One of the members of my American Sewing Guild group organized a field trip to a local textile mill specializing in knits called Texollini. According to our guide, Merchandizing Director Sherry Wood, the plant is one of the few vertically integrated plants left on the West Coast. Fabric is knitted, dyed, and printed all in one facility.
It was a real education in the planning, technology, and skill needed to produce textiles. Texollini knits in the round on huge machines, using yarns from all over the world. We paid close attention to the creation of two different textiles, one a very fine knit most likely for lingerie, and another adding lycra for stretch. The machines operate automatically, but it takes hours of skilled labor to thread them. They can knit polyester, rayons, cotton, wool, linen, and even cashmere in a variety of textures.
After watching the knitted tubes split open, washed, and dried, we moved on to the dying facility. Here long swaths of fabric fed into machines that looked a little like submarines. The dying process takes hours to complete. Afterward the dye bath is filtered for harmful chemicals before it is put into the sewage system.
The plant includes a good sized quality control section, where dyes are first developed. They produce samples that are tested for color, shrinkage, stretch, and piling. Once the customer is satisfied, a full order goes into production.
Texollini knits to order. On the day we were there, we saw plain jersey polyester fabric knitted and dyed. Unfortunately nothing was being printed, but the big rotary screen printing machines were on view. Thousands of cylinders are stored on site to print unique designs; clients can also use the design staff to create new patterns.
Seeing the laborious creation process for textiles made me rethink my sewing habits. It takes so much time and effort to produce fabric, I’m going to take extra care when I use it.