even­spaced band, the width of which depends on the number of threads, and the length of which may be anything up to five or six hundred yards.

Enough sections are made on the reel to give the number of threads required for the width of the goods. From the reel the warp is run off upon the cylinder or beam that is to be placed in one end of the loom. Each thread of the warp must now be run through what is called the harness, which consists of a number of shafts, from each of which are suspended the heddles. As previously explained, these are cords strung between the top and bottom of each shaft with a loop or eye in the center of each cord. The threads of the warp are each drawn, one at a time, through its own eye. This operation must be done with absolute correctness, for if an eye is skipped or a thread misplaced it will show throughout the entire piece of goods. Drawing through the heddles is still done to a large extent by hand and is a tedious process.



Beaming Off Warp Cheney Brothers’ Factory






A General View of the Weave Room at Cheney Silks 1916





When a harness is on hand with the ends of an old warp in it properly arranged for a new piece of goods, there is a method of saving the trouble of drawing through the heddles by joining or twisting a thread of the new warp to each thread of the old. This twisting may be done by hand or by a mechanical twister. To each shaft are fastened the heddles that in weaving must be lifted at the same time, allowing the shuttle to pass beneath them, forming that particular pattern or weave. There may be between two and thirty shafts. After passing through the heddles, the warp is run through the weaving reed. The warp is often drawn between the teeth of this reed by hand, which requires a long time, but may be inserted with a machine. One or more threads may be passed through each dent. The loom beam, harness, and reed are then placed in the loom ready for weaving in the weft or filling.

The Weft The weft or woof consists usually of tram or slackly twisted yarn and is frequently of spun silk. A quilling machine supplied by spools of yarn winds the yarn. The quill, so­named because of its feather­like shape, is placed inside the shuttle, and will let the weft unwind as fast as the shuttle flies across the open shed. The Weaving Room The first thing that strikes one on entering a weaving room is the resounding racket, like the constant rattle of musketry. Silk weaving is still far from automatic. The weaver must keep the shuttle filled, clean the warp, keep the threads straight, and see that there are no imperfections. The loom itself lifts the warp threads, drives the shuttle flying through, pushes the reed up against the woven goods to crowd the filling into place, lifts the next set of warp threads, lets the warp off its beam as required, and takes up the goods. The arrangements of the heddles on the shafts will give almost an endless variety of weaves. One of the simplest weaves is called taffeta, where the weft may be run merely over one thread and under the next, returning over and under the alternate threads. In satin, the weft is used merely for tying together the warp, most of which is left to show on the surface.



Images from The Story of Silk and Cheney Silks. Scans courtesy of Peter Metzke


Jacquard Weaving Where the pattern is very complicated the Jacquard machine is employed. As already noted, on this system each heddle or eye, through which the warp runs, hangs from its own cord. One cord from each repeat of the pattern forms the lash which is fastened to a hook, the lifting of which before each pick or trip of the shuttle depends on whether there is a hole or not a hole in a given position on one of the cardboards that hang in festoons above the loom.

There are usually from 600 to 1,280 spaces for holes on the Jacquard card or as many as the number of lashes or the threads in a repeat of the pattern. More warp threads may be handled by joining two or three cords before they pass through the card. This doubles or triples the pattern in one width of the goods. There are as many Jacquard cards in the set as there are threads in the filling required before the pattern is completed. To repeat the pattern lengthwise, the endless chain of cards looped above the loom is simply run over and over. The designs to be transferred to the Jacquard cards are on paper ruled into small squares, each square represents a thread, and a machine, directed by hand, in accordance with the pattern, punches the cards. Ribbon and Necktie Weaving The most striking difference between ribbon and broad goods weaving is that, because of their narrowness, from 20 to 30 ribbons may be woven on the same loom at once. Each ribbon has, however, its own shuttle, but, instead of being more than a foot long, as in the case of broad goods, is only five or six inches long. It is carried by a rack and pinion back and forth, practically in plain sight, from one side of the narrow warp to the other. The same principles are applied to ribbon as to broadcloth weaving, but the warp and cloth beams are only large spools, while the shuttle seems diminutive in comparison. The weaving of tubular neckties gives much the same general impression as that of ribbon, but with a few unique exceptions. The tie is woven smaller in the neck through the narrow part. The neck is made softer with fewer picks of the shuttle per inch. Probably the most remarkable product of necktie weaving is the Cheney tubular tie. This tie is woven without a side seam or selvedge. It may be worn either side front, or turned inside out, and again exhibited either face to the world. Ties may also be knitted on machines, which regulate the different designs, by pattern wheel. Others are cut out of broad silk and sewed.


Ribbon Loom Weaving Neckties Cheney Brothers’ Factory 1916





Velvet Weaving and Finishing Cheney Brothers are the largest manufacturers of velvets in the United States. Their velvets are made in almost five hundred different colors and shades. Velvets were formerly woven over wires in such a way that on the face of the cloth, loops were formed, which could be cut open by hand to make the pile. They are now woven with two pieces, face to face, with the pile threads running up and down between them. As fast as woven a sharp knife travels back and forth between the two pieces cutting the pile threads in the center so as to leave the ends standing straight up for the pile. If dyeing has already been done in the yarn, the velvets are sent, after weaving to the shearing room. Here they are run over the large revolving cylinders of brushing machines, which clean them, and pull up, and carefully shear, or even off, the pile.

In the sizing room it is stretched to uniform width on a tentering frame, sized or starched, and ironed on back. In the finishing room, the velvet is measured on a cylinder with the length indicator, split into two widths, put through another brushing machine, dried if necessary, and softened in a breaking machine. For shipping, panne velvet is rolled up, plain velvet is folded, and both are stitched to prevent slipping and wrinkling. In the wet finishing room, chiffon velvets are wet­sprayed, run through a carder to pick up the pile, cleaned on a brushing frame, dried in a great heat box, again atomized, re­carded, dried, steamed and dried again. One of the most striking impressions about silk manufacture is the very multiplicity of processes which a piece of goods must undergo after weaving before it is ready to lay on the counter. A piece may be run over as many as one hundred fifty times in various processes after it comes from the loom before ready for shipment.

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