Discover Fabrication


Mills and Factories Make Things


"Fabrication," the act or process of making things, comes from the Latin 'faber', worker in metal or stone. We tend to thing of 'fabric' in terms of cloth and textiles, but the broader meaning is of pieces put together in some kind of structure. Buildings, automobiles and ships are fabricated. We even speak of the "fabric of society," in reference to the structure of laws and customs that bind us together as Americans. Mill villages fabricated many different products.

"Plain Weave"- Sheeting, Shirting, Seamless Bags

  Plain weaves, two interlaced "warp and "weft" yarns, make the simplest and most basic fabrics. The first power-loom factories made sheeting and shirting, stout utilitarian fabrics about half the weight of canvas. The Deep River factories all made variations of plain weaves. Seamless cotton bags were introduced in Franklinville in 1872; they were woven tubes invented in the Amoskeag Mill of Manchester New Hampshire in the 1850's. reuseable seamless bags rapidly replaced barrels in the shipping of flour, meal, salt and sugar.  

"Fancy Goods"- Plaids and 'Factory Checks'

  Not all colored fabrics required fancy multi-harness looms; striped fabrics could easily be woven with plain weaves. But checked patterns, "houndstooth," gingham and plaids required multi-harness and multi-"box" looms with more than one color of weft or filling yarn. The first plaids are said to have been woven in the Holt family's Alamance factory, but the kind of loom used is unknown. In the later nineteenth century Crompton and Knowles fancy looms were the standard choice for complicated weaves.  

Heavy Weights- Twill, Flannel, Denim

  Twill is herringbone pattern that requires more than the two plain weave harnesses. Cheap flannel can be a plain weave, but expensive grades are twills. Either version must be "napped" on one side by another machine to make it feel soft and fuzzy. Denim or "jeans cloth" is also a twill. "Bull denim" is the color of natural cotton, and later dyed. Blue jean denim is dyed with blue indigo, more like a chalky paint than a dye, which is the reason the color tends to gradually wear off at creases.  

Knitting and Sewing

Knitting on a "Stocking frame" was invented in France in the early 19th century; the introduction of these into England gave rise to the "Luddite" uprising, where hand knitters destroyed the new frames and burned factories. Hand crank stocking knitting machines became available in the 1850's, and independent knitting factories began to be established in the 1890's, first in Randleman, then in High Point.  

Sewing was the last textile craft to be mechanized, in the 1830s and 40s. This led to the creation of the mass production of apparel, a business which quickly learned to exploit the cheap immigrant labor found in urban areas and led eventually to the introduction of workplace health and safety laws.

Pieces and Parts- Wood and Iron Working

  The need for replacement parts for spinning frames and looms meant that independent woodworking shops set up to turn bobbins and shuttles from local lumber. Later they began turning posts for chairs, and making furniture. For the same reason blacksmiths set up shop in villages to repair machinery of all sorts. The Bush Creek Iron works in Franklinville also processed the iron ore from Iron Mountain, about 3 miles away, making pig iron and casting specialty parts.