Finishing of the Knitwear

The finishing of hand- and machine-made knitwear is discussed here jointly, taking into account the slight differences which appeared in relation to the character of the product, its shape, mode of use, quality, and above all, the raw material from which it was made. Among the finishing treatments the following should be mentioned: washing, the fulling of the woollen products and then, their combing, shearing, the washing as well as cleansing of products made of silk, wool and also of linen yarn, dyeing and modelling of all the products, which gives them the required shape on special forms, lining, finishing of the more expensive ones with embroidery, decorating with ribbons, or other extras under a hot iron or in special presses. Among the final finishing tasks was the selection of the products in pairs or dozens and the packing of them for the whole-sale or retail market. Thne stitching of products made on two needles or on the flat knitting frame belonged to the tasks usually done directly after completion of the appropriate production process of the knitwear. In sporadic cases, however, certain changes were made in the above-mentioned sequence of finishing. For example, sometimes as yet unstitched products would be dyed, and also fulled.

All knitted products made of wool, immediately following completion and sometimes after dyeing, or may be before this step, were rinsed in a special fuller's solution and subjected to fulling of varying of intensity. The felting of the sometimes loosely knitted fabrics in hot water was an essential step to give them greater durability and thickness. Fulling would obliterate the errors of over-hasty knitting, smoothen out the faults in thick coarse yarn and give the products suitable thickness while simultaneously reducing their dimensions. The felted surface of knitwear gave protection against running stitches and then it became possible to lightly shear the loose threads without the risk of weakening the durability of the product. But even strongly felted knitted gods did not have the closed surface of fulled cloth. Even in products of thick wool it is possible to discern the stocking stitch on the surface, while fragments of more closed surface result less from the felting than from their long use. We can cite as an example the strongly felted and almost stiff Dutch knitted hats of Peter 1 preserved in Leningrad in the Hermitage. (II. 29)

The knitter's small fulling mill performed similar tasks to the clothier's fullery. It involved the manual or mechanical kneading of the products in a stamp or ordinary trought with warm water mixed with fuller's clay or soap, Major differences in the structure of this implement arise from the smaller dimensions and volume of the knitted products undergoing finishing. The process of fulling of small quantities of stockings, socks, gloves or caps could quite adequately be done in a large trough placed in the workshop, while the fulling of large carpets had to be done in a clothier's fullery by means of wooden rammers, propelled by the force of water. In this book the discussion centres mainly on knitted garment products. In our case, the size of the fullery depended on the volume and dimensions of production. Small troughs were adequate for workshop products, while the production of large manufactures required fulleries of larger capacity.

An example of a large fullery comes from the Poneggen hosiery manufacture in Austria. The dyed stockings were taken to the fulling mill in the main corn mill "where the fulling mill and the fulling stocks were maintained at the factory's expense. The vats were heated, and the fulling stocks and the hammers were to be thoroughly washed with cold water to prevent sand from getting into the stockings. Ten dozen stockings could be fulled in each stock, and they were to be alternately washed with cold, warm and hot water, next with alkaline solution and finally with soap until all dirt was gone and the water was entirely clear". Such a large fullery was also found in Wroclaw and in Wschowa31 and this investment points to major productions of woollen knitting.

A manual fullery for felting hand-knitted products has been preserved in the Etnoraphic Museum in Cracow. II. 25 It comes from Tyniec, an important centre of production of knitted caps, existing there from at least eighteenth century. It conjures up the troughs mentioned in numerous probate inventories of knitting workshops from the early nineteenth century.32 It is a fairly large trough and on its furrowed bottom, woollen knitwear would be kneaded, while hot water mixed with fuller's clay or later soap was being poured over it. This fullery reminds one of the troughs preserved in Jutland where small woollen products were also kneaded manually in furrowed troughs. I. Stankovâ presents the small fullery from Bohemia and the process of fulling some stockings in a pail. II. 26 Some small fullery were also published in Hungary. Such a small sized fulling mill was also used in Tunisia for the finishing of knitted caps.33

Fulling of hand-knitted products made of coarse wool was referred to in all guild regulations as an indispensable finishing step. For example, the rules for knitters in Rouen, being repeated from the beginning of the seventeenth century, require that: "tous les ouvrages de bonneterie en laine seront foules à la main dégraissés avec du savon vert foules à deux eaux vives avec du savon de Marseille ou de Gênes, et tors de façon qu'il n'y reste aucune impureté, et que lesdits ouvrages puissent recovoir les autres apprêts avec plus de perfection; et si en foulant lesdits ouvrages, il s'y fait quelques cassures, elles seront rentraitées et racoutrés aves de la laine de pareille qualité ou avec de la soie plate de la même couleur que cells desdits ouvrages".34 There is no mention here of the use of fuller's clay, although it was probably used for the initial removal of fat from the products. Emphasized, however, is the necessity of using good quality soap and carefully repairing any holes or other defects in the fulled knitwear. It emerges from the text that silk products were also probably lightly rinsed in this fulling solution, since they were required to be inspected and repaired with silk yarn.

Greater production, even if these were just hand-knitted goods caused environmental pollution during the fulling of the products. For this reason, numerous guild regulations in different countries demand that fulleries are located in the outskirts of a town. For example, according to the 1698 regulations from Compiègne, stocking fullers were to rinse and felt their products in places far removed from dwelling-houses, near canals and drains. Similarly with dyers, they were also forbidden under penalty of fine to pour the water from manual fulleries on to the street.35 The Parisian knitters' statute from 1627 orders the painstaking execution, fulling and finishing of two types of men's headgear, called almuce and crémiolle, and of two types of ladies' headwear, which then had to be modelled, ironed and embellished; in addition, it demands the production of fulled woollen stockings.36 The Strassburg knitters' guild regulations require the painstaking fulling of all woollen products and then their stretching and shapping while damp. In all regulations the weight that particular products should have was scrupulously given, as this was the measure of their quality taking into account the amount of raw material used.37 The 1747 hand-knitters' guild regulations of Austria, Moravia and Hungary required from a journeyman simultaneous fulling of an armful of woollen stockings, and daily he had to process four such armfuls in a manual fullery, which meant, a 3-4 hours' job.38 Many hand-books mention manual fulling of woollen knitwear, and such troughs were found in all more important centres of this production, as for example in Silesia in Wroclaw from 1534, in Wielkopolska in Wschowa, Dzialoszyn and Zduny.39.

Careful fulling of machine-made products was indicated in the earliest regulations pertaining to the first centres of production. Thus, for example, the 1692 regulations, relating to all French towns which were entitled to use knitting machines, demand: Les ouvrages quise feront sur le métier avec de la laine ne pourront être fouler qu'avec du savon blanc ou vert à bras ou aux pieds. Fait Sa Majesté défences aux fouleurs des dits ouvrages de se servir d'autres instruments que de râteliers de bois ou a dents d'os, et aux foulonniers à fouler draps et d'étoffes de recevoir dans leurs moulins des bas et d'autres ouvrages faits au métier pour les fouler".40 It emerges from these regulations that in a manual fullery, hands and feet were used for fulling, while the strict prohibition against doing this work in clothiers' fulleries points to the concern for the quality of the first French machine-made products. Fulling of armfuls of woollen stockings in a clothier's fullery could result in an uneven thickening of the stockings and even in their damage. At the same time, this prohibition testifies to the use of clothiers' fulleries driven by water power for the felting of less expensive knitted products. The order that wooden or bone teeth be used in manual fulleries precluded all metals which could damage and leave rust stains on the knitted products. II. 24

Knitters' fulleries used for the felting of machine-made woollen products were, more frequently than were the contraptions of the hand-knitters' guilds, located on separate premises. They also underwent minor modifications resulting in a general improvement in the efficiency of this production. A detailed description of such a fullery is found in the Great French Encyclopedia and shows the technique by which the products of the powerful eighteenth century French knitting industry were fulled. The illustration 11. 27 presents a rather large room with a stove for heating water in cauldrons. The fullery itself differs, however, from the preserved troughs of the hand-knitting establishments only by a tap for pouring and releasing the water. It consist of a large wooden trough in which the products were manually fulled, kneading them against the wooden grooves. Rows of blunt teeth facilitate this work. A similar contraption is described by J. Beckmann. This was also a trough with a ribbed bottom. From other descriptions in German hand-books from the end of the eighteenth century we learn that the products placed in the trough were kneaded with a corrugated board while simultaneously soaking in hot soapy water. R. Vaultier has published an illustration of an itinerant knitter from the seventeenth century, who was carrying a small fullery with a corrugated board.41 11.6 Next, they were laid out on a dense wicker wattle to allow some of the water to be drained off. These were, however, only different versions of the manually-propelled arrangement and operated on the same principle as the more primitive hand-knitting fulleries.

Usually immediately after the woollen goods had been fulled, they were subjected to bleaching and dyeing, while other products underwent this treatment after their initial rinsing. The earlier mentioned French regulations from 1692 prohibit the use of "aucune craye ni blanc", i.e. chalk or whitening, for bleaching the knitted goods.42 Only at the end of the eighteenth century was there a technical revolution in the bleaching of various types of textiles.43 Therefore, in the period under discussion, the bleaching of woollen, cotton or linen knitted goods did not play a very significant role in the finishing process of these products. The emphasis was put rather on trying to produce them from already bleached, or sometimes also dyed, yarn. French regulations from 1692 require, apart from dyeing in black, the production of silk stockings from previously dyed silk yarn.44 The same proceeding was taken in the production of other knitted goods. The process of dyeing required the products to be boiled in dyers' vats, which could cause them to stretch or generally change their dimensions, There were, however, cases of completed products being dyed, particularly, with indigo blue, data on this subject coming, lor instance, from Compiegne.45

Fulled, and sometimes also dyed, knitted products were dried on wooden froms giving them the required shape and removing the deformations caused by stretching during rinsing or by shrinking during fulling. Wooden forms for drying stockings, gloves, caps or hats are seen in all iconographic representations of interiors of knitting craft workshops or manufactures, Such forms were also carried by itinerant knitters, the Spaniard on his back, the Frenchman attached to a box with ribbed frame probably representing a small fullery. (11. 6 and 9) Among them, the most frequently encountered are the forms for stockings, less often for gloves, cuffs, caps, and hats. R. Vaultier gives a picture of a German woman occupieci with hand knitting, with forms for two types of caps, five-fingered glovs and one-fingered mittens.46 Larger knitting workshops with a wide variety of products were supposed to have forms for all the articles in several or more sizes. On these forms thicker knitted goods were simply dried near a hot stove, more expensive products at a certain distance from it. These froms underwent changes with successive changes in fashion, a study of the relics kept in European museums together with a determination of their dating according to changes in fashion for the various types of stockings or headgear, would be an interesting task.

Partly dried woollen knitwear was subjected to roughing with thistle brushes or with combs to raise the hairs which were then sheared with large scissors. Pictures of thistle brushes and large scissors are found on many guild insignia, for instance, from Poland, Bohemia and Hungary, and also on the knitted Alsace carpets.47. The work of combing and shearing of knitted woollen stockings is shown on three iconographie representations of knitting workshops: two German ones, from 1698 and the eighteenth century, and a French one from the middle of the eighteenth century. II. 15 The authors of many studies on the history of knitting in different countries generally did not take note of these activities in the presented iconographie material of workshops or guild insignia. They belived that knitted goods should not be sheared as this would cause the stitches to run, i.e., the products to come apart. However, even a superficial analysis of the numerous preserved relics of knitted products made of coarse wool enables us to affirm that fulling thickened the products to such a degree thate there was no question of the stiches running. At the same time, shearing involved only those long hairs sticking out of the smooth surface of the knitwear.

Knitted garments made of silk, linen or cotton yarn were modelled on wooden forms of appropriate size, a scrupulous check being kept of the weight of individual items. Embellishment of the more expensive stockings with embroidered gussets remained in fashion throughout the seventeenth and part of the eighteenth century. Embroidery women usually worked with seamstresses who were stitching together machine-made products. In Nîmes itself, there were over 2000 of them at the end of the eighteenth century/8 Detailed French regulations from 1692 inform us about the procedure with products made of a couple of types of yarn, for example of wool and silk. They were knitted on machines with densely set needles and painstakingly finished, marking on each product the master's name and place of production.49 All products, irrespective of type of raw material, after modelling on the forms, were ironed. There is no mention of the use of presses, so most probably this was done with an ordinary iron. Thanks to the ironing, the knitted garments acquired a sheen, a compact surface and a soft feel. At the same time, irroning could not weaken the effect of the earlier refining of the surface of the rippled knitwear,50 obtained by felting and roughing with thistle brushes. Perhaps in European centres of mass-produced knitwear, presses similar to those of the clothiers were already in use. However, small knitted items, such as garment parts, could be finished off better by using an iron. The last finishning step was matching particular products into pairs and dozens, packing them.

occasionally lining and embellishing them with ribbons or others. This pertains mainly to headgear, but also stockings, gloves, as well as whole garments were finished off with accessories.

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  • Tanta
    How to remove irroned embrodery?
    7 years ago
  • gundolpho
    How to finishing knitwear?
    7 years ago
  • nicla marcelo
    What is the finishing process of a knitwear?
    6 years ago

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