The cotton industry developed in the second half of the 18thcentury in England. Compared to wool, another natural fibre, cotton has the advantage of being able to be worn throughout the year.
In Italy, the first cotton mills were built in Lombardy in the second half of the 19th century. Most mills were built beside rivers, where hydraulic energy and the abundant labour force could power and operate the mills continuously.
From plant to yarn
Cotton is a plant-based textile fibre consisting of a thick down that covers the seeds and, when fully grown, is as large as an egg.
In the 1800s, cotton was hand-picked and taken to mills where it was ginned, pressed and packaged. The largest producers at that time were India, the United States and Egypt. Then the raw cotton was rolled in jute cloths and bound with metal straps.
The bales then began their long journey toward the ports of the Mediterranean. When they arrived, they were loaded onto trains, or sometimes onto wagons, to be transported to the mills.
From yarn to fabric
In the mill, leather belts connected to a single central driveshaft moved the machinery, which performed the processes of threshing, carding, combing, drawing and spinning.
Initially, when the Crespi family had only the spinning mill, the products were used for knitwear, canvas, tyres, fishing nets and elastic bands. Later, a weaving mill was installed, which included the processes of winding, warping, sizing, and spooling the weft.
The yarns and fabrics could be mercerised, a process which renders them similar to silk in terms of colour and lustre. Finally, they were dyed or bleached and finished.