From Fleece to Fashion

Finishing processes

When cloth has been woven it is loose and full of gaps. In the past many different finishing processes would be used to make the cloth ready for use. These include: 

  • Perching 
    Cloth is examined for broken threads, holes or stains. It is put on large overhead rollers and the percher uses chalk to mark out the faults on the cloth to be fixed.

  • Burling 
    Small objects like broken burrs are taken out of the cloth by tweezers called burling iron s. Mending involves repairing broken or weak faults in the cloth. It is a very skilled job because the mender has to know how the cloth was put together.

  • Knotting
    A lot like Burling. Someone looks closely at the cloth and feels for any small knots, which are removed with a burling iron.

  • Fulling and Milling 
    Fulling and Milling pull the fibres in cloth together using water, heat, pressure and friction to produce a thicker, softer and more waterproof cloth. Big open wooden tubs were filled with water and stale urine and the cloth is placed inside. Originally people would trample it with their foot, which would have been tiring and smelly work. People who carried out fulling were called ' Walkers' and  this is where the surname Walker originates from. 

  • Raizing
    This process softens the colours, patterns and texture of the cloth by lifting up the pile (the surface of the fabric). It can be carried out by hand or by machine. A raising gig uses teasel. When these are rolled over the woven fabric the pile is combed and raised.

  • Cropping
    Cutting or cropping is where fibres are cut to the same length. It was originally done manually, using large cropping shears. Croppers were amongst the most skilled highest paid in the textile trade before the introduction of the Rotary Cutting Machine. Operating like a lawn mower, the material is placed between a fixed blade and rotating spiral blades.

  • Folding
    This finally prepares the cloth for sale! It is done in two stages, 'rigging' and 'cuttling'. Rigging folds the cloth along the centre. This is then folded into cuttles about 16 inches wide. When this was done by hand it was very hard work and needed two people. The Rigging and Cuttling machine with its sloped triangular table and guiding rollers folded the cloth quickly and effectively.

  • Making the finished garment
    In the tailoring trade, clothes are made to fixed sizes. The clothes you are wearing now will have come in a certain size. For example, when you buy trousers or a skirt you take the waist size which is the nearest best fit. This standardisation is needed in order that items can be mass produced. In a tailoring factory clothes are cut to set pattern shapes. A machine cuts the cloth for individual parts of each item of clothing which is to be made. The parts are then assembled using sewing machines. 


Assemble - put together
Burrs - prickly seeds of plants
Fibres - individual thin threads in cloth
Finishing - tasks that complete the production process in the manufacture of textiles
Mass produced - goods made on a large scale in a factory
Standardisation - to  make things in the same way or in fixed sizes
Tailoring - making clothes to fit someone
Teasel - tool used to raise the small fibres sticking up from the surface of fabric

View other relevant My Learning resources or see the teachers' notes page for discussion and activity ideas.

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Document icon Learning article provided by: Armley Mills Museum, Leeds Museums and Galleries | 
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