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A textile manufacturer converts fibers such as cotton and rayon into fabrics which can be used to make a wide variety of products such as clothing, linens, furniture upholstery, and awnings. These fabrics are often dyed, bleached, or treated with special finishes to add color, pattern, and sheen. The operations of a textile manufacturer are generally broken into constituent parts, with some employees working solely on design, some processing raw fibers into thread and yarn, some weaving processed fibers into fabric, and others applying fabric treatments. Many manufacturers are increasingly relying on automated production equipment, however, reducing the overall need for textile workers.
Textile designers conceive the fabrics which the manufacturer then produces. They may design colorful patterns and images which will be stamped on a fabric or may create unique weaves which can lend visual interest to knitted textiles. These designers must have an in-depth understanding of the unique properties of natural and synthetic fibers as well as a keen aesthetic sense. Often, they have trained at a fashion school or technical institute.
Production staff forms the largest component of the textile manufacturer workforce. These employees are responsible for turning the designer’s ideas into reality. They carry raw materials through a number of steps, resulting in finished fabrics which can be sold on to fabric suppliers and consumer product manufacturers. Generally, there are no formal educational requirements for production staff, although some employers may prefer candidates with a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Often, a textile manufacturer produces its own threads and yarns from natural fibers like wool and cotton. It may also create synthetic fibers like viscose and nylon. Employees in this area of textile production must thoroughly clean natural fibers and generate and process synthetic ones. After the fibers have been appropriately prepared, they are spun into the threads and yarns that are the building blocks of every fabric.
Weavers and knitters transform spools of thread and yarn into fabric. Often, their work is aided by machines, and thus they may be more fittingly known as operators. Some smaller textile manufacturers specialize in handmade fabrics, however, and employ skilled knitters and weavers to produce intricate materials without machines.
Finishers treat raw fabrics, refining their appearance so they are ready for sale. They may bleach or dye fabrics, apply a waterproofing substance, or stamp or screen patterns onto their surface. In addition, they may use chemical treatments to improve a fabric’s texture.
Increasingly, textile manufacturers have begun to reduce their costs and increase their efficiency by automating many aspects of production. Computerized machines can be used at almost every stage of the textile production process. As a consequence, the demand for textile workers is in decline.