Calico (fabric)

Calico (fabric)

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Calico is a plain-woven
Plain weave
Plain weave is the most basic of three fundamental types of textile weaves . It is strong and hard-wearing, used for fashion and furnishing fabrics....

 textile
Textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

 made from unbleached, and often not fully processed, cotton. It may contain unseparated husk parts, for example. The fabric is less coarse and thick than canvas or denim, but owing to its unfinished and undyed appearance, it is still very cheap. Originally from the city of Kozhikode
Kozhikode
Kozhikode During Classical antiquity and the Middle Ages, Kozhikkode was dubbed the "City of Spices" for its role as the major trading point of eastern spices. Kozhikode was once the capital of an independent kingdom of the same name and later of the erstwhile Malabar District...

, Kerala
Kerala
or Keralam is an Indian state located on the Malabar coast of south-west India. It was created on 1 November 1956 by the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam speaking regions....

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 (known by Europeans as Calicut in the 11th century). The fabric was made by the traditional weavers called chaliyans. The raw fabric was dyed and printed in bright hues and calico prints
Chintz
Chintz is glazed calico cloth printed with flowers and other patterns in different colours. Unglazed calico is called "cretonne". The word Calico is derived from the name of the Indian city Calicut to which it had a manufacturing association.-History:Chintz was originally a woodblock printed,...

 became popular in Europe.

History


Calico originated in Kozhikode
Kozhikode
Kozhikode During Classical antiquity and the Middle Ages, Kozhikkode was dubbed the "City of Spices" for its role as the major trading point of eastern spices. Kozhikode was once the capital of an independent kingdom of the same name and later of the erstwhile Malabar District...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 (also known as Calicut) during the 11th century. It was mentioned in Indian literature by the 12th century when the writer Hemacandra described calico fabric prints with a lotus design. By the 15th century calico from Gujarat made its appearance in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. Trade with Europe followed from the 17th century onwards.
Calico was woven using Surat
Surat
Surat , also known as Suryapur, is the commercial capital city of the Indian state of Gujarat. Surat is India's Eighth most populous city and Ninth-most populous urban agglomeration. It is also administrative capital of Surat district and one of the fastest growing cities in India. The city proper...

 cotton for both the warp
Warp (weaving)
In weaving cloth, the warp is the set of lengthwise yarns that are held in tension on a frame or loom. The yarn that is inserted over-and-under the warp threads is called the weft, woof, or filler. Each individual warp thread in a fabric is called a warp end or end. Warp means "that which is thrown...

 and weft
Weft
In weaving, weft or woof is the yarn which is drawn through the warp yarns to create cloth. In North America, it is sometimes referred to as the "fill" or the "filling yarn"....

.

The politics of cotton


In the eighteenth century, England was famous for its woollen and worsted cloth
Worsted
Worsted , is the name of a yarn, the cloth made from this yarn, and a yarn weight category. The name derives from the village of Worstead in the English county of Norfolk...

. That industry, centred in the east and south in towns such as Norwich
Norwich
Norwich is a city in England. It is the regional administrative centre and county town of Norfolk. During the 11th century, Norwich was the largest city in England after London, and one of the most important places in the kingdom...

, jealously protected their product. Cotton processing was tiny: in 1701 only 1985868 pounds (900,774.6 kg) of cotton-wool was imported into England, and by 1730 this had fallen to 1545472 pounds (701,014.3 kg). This was due to commercial legislation to protect the woollen industry. Cheap calico prints
Chintz
Chintz is glazed calico cloth printed with flowers and other patterns in different colours. Unglazed calico is called "cretonne". The word Calico is derived from the name of the Indian city Calicut to which it had a manufacturing association.-History:Chintz was originally a woodblock printed,...

, imported by the East India Company
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 from "Hindustan
Hindustan
Hindustan or Indostan, literal translation "Land of River Sindhu ", is one of the popular names of South Asia. It can also mean "the land of the Hindus"...

", had become popular. In 1700 an Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

 was passed to prevent the importation of dyed or printed calicoes from India, China or Persia. This caused grey cloth (calico that had not been finished—dyed or printed) to be imported instead, and these were printed in southern England with the popular patterns. Also, Lancashire businessmen produced grey cloth with linen warp and cotton weft, known as fustian
Fustian
Fustian is a term for a variety of heavy woven, mostly cotton fabrics, chiefly prepared for menswear. It is also used to refer to pompous, inflated or pretentious writing or speech, from at least the time of Shakespeare...

, which they sent to London to be finished. Cotton-wool imports recovered and by 1720 were almost back to their 1701 levels. Again the woollen manufacturers, in true protectionist
Protectionism
Protectionism is the economic policy of restraining trade between states through methods such as tariffs on imported goods, restrictive quotas, and a variety of other government regulations designed to allow "fair competition" between imports and goods and services produced domestically.This...

 style, claimed that this was taking away jobs from workers in Coventry
Coventry
Coventry is a city and metropolitan borough in the county of West Midlands in England. Coventry is the 9th largest city in England and the 11th largest in the United Kingdom. It is also the second largest city in the English Midlands, after Birmingham, with a population of 300,848, although...

. Another law was passed, to fine anyone caught wearing any printed or stained calico; muslins, neckcloths and fustians were exempted. It was this exemption that the Lancashire manufactures exploited. The use of coloured cotton weft with linen
Linen
Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum. Linen is labor-intensive to manufacture, but when it is made into garments, it is valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather....

 warp was permitted by the 1736 Manchester Act. There now was an artificial demand for woven cloth. In 1764, 3870392 pounds (1,755,580.3 kg) of cotton-wool was imported.

Calico printing


Early Indian chintzes, that is a glazed calico with large floral pattern, were primarily produced by painting techniques. Later, the hues were applied by means of wooden blocks, and it was the wooden block printing
Woodblock printing
Woodblock printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns used widely throughout East Asia and originating in China in antiquity as a method of printing on textiles and later paper....

 that was used in London. Confusingly, linen and silk that was printed by this method was known as linen calicoes and silk calicoes. The early European calicoes (1680) would thus be a cheap equal weft and warp plain weave cotton fabric in white, cream or unbleached cotton, with a block printed design using a single alizarin dye
Rose madder
Rose Madder is the commercial name sometimes used to designate a paint made from the pigment Madder Lake - a traditional lake pigment, extracted from the common madder plant ....

, fixed with two mordants giving a red and black pattern. Polychromatic prints could be done, with two sets of blocks and an additional blue dye. The Indian taste was for dark printed backgrounds while the European market preferred a pattern on a cream base. As the century progressed the European preference moved from the large chintz patterns to a smaller, tighter patterns.

Thomas Bell patented the technique of printing by copper rollers in 1783, and the first machine was set up by Livesey, Hargreaves & Co  near Preston in 1785. Production of printed cloth in Lancashire in 1750 was estimated to be 50,000 pieces of 30 yards (27.4 m), but in 1850 it was 20,000,000 pieces. From 1888, block printing was limited to short run specialist jobs. After 1880, profits from printing became smaller, there was over capacity and the firms started to form combines. The first was when 3 Scottish firms formed the United Turkey Red Co. Ltd in 1897, and the second, in 1899, was the much larger Calico Printers' Association. 46 printing concerns and 13 merchants combined, representing 85% of the British printing capacity. Some of this capacity was removed and in 1901 they had 48% of the trade. In 1916, they and the other printers joined and formed a trade association. This then set minimum prices for each 'price section' of the industry. This held until 1954 when it was challenged by the government Monopolies Commission. Over the intervening period much trade had been lost overseas.

Terminology


In the US:
  • Calico—cotton fabric with a small, all-over floral print
  • Muslin—simple, cheap equal weft and warp plain weave fabric in white, cream or unbleached cotton and/or a very fine, light plain weave cotton fabric (sometimes called muslin gauze).
  • Muslin gauze—the very lightest, most open weave of muslin.
  • Gauze—any very light fabric, generally with a plain weave
  • Cheesecloth—extremely soft and fine cotton fabric with a very open plain weave.


In the UK, Australia and New Zealand:
  • Calico—simple, cheap equal weft and warp plain weave fabric in white, cream or unbleached cotton.
  • Muslin—a very fine, light plain weave cotton fabric.
  • Muslin gauze—muslin.
  • Gauze—extremely soft and fine cotton fabric with a very open plain weave.
  • Cheesecloth—gauze.


Printed calico was imported into the United States from Lancashire in the 1780s, and here a linguistic separation occurred, while Europe maintained the word calico for the fabric, in the States it was used to refer to the printed design.

These colorful, small-patterned printed fabrics gave rise to the use of the word calico to describe a cat coat color: "calico cat". The patterned fabric also gave its name to two species of North American crabs; see the calico crab.