I recently spent a week in China visiting suppliers and one place that we went to was a fabric weaving factory. It was a wonderful education for me to see how the types of woven bottomweight cottons that we use in our baby carriers are typically made, and I was awed by the scale of the operations of this merely “medium-sized” (I was told) weaving factory.
The factory is set on a lot of land, because of course the machinery required to spin yarn into thread, spool thread, weave into fabric and put the fabric onto rolls is quite massive.
They welcomed us into the lobby of the building with offices and meeting rooms and gave us some hot water. (Hot drinking water is really popular.)
After a moment while they finished up a meeting with someone else, one employee led us on a tour of the buildings and explained the process of taking yarn and turning it into fabric.
First, the yarn is spun into thread; there was rack after rack of cones of yarn in gigantic one-story buildings, like the one below. After the yarn is spun into thread, it gets fed into a spooling machine. Like a spool of thread; just the most ginormous spool of thread you’ve ever seen in your life. The roller that looks sort of like a shuttlecock in the picture below was probably about 4 ft. tall. In the next photo, you see spooled thread waiting to be put into storage, until it’s ready to be woven. The next photo shows a weaving machine; there were rows and rows (and multiple buildings) of weaving machines all weaving away and making quite the hum. Once you have the woven cloth off the machine and onto rolls, it is put onto a machine that a quality-control worker uses to inspect for flaws. On one side the roll of fabric is mounted, is fed up over the top and passes over a translucent surface that shines light from behind, and rolls it again on the other side. The worker operates the machine with a button, letting the fabric run over the light surface, scanning it with their eyes to check for weaving flaws. If one is found, they let go of the button, the machine stops and they reverse the flawed area to the work surface in front of them. If they can, they will fix it, with a sort of crochet-hook type of tool. If it cannot be fixed, the roll will be cut there and they’ll start a new roll. The huge rolls of natural fabric are then stored (last photo) to await finishing (mostly being dyed a solid color). While most of the fabrics they were weaving were 100% cotton canvases, they also had some very cool-looking 100% recycled denim fabrics they were making; the fibers were created from old jeans, and the finished fabric had a mottled bluish-gray coloring.