Below are some tidbits about Calico Printing and fabric. While the fabric design did not start in the 19th Century, in fact it began in the 1700's, it was definitely an important part of our 19th century ancestors or characters.
Calico Printing is perhaps the most important branch springing from the parent stem of the cotton trade: it may be described as the art and process by which colours are placed on to the plain fabric, giving variations of form, and gradations of colour, more cheaply and expeditiously than in the loom;
The common import of the term Calico-Printer now, is a printer of all sorts of fabrics—calicoes, muslins, linens, silks, or woollens, or the many mixed varieties, composed of different materials.
Source: Calico Printing As an Art Manufacture, a Lecture ©1852
TOPICAL Dyeing or Calico Printing, is the art of printing various coloured patterns upon plain calicoes by applying certain colourless mordaunts to the cloth.
This beautiful art is one of great antiquity, and was carried to considerable perfection in India. As the object in this brief sketch is not to instruct the calico printer, but to give the general reader an idea of this singular art, we shall omit all the previous processes of preparing the calico for the printer.
The pattern to be impressed on the calico was formerly cut out in relief on a wooden block of the requisite size, exactly like a wooden cut for figures or diagrams. The wood used was generally holly, and the cutting of the pattern formed a separate trade called block-cutting. The perishable nature of wood, however, involved the printer often in much expense, and hence a great improvement has taken place by using slender pieces of brass or copper, which are fixed on the wood so as to produce the pattern, and which give greater sharpness and precision to the impressions. The next implement is the sieve with its case. The sieve consists of a broad hoop like that of a tambourin with a piece of superfine woollen cloth stretched tightly across it. The case consists of another wider hoop covered witli sheep skin or oil cloth. The sieve placed in its case is now plunged in a tub of gum water.
The mordaunt mixed up with paste made of flour or a thick solution of gum Arabic, or gum Senegal, or gum nigacanth, is then spread with a brush on the cloth of the sieve, a part of the process which is called teesing. When the mordaunt is colourless, as the acetate of alumine, a little purple dye with a decoction of Brazil wood is mixed up with it to sighten it as the workmen say, or to make the pattern apparent to the eye.
The workman now takes the pattern block in one hand and the sieve in the other, and applying the surface of the block to that of the sieve, he then takes up a sufficient quantity of the thickened mordaunt so as to cover every part of the surface of the pattern formed by the copper lines. He then applies the block to the calico and impresses it with a gentle blow from a mallet. In this manner he goes over the whole piece. When a variety of colours is required, several different mordaunts are required, as different colours require different mordaunts to fix them. In order to evaporate the acids of the mordaunts, which might weaken the fabric of the cloth, the calico is placed in a room called the stove/heated with flues to about 90°. When the common red liquor mordaunt is used, the calico remains here about 24 hours; but when citric acid is used, a much shorter time is nesessary, and when a strong muriate of lime has been employed, half an hour of the stove is sufficient.
When iron liquor is the mordaunt, the intensity of the colour is increased, and the process much improved by exposing the calico for several days to the atmosphere. The black oxide of iron then acquires an additional dose of oxygen, and approaches nearer to the red or peroxide, which is the preferable mordaunt. Mr. Parker suggests it as an object of inquiry, whether or not the substitution of a current of atmospheric air for a great part of the drying in the stove, might not be an advantage.
The calico is now washed with water and a little cow dung, at various temperatures, an operation of from 5 to 40 minutes, which revives the uncombined part of the mordaunt, and which is now performed in what is called dunging machines. Mr. Parker is of opinion, that the dung, (which Bethollet found to contain a substance like bile,) imparts an animal matter to the fibres of the calico, which acts as an additional mordaunt. When the goods are perfectly rinsed in river and
tepid water, they are boiled for ten or fifteen minutes in madder, and in the process called maddering, the calicoes receive, at one operation, all their requisite colours. The colouring matter of the madder is precipitated to a red by one mordaunt, to a purple by another, and to a black by a third, so that we can obtain every possible shade, from a lilac to a black, or from a pink to a red.
By adding to the madder some weld or bark, every shade from zbrown to an orange may be produced, and with weld or bark, also, we obtain all colours from a dark olive to a bright lemon. In order to produce the finest yellow or delicate lemon colour, the calico should be dried in the open air, as stove drying converts a yellow to an orange, and the dunging ■should not be performed at a higher temperature than 96° or 100°.
The calicoes are next to be branned, an operation which is effected by removing them from the weld or madder copper to a boiler containing wheat bran and water, in which all stains are cleared from the white portion, though at the risk of the colours being somewhat impaired. Mr. Parker has found that a peculiar redness may be imparted to all madder colours, by raising them with a mixture of bran and madder, that is, by adding a little bran to the madder, in the maddering process.
As the whites cannot always be cleared by the branning, lest the colours should be impaired, the rest of the operation of bleaching the whites is performed by exposure on the grass for some days; but in Scotland, this process has been effected in a few minutes, by immersion of the colours in a weak solution of one of the bleaching sails, such as oxymuriate of potash, soda, and magnesia.
The mordaunts used by the calico printers are oommonly acetate of iron for browns, blacks, lilacs, &c. and aeelate of alumine for all shades of yellows and reds, &c. Nitrate of iron, obtained by dissolving metallic iron in a peculiar kind of aquafortis, yields blacks, which, like those obtained from galls, are applied at once to the cloth, and are not afterwards raised by dying, like the black of the common iron liquor. Hence the black of the nitrate of iron can be mixed with other colours.
Another kind of calico printing, called resist work, is now in common use. A resist paste is composed of sulphate, nitrate, muriate, or acetate of copper, of which the sulphate is the best, mixed with flour paste, or any of the other gums, or with pipe-clay and gum. With this paste the pattern is printed on the calico, which when sufficiently dry is repeatedly dipped in the blue vat, till they have received the requisite depth of tint. The goods are then washed and passed through diluted sulphuric acid, and all the parts printed by the preparation of copper are found to be of a good white, in consequence of having resisted the action of the indigo, though all the rest of the calico has been permanently dyed. The deep blue calicoes, with white figures or white spots, are generally executed by the resist process with indigo; and by a peculiar method, with subsequent dying or madder, weld or bark, red or yellow spots or figures may be produced upon a blue ground.
A method of resisting;, or stopping out particular colours with wax, though an expensive one, ■was formerly in general use, and wax is still employed in India for preserving the white portions. In the manufacture of silk Bandana handkerchiefs, a preparation of tallow and ro3in, made fluid by heat, is used for printing the patterns, which are thus left white, and preserved from the operation of the indigo, which gives the rest a blue colour.
When the ground is to be white, and only a single sprig or small object is to form the pattern, it is executed by means of a pencil, with what is called pencil blue, which is formed of 10 oz. of finely ground indigo, 20 oz. of quick lime in lumps, 20 oz. of potash of commerce, and 10 oz. of orpiment, mixed up in a gallon of water, and thickened with gum Senegal.
In another operation of calico printing, called chemical discharge work, the goods are dyed of one uniform colour, with a mixture of iron iiquor, and any of the dyeing substances. When they are washed, dried, turned, and calendered, a discharging liquor is prepared by dissolving in one of the mineral acids a portion of one or more of the metals, according to the nature of the colour to be discharged, or of that to be produced. For example, if a piece of calico, treated with a decoction of Brazil wood, and dyed black by being maddered with iron liquor, be printed when dry, with a peculiar solution of tirr, the iron in the dye will be dissolved, and the printed part will instantly be converted from a deep black into a brilliant crimson.
The introduction of cylinder printing into the calico manufacture, is a most important step in its progress. Cylinders from 18 to 42 inches long, and from 3i to 5 inches wide, are now formed by hammering plates of copper into a circular form, though sometimes they are bored out of a solid mass of copper. The pattern is enchased on the surface. The cylinders furnish themselves with colouring matter, placed in a trough, and are kept clear by a steel knife, called the doctor, which passes over the surface, when they are charged with the thickened colour. The cylinder, thus coloured, rolls over the piece of calico, from one end to the other, and communicates the pattern with the greatest certainty and accuracy. Sometimes two cylinders are used to give two different colours at the same time. Mr. A. Parkinson of Manchester, has invented a machine, on which one cylinder and two surface rollers give three distinct colours.
Other machines have been employed, called surface machines. They consist of cylinders of wood, with the pattern formed upon them, exactly like the pattern blocks already described. By means of those cylinder machines, a piece of calico, which employs a man and a boy three hours, may be done in three or three and a half minutes.
Hence the British calico printer has been able to finish calico goods, in which the printing consists of precipitating the colouring matter of logwood and other vegetable dyes, without using any mordaunt or previous preparation whatever, at the rate of one penny per yard, including every expense of colour, paste, and printing. In such goods, the pat
tern will be washed out by the first shower of rain. For a full account of topical dyeing in calico printing, the reader is referred to Parke's Chemical Essays, from the information contained in which we have drawn up the above brief article. See also our article Bandana Handkerchiefs, Vol. III. p. 213.
Source: The Edinburgh Encyclopedia ©1832