High school courses in subjects such as shop, mechanical drawing, and chemistry, and hobbies involving model building and working with machinery can be good preparation for many jobs in the textile manufacturing field. Students may be able to find summer employment in a textile plant. If that cannot be arranged, a machine operator's job in another manufacturing industry may provide a similar enough experience that it is useful in understanding something about textile manufacturing work.
Most textile workers operate or tend machines. In the most modern plants, the machines are often quite sophisticated and include computerized controls.
Workers in textile manufacturing can be grouped in several categories. Some workers operate machines that clean and align fibers, draw and spin them into yarn, and knit, weave, or tuft the yarn into textile products. Other workers, usually employees of chemical companies, tend machines that produce synthetic fibers through chemical processes. Still other workers prepare machines before production runs. They set up the equipment, adjusting timing and control mechanisms, and they often maintain the machines as well. Another category of workers specializes in finishing textile products before they are sent out to consumers. The following paragraphs describe just a few of the many kinds of specialized workers in textile manufacturing occupations.
In the transformation of raw fiber into cloth, staple cutters may perform one of the first steps. They place opened bales of raw stock or cans of sliver (combed, untwisted strands of fiber) at the feed end of a cutting machine. They guide the raw stock or sliver onto a conveyor belt or feed rolls, which pull it against the cutting blades. They examine the cut fibers as they fall from the blades and measure them to make sure they are the required length.
Spinneret operators oversee machinery that makes manufactured fibers from such nonfibrous materials as metal or plastic. Chemical compounds are dissolved or melted in a liquid, which is then extruded, or forced, through holes in a metal plate, called a spinneret. The size and shape of the holes determine the shape and uses of the fiber. Workers adjust the flow of fiber base through the spinneret, repair breaks in the fiber, and make minor adjustments to the machinery.
Frame spinners, also called spinning-frame tenders, tend machines that draw out and twist the sliver into yarn. These workers patrol the spinning-machine area to ensure that the machines have a continuous supply of sliver or roving (a soft, slightly twisted strand of fiber made from sliver). They replace nearly empty packages of roving or sliver with full ones. If they detect a break in the yarn being spun, or in the roving or sliver being fed into the spinning frame, they stop the machine and repair the break. They are responsible for keeping a continuous length of material threaded through the spinning frame while the machine is operating.
Spinning supervisors supervise and coordinate the activities of the various spinning workers. From the production schedule, they determine the quantity and texture of yarn to be spun and the type of fiber to be used. Then they compute such factors as the proper spacing of rollers and the correct size of twist gears, using mathematical formulas and tables and their knowledge of spinning machine processes. They examine the spun yarn as it leaves the spinning frame to detect variations from standards.
A textile production worker adjusts the tension on one of the rapier weaving machines. Once the fiber is spun into yarn or thread, it is ready for weaving, knitting, or tufting. Woven fabrics are made on looms that interlace the threads. Knit products, such as socks or women's hosiery, are produced by intermeshing loops of yarn. The tufting process, used in making carpets, involves pushing loops of yarn through a material backing.
Beam-warper tenders work at high-speed warpers, which are machines that automatically wind yarn onto beams, or cylinders, preparatory to dyeing or weaving. A creel, or rack of yarn spools, is positioned at the feed end of the machine. The workers examine the creel to make sure that the size, color, number, and arrangement of the yarn spools correspond to specifications. They thread the machine with the yarn from the spools, pulling the yarn through several sensing devices and fastening the yarn to the empty cylinder. After setting a counter to record the amount of yarn wound, they start the machine. If a strand of yarn breaks, the machine stops, and the tenders locate and tie the broken ends. When the specified amount of yarn has been wound, they stop the machine, cut the yarn strands, and tape the cut ends.
Weavers or loom operators operate a battery of automatic looms that weave yarn into cloth. They observe the cloth being woven carefully to detect any flaws, and they remove weaving defects by cutting out the filling (cross) threads in the area. If a loom stops, they locate the problem and either correct it or, in the case of mechanical breakdown, notify the appropriate repairer.
After the fabric is removed from the loom, it is ready for dyeing and finishing, which includes treating fabrics to make them fire-, shrink-, wrinkle-, or soil-resistant.
Dye-range operators control the feed end of a dye range, which is an arrangement of equipment that dyes and dries cloth. Operators position the cloth to be dyed and machine-sew its end to the end of the cloth already in the machine. They turn valves to admit dye from a mixing tank onto the dye pads, and they regulate the temperature of the dye and the air in the drying box. They start the machine, and when the process is complete, they record yardage dyed, lot numbers, and the machine running time. Colorists, screen printing artists, screen makers, and screen printers print designs on textiles.
Cloth testers perform tests on "gray goods"—raw, undyed, unfinished fabrics—and finished cloth samples. They may count the number of threads in a sample, test its tensile strength in a tearing machine, and crease it to determine its resilience. They may also test for such characteristics as abrasion resistance, fastness of dye, flame retardance, and absorbency, depending on the type of cloth.