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The Cotton Journey
Cotton arrived at the Mill in large bales. It would leave in a very different form. Natural fibres like cotton and wool are spun before they can be woven into cloth. The spinning mill, like New Lanark would spin the cotton into fine yarn or thread. This involved many different processes.
A willowing machine had a revolving drum, that used air to separate the fine cotton wool from the waste. Cottons of very fine quality weren't passed through a willow. In the early days, they were beaten by hand using twigs! Coarser cotton varieties were batted by a scutching or blowing machine. This type of machine beat the cotton with blades. The cotton then moved through the machine on spiked cylinders that rotated quickly. The waste fell through the wire beneath.
Once clean, a lapping machine squeezed the cleaned cotton between rollers to form a flattened sheet called a lap. The lap would come out the front of the machine. It was now ready to put on a carding machine.
Finally, these larger tubes were twisted by a roving machine to strengthen it. Each machine could have from 30-120 spindles on it! The cotton was finally wound onto bobbins. At last it is ready for spinning!
Spinning turns cotton slivers into yarn. Yarn is the name given to the thin lengths of cotton thread used in the weaving process. Yarns of different thickness are used to make cloth of different qualities. There is a working spinning mule still at work at New Lanark today.
A Spinning Mule spun finer, stronger thread than other spinning machines like the Water Frame and the Spinning Jenny. It was called a Mule because it was a cross between these two other machines! Some mills used other machines to spin thicker yarns. Spinning on a Water Frame for example was often called throstle spinning.
The machine moved back and forward pulling, stretching and twisting the cotton into thin threads called yarn. There are 392 spindles on the machine at New Lanark today, so 392 lengths of thread are spun at the same time! The finest yarn was the thinnest. It was also the most expensive as it took longer to make. Once the required thickness of yarn was spun, it was wound by the machine onto a pirn or bobbin. These became known as cops when they were full or yarn. The pirns had to be replaced with empty ones regularly. This was a doffer's job and was normally done by children.
In 1813 there were over 30,000 spindles at work in New Lanark Mills. They spun 24 tonnes of cotton every week.
The next part of the process was preparing the thread for weaving or packaging the thread to be sent to customers. This wasn't done without checking the quality very carefully of course! Other workers were involved in doing these finishing tasks like winders (tending machines that wound the yarn).
This is an export label that was attached to packages of yarn sent to Russia from New Lanark. New Lanark cotton was sent all over the world.
|New Lanark World Heritage Site
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