Saturday, September 21, 2013

Good news on the textile front

I don't often recommend you read articles in the newspaper, but yesterday's New York Times had a fascinating, detailed explanation of how some textile factories in the U.S. are actually getting business back from Asia because they can make better fabric and garments, despite our higher labor costs.

The article focuses on a new company making high-end sweatshirts. The company started out using a textile mill in India, but had problems with quality control, turnaround time and bureaucratic hassles. Recently it brought the manufacturing back home to a plant in South Carolina that can actually produce the fabric for less than the plant in India.  Also there are no customs duties and less than a third the shipping costs.

photo -- New York Times
In the Parkdale textile plant, Gaffney SC

Those of us who love textiles and use them in our work should be intrigued by this -- dare we call it a trend?  At one time or another we've all bemoaned the spotty quality in a bolt of fabric, wished we weren't losing jobs to other countries, or worried about the appalling working conditions of overseas textile and garment workers.  It would be nice if we could make more of our precious fabrics here at home.

The key to this resurgence of American textile manufacturing, as with other types of manufacturing, is automation.  The yarn mill in South Carolina featured in the article needs 140 workers to make a quantity of product that would have required more than 2,000 workers in 1980.

I commend this article to you -- if for no other reason than the mesmerizing videos of yarn being spun and fabric being woven.


  1. good news. automation wow, that's a huge difference in the number of jobs available. hope we get some quilting fabric made here again too.

  2. I was going to recommend this article too. I remember reading in a quilt magazine back in the 1990's about the discharge from textile mills in the south and how that was so damaging to the water source for nearby communities. I started to look at my quilting fabrics with suspicion. When production went overseas, fabric prices rose and that's not because of expensive labor. I would be happy to pay more for fabric produced in a local factory that supports a healthy environment for its workers and is conscious of how it affects the surrounding neighborhood. Eliminating transportation costs just might be the ticket. Interestingly, all of the textile mills in my area are now rented by artists, many of them working in fabric. What goes around comes around, in a good way of course. Take care, Byrd