Churchill Weavers Under the Microscope
by Adam MacPharlain
Hello everyone! My name is Adam MacPharlain and I am the Churchill Weavers’ assistant project specialist.
Just a brief bit about me: I came onto the Churchill Weavers project back at the end of April, I have a background in costume (fashion) history and I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to textiles. When I came to KHS, I brought with me a fun little gadget called a handheld digital microscope. It plugs into my computer and allows me to take magnified images (up to 200x zoom) of just about anything.
Textiles look very different under the microscope, which can give us helpful clues about the structure and makeup of any given piece. If you can get REALLY close, you can tell what type of fiber is used in the yarn, whether it be wool, cotton, silk or so on. Each fiber, especially a natural one, has its own appearance. Cotton has small twists throughout it, wool has scales and linen looks like tiny bamboo stalks. Synthetic fibers, like polyester and nylon, are harder to tell, even under the microscope. Because they’re man-made, they can be made in any shape the manufacturer wants.
Churchill Weavers used a variety of fibers throughout their history. During the company’s formative years, they primarily used wool. They began using acrylic yarns in the early 1950s, not long after Dupont created its OrlonTM acrylic fiber. They experimented with real and synthetic metallic threads (the real ones made of copper or brass, the synthetic ones made of plastics).
Take a look at the photo gallery below to see some microscopic view of pieces from our Churchill Weavers fabric archive, which show: (left) metallic thread twisted around a core, part of fabric yardage by Knodel; (second from left) rayon chenille yarn detail; (second from right) cotton fibers from throw style, number 49034, Box 31-1702; and (right) acrylic fibers from baby blanket style, number 3D64, Box 31-1176.
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