I apologize to my non weaving readers for something that may not be as interesting or easily understood but I have to do this.
There are three parts as I see it to this research project on the Satinet Factory in Rowe. One of the most important to me was the cloth itself. Having never seen a piece of satinet from 1840 or so I decided that the only way I could get a real visual of what they were making was to weave a piece myself.
I was pointed in the direction of a book titled The Domestic Manufacturer’s Assistant and Family Directory in the Arts of Weaving and Dyeing by J. and R. Bronson which was originally published in 1817. The book is very informative and once you get the hang of the drafts they are very easy to figure out. This is a 6 shaft satin pattern.
So I did a little math, figured out the tie ups and started winding a warp. Satinet was woven with a cotton warp and a wool weft. I think originally it was for economic reasons. Power carders and spinning were in place before the looms were so the mills prepared the fiber but the satinet was being woven by people in their homes on large barn frame looms. Subcontractors in 1822 were being paid 10 cents per yard, or about $1.93 per yard in today’s money. Satinet was also an inexpensive cloth to manufacture and the demand for it skyrocketed in the 1830’s when clothiers began using the power-loom.
After talking to a few weavers who have an interest in historic weaving I decided that I would use 20/2 cotton and begin with a sett of 36 e.p.i. (partly because I have a 12 reed and the math was easy to do) . . . (sorry, not sorry).
I think cotton makes one of the most beautiful warps. I love the sheen. The question came up before doing this little experiment if the fabric would have been yarn dyed or piece dyed. Everyone I talked to was in a different camp on this one so I decided to do a white cotton warp with dyed wool weft. This also would make it easier to study the structure and see how the weft was covering the warp at different setts and beats.
Woohoo, tied on and ready to go. The piece in the loom was 6″ in width. I used a single ply wool for the weft that seemed about the same size as the warp. It was a left over warp from Peggy’s mill so I’m not sure of the exact size. There were some slubs on the yarn which is what you see in the weaving.
I figured I’d start out with 36 p.p.i to make it balanced but found that I had to up my beat to attain 43 p.p.i. to cover the warp. Also taken into consideration was the fulling that would occur in wet finishing. I tried setting it higher – to 40 e.p.i. but that made a very stiff cloth. I wove and wet finished 2 pieces at the two different setts with all different picks per inch, both about 12 inches in the loom. When finished they both shrank to 5 1/2 by 11 1/4 which was much less than I expected.
The wrong side of the cloth is quite lovely, the fabric itself is soft and supple. It was used mostly for trousers back in the day and you can understand it. It has a nice hand but feels like it would wear extremely well. It was also used for linings in coats and to make jackets. Civil war uniforms were very often made of satinet as well. My thought as I handled the samples was that I would love to weave some yardage for a jacket, it would be very comfortable.
My guess is this fabric would have been made with finer thread for a lighter weight but until I actually see a piece of it I won’t know. The search continues here in town, we have an extensive collection of clothing. I will also contact a few other museums to see what they have in their collections but at least now I know what I’m looking for.
One thought on “The Cloth”
Very interesting post and good for you! Perhaps skilled weavers can “see” what a draft is going to look like in their heads, but I am certainly not one of those people. It is a shame, for so many reasons, that the American Textile Museum in Boston is closed. When I was getting a degree, I did a lot of research there. I see that the Textile Museum in DC, another place I loved, is part of GW university now. I am not sure they focused on American cloth, though.
I enjoyed researching textiles when I lived in MA and now that I live in SC, I am surrounded by it! Greenville SC was the textile center of the US for some time, though of course they used cotton. The history is so recent; I know several people who worked in mills to get money for college or they followed their relatives into the business.
Looking forward to reading more about your research!