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British Industries

About 30 minutes from the centre of London, heading into the suburbs, the train begins to roll past livestock grazing on green hills under an open sky. This is Britain, where lush pastoral scenes unfold just outside of urban cityscapes. With the Industrial Revolution, a variety of industries began to emerge in the mid-18th century. They developed in different ways to the east and west of the Pennines, a range of mountains and hills running north to south amid the island’s distinctive topography.

The textile industry, for example, focuses on wool on the east side of the Pennines, where sheep are kept as livestock. To the west of the mountains, the westerlies bring a moderate degree of humidity to the land, which is favourable for the cotton industry that developed here.

Though at its peak a thriving, expansive industry, the British textile trade went through a process of natural selection that culled many of the mills. Those that remain today still produce fabrics shaped by the characteristics of the local area.

 

Wool Double-sided Fabric

Wool Double-sided Fabric is produced in Wales, a land of great beauty surrounded by national parks across the water from Ireland. The terrain here is rugged with hills and valleys, with little snow in winter. The falling rain forms thousands of streams, and most traditional mills in Wales used waterwheels powered by this running water.

In its heyday, Wales was home to 400 mills, though today only eight are still operating. The reversible Fabric these mills produce is a daily essential on cold days - the double layered fabric keeps warmth in and protects from the cold winter air.




Ticking Stripe

Ticking is a fabric that was traditionally used for mattress covers and more recently for furniture upholstery. It is typically striped to make it easier for furniture makers to tell which way the fabric should be laid, vertically or horizontally. British ticking is everso carefully crafted, even though it is covered with another fabric in the final product, and usually goes unseen.




Cloth Roll Towels

Cloth roll towels may no longer be common in many places, but in Britain, they are still used in school buildings and other public spaces. Deceptively simple-looking, cloth roll towels are made with a narrow selvedge on both sides, with a technique for weaving a fabric that is just soft and fluffy enough to dry wet hands.




The Milkman

In Britain, the milkman, dressed in a striped uniform, delivers bottles of milk door to door each morning, returning later in the day to pick up the empty bottles. This custom, which began after World War I, created a communal daily routine.

In the past, milkmen delivered smaller bottles of milk for children at no cost, but this service ended in 1970. Today, it is quite unusual to see milk bottles sitting outside of people’s front doors.




Boat Cover Fabric

Britain has an extensive network of canals. These canals were built and maintained as a way to transport goods around the time of the Industrial Revolution. Finely woven canvas is used to make covers for canal boats. Since the threads expand when wet, this special canvas offers protection against the wind and rain, making this highly durable fabric ideal for boat covers.




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