LINEN and LINEN MANUFACTURES.
Under the name of linen are comprehended all yarns spun and fabrics woven from flax fibre (see FLAX). From the earliest periods of human history till almost the close of the 18th century the linen manufacture was one of the most extensive and widely disseminated of the domestic industries of European countries. The industry was most largely developed in Russia, Austria, Germany, Holland, Belgium, the northern provinces of France, and certain parts of England, in the north of Ireland, and throughout Scotland; and in these countries its importance was generally recognized by the enactment of special laws, having for their object the protection and extension of the trade. The inventions of Arkwright, Hargreaves and Crompton in the later part of the 18th century, benefiting almost exclusively the art of cotton-spinning, and the unparalleled development of that branch of textile manufactures, largely due to the ingenuity of these inventors, gave the linen trade as it then existed a fatal blow. Domestic spinning, and with it hand-loom weaving, immediately began to shrink; the trade which had supported whole villages and provinces entirely disappeared, and the linen manufacture, in attenuated dimensions and changed conditions, took refuge in special localities, where it resisted, not unsuccessfully, the further assaults of cotton, and, with varying fortunes, rearranged its relations in the com¬munity of textile industries. The linen industries of the United Kingdom were the first to suffer from the aggression of cotton; more slowly the influence of the rival textile reached other countries.
In 1810 Napoleon I. offered a reward of one million francs to any inventor who should devise the best machinery for the spinning of flax yarn. Within a few weeks thereafter Philippe de Girard (1775-1845) patented in France important inventions for flax spinning by both dry and wet methods. His inventions, however, did not receive the promised reward and were neglected in his native country. In 1815 he was invited by the Austrian govern¬ment to establish a spinning mill at Hirtenberg near Vienna, which was run with his machinery for a number of years, but it failed to prove a commercial success. In the meantime English inventors had applied themselves to the task of adapting machines to the preparation and spinning of flax. The foundation of machine spinning of flax was laid by John Kendrew and Thomas Porthouse of Darlington, who, in 1787, secured a patent for "a mill or machine upon new principles for spinning yarn from hemp, tow, flax or wool." By innumerable successive improvements and modifications, the invention of Kendrew and Porthouse developed into the perfect system of machinery with which, at the present day, spinning-mills are furnished; but progress in adapting flax fibres for mechanical spinning, and linen yarn for weaving cloth by power-loom was much slower than in the corresponding case of cotton. Till comparatively recent times, the sole spinning implements were the spindle and distaff.
The spindle, which is the fundamental apparatus in all spinning machinery, was a round stick or rod of wood about 12 in. in length, tapering towards each extremity, and having at its upper end a notch or slit into which the yarn might be caught or fixed. In general, a ring or " whorl " of stone or clay was passed round the upper part of the spindle to give it momentum and steadiness when in rotation, while in some few cases an ordinary potato served the purpose of a whorl. The distaff, or rock, was a rather longer and stronger bar or stick, around one end of which, in a loose coil or ball, the fibrous material to be spun was wound. The other extremity of the distaff was carried under the left arm, or fixed in the girdle at the left side, so as to have the coil of flax in a convenient position for drawing out to form the yarn. A prepared end of yarn being fixed into the notch, the spinster, by a smart rolling motion of the spindle with the right hand against the right leg, threw it out from her, spinning in the air, while, with the left hand, she drew from the rock an additional supply of fibre which was formed into a uniform and equal strand with the right. The yarn being sufficiently twisted was released from the notch, wound around the lower part of the spindle, and again fixed in the notch at the point insufficiently twisted; and so the rotating, twisting and drawing out operations went on till the spindle was full. So persistent is an ancient and primitive art of this description that in remote districts of Scotland—a country where machine spinning has attained a high standard—spinning with rock and spindle is still practised;1 and yarn of extraordinary delicacy, beauty and tenacity has been spun by their agency. The first improvement on the primitive spindle was found in the construction of the hand-wheel, in which the spindle, mounted in a frame, was fixed horizontally, and rotated by a band passing round it and a large wheel, set in the same framework. Such a wheel became known in Europe about the middle of the 16th century, but it appears to have been in use for cotton spinning in the East from time immemorial. At a later date, which cannot be fixed, the treadle motion was attached to the spinning wheel, enabling the spinster to sit at work with both hands free; and the intro¬duction of the two-handed or double-spindle wheel, with flyers or twisting arms on the spindles, completed the series of mechanical improvements effected on flax spinning till the end of the 18th century. The common use of the two-handed wheel throughout the rural districts of Ireland and Scotland is a matter still within the recollection of some people; but spinning wheels are now seldom seen. The modern manufacture of linen divides itself into two branches, spinning and weaving, to which may be added the bleaching and various finishing processes, which, in the case of many linen textures, are laborious undertakings and important branches of industry. The flax fibre is received in bundles from the scutch mill, and after having been classed into various grades, according to the quality of the material, it is labelled and placed in the store ready for the flax mill. The whole operations in yarn manufacture comprise (i) hackling, 2) , preparing and (3) spinning.
This first preparatory process consists not only in combing out, disentangling and laying smooth and parallel the separate fibers, but also serves to split up and separate into their ultimate filaments the strands of fiber which, up to this point have been agglutinated together. The hackling process was originally performed by hand, and it was one of fundamental importance, requiring the exercise of much dexterity and judgment. 1 The broken, raveled and short fibers, which separate out in the hackling process, form tow, an article of much inferior value to the spinner. A good deal of hand-hackling is still practiced, especially in Irish and continental mills; and it has not been found practicable, in any case, to dispense entirely with a rough preparation of the fiber by hand labor. In hackling by hand, the hackler takes a handful or " strick " of rough flax, winds the top end around his hands, and then, spreading out the root end as broad and flat as possible, by a swinging motion dashes the fibre into the hackle teeth or needles of the rougher or " ruffer." The rougher is a board, plated with tin, and studded with spikes or teeth of steel about 7 in. in length, which taper to a fine sharp point. The hackler draws his strick several times through this tool, working gradually up from the roots to near his hand, till in his judgment the fibres at the root end are sufficiently combed out and smoothed. He then seizes the root end and similarly treats the top end of the strick. The same process is again repeated on a similar tool, the teeth of which are 5 in. long, and much more closely studded together; and for the finer counts of yarn a third and a fourth hackle may be used, of still increasing fineness and closeness of teeth. In dealing with certain varieties of the fibre, for fine spinning especially, the flax is, after roughing, broken or cut into three lengths—the top, middle and root ends. Of these the middle cut is most valuable, being uniform in length, strength and quality. The root end is : more woody and harsh, while the top, though fine in quality, is uneven and variable in strength. From some flax of extra length it is possible to take two short middle cuts; and, again, the fibre is occasionally only broken into two cuts. Flax so prepared is known as " cut line " in contradistinction to " long line ' flax, which is the fibre unbroken. The subsequent treatment of line, whether long or cut, does not present sufficient variation to require further reference to these distinctions. In the case of hackling by machinery, the flax is first roughed and arranged in stricks, as above described under hand hackling. In the construction of hackling machines, the general principles of those now most commonly adopted are identical. The machines are known as vertical sheet hackling machines, their essential features being a set of endless leather bands or sheets revolving over a pair of rollers in a vertical direction. These sheets are crossed by iron bars, to which hackle stocks, furnished with teeth, are screwed. The hackle stocks on each separate sheet are of one size and gauge, but each successive sheet in the length of the machine is furnished with stocks of increasing fineness, so that the hackling tool at the end where the flax is entered is the coarsest, say about four pins per inch, while that to which the fibre is last submitted has the smallest and most closely set teeth. The finest tools may contain from 45 to 60 pins per inch. Thus the whole of the endless vertical revolving sheet presents a continuous series of hackle teeth, and the machines are furnished with a double set of such sheets revolving face to face, so close together that the pins of one set of sheets intersect those on the opposite stocks. Overhead, and exactly centered between these revolving sheets, is the head or holder channel, from which the flax hangs down while it is undergoing the hackling heavy flat plates of iron, between which it is spread and tightly screwed up. The holder is II in. in length, and the holder channel is fitted to contain a line of six, eight or twelve such holders, according to the number of separate bands of hackling stocks in the machine. The head or holder channel has a falling and rising motion, by which it first presents the ends and gradually more and more of the length of the fibre to the hackle teeth, and, after dipping down the full length of the fibre exposed, it slowly rises and lifts the flax clear of the hackle stocks. By a reciprocal motion all the holders are then moved forward one length; that at the last and finest set of stocks is thrown out, and place is made for filling in an additional holder at the beginning of the series. Thus with a six-tool hackle, or set of stocks, each holder full of flax from beginning to end descends into and rises from the hackle teeth six times in travelling from end to end of the machine. The root ends being thus first hackled, the holders are shot back along an inclined plane, the iron plates , undamped, the flax reversed, and the top ends are then submitted to the same hackling operation. The tow made during the hackling process is carried down by the pins of the sheet, and is stripped from them by means of a circular brush placed immediately under the bottom roller. The brush revolves in the same direction as, but quicker than the sheet,- consequently the tow is withdrawn from the pins. The tow is then removed from the brush by a doffer roller, from which it is finally removed by a doffing knife. This material is then carded by a machine similar to, but finer than, the one described under JUTE (q.v.). The hackled flax, however, is taken direct to the preparing department.