1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Shoddy

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SHODDY, in origin probably a factory term and first applied to the waste thrown off or “shed” during the process of wool manufacture. It is now the name given to a special type of fabric made from remanufactured materials, i.e. materials which have already been spun into yarn and woven into cloth but have been torn up or “ground up”—as this operation is termed technically—into a fibrous mass, and respun and rewoven. The term “shoddy” is sometimes applied to all fabrics made of such remanufactured materials, of which there are many types, such as “mungos,” “extracts,” “flocks,” &c., but strictly it should be confined to a cloth produced from fabrics originally made from English and the longer cross-bred wools. Mungo is produced from fabrics originally made from Botany and short fine wools; extract is the wool fibre obtained from goods originally composed of wool and cotton from which the cotton has been “extracted” by sulphuric acid or some other agent; and flocks mostly come from milling, raising and cropping machines. There are some few other particular types of minor importance.

The operations of converting rags, tailors' clippings, &c., into these remanufactured materials are as follows: dusting, to render the subsequent operations as healthy and agreeable as possible; seaming i.e. taking out every little bit of sewing thread (unless the rags are for extracting) in order that a good “spin” may result; sorting into the various qualities and colours; oiling, to cause the fibres to glide upon one another, and thus separate so far as possible without breakage; and finally grinding, i.e. tearing up into a fibrous mass which may be readily spun into threads. The last-named operation is usually spoken of as “grinding,” but really it is anything but grinding, being more of a teasing-out operation, the object being to preserve the length of the fibre so far as possible. The remanufactured materials are necessarily very short in fibre, so that it is usually necessary to mix, i.e. “blend,” some better material with them to carry the bulk through the machines into the yarn. With this object in view, sometimes good wool or noils (the short from combing), but more often cotton, is employed. The yarns thus spun are in the majority of cases woven into pieces as weft yarns, the warps usually being cotton; but there are some exceptions, a really good mungo blend being readily woven as warp.

Upon the whole the “cheap and nasty” idea usually associated with the term “shoddy,” in reference to these remanufactured materials, is quite a mistake. Some most excellent cloths are produced, and when price is taken into consideration it must be conceded that the development of this industry has benefited the working classes of Great Britain and other countries to a remarkable extent. Many are now well clothed, who, without the advent of the remanufactured materials, would have been clothed in rags.