Thursday 23 May 2024

The Process of Printing

A copy of the following document was kindly sent to us by Marple Local History Society.  It relates to the textile printing processes used at the KNOW MILL Printing Company Ltd in Entwistle.  Undated.

Roller Printing at Know Mill
Roller Printing at Know Mill
(from TLHS Archives)


The grey cloth usually arrives by Rail at our Entwistle Works where it is examined, and stamped in the Grey Room. 

It is then run at high speed through a Gas Singeing Machine, wet out in the Croft, piled and allowed to steep. The cloth is then boiled for several hours with soda solution in a Kier, (which could be described as a large kitchen wash boiler capable of boiling up to 3 tons of cloth at one preparation). Afterwards it is washed, chemicked, scoured and finally dried over steam heated cylinders and emerges in the White Room as bleached white cloth. 

White Room & Preparation

Here the cloth is again examined, stamped etc., and brushed in a vertical, vacuum brushing machine, sheared if necessary and finally stentered to a correct printing width and wound on to rolls. Frequently cloth is prepared in various liquors prior to the stentering process. 

Machine Printing Room

Two kinds of printing are carried out in this department:-

(1) From engraved copper rollers as produced in the Engraving Department. 

(2) From rotary block or surface rollers. 

In copper roller printing the colour is fed to the printing roller by means of a box and furnishing roller and the excess is removed by a steel knife or scraper known as a doctor, which cleans the smooth part of the roller and leaves the colour in the engraved portion, and this colour is transferred to the cloth by contact under pressure. 

In surface printing, the projecting portions of the roller pick up some colour from an endless blanket carrying the printing paste. 

In both types of printing there is a separate roller for each colour - a 10 colour pattern will have 10 rollers. The craftsman printer has to see that these are in fit so that the cloth shows an accurate interpretation of the artist's colourings. 

The cloth previously wound into rolls or batches of anything from 600 to 1,200 yards, is passed through the machine, coming into contact with each patterned roller in turn and is then dried by running over steam heated revolving drums or through a room or box supplied with hot air. 

Ageing Room 

After drying, the material is passed through the ager - really a re-action chamber filled with air-free steam where certain chemical re-actions, necessary for the development of the colour take place. 


The final development takes place in the open-soaper - an oxidising solution and soap liquors bringing out the full beauty of the colour and removing the various thickenings and other mediums used in making the printing colour. 

Finishing Room 

The cloth is "finished" to a customer's special requirements and wound on to rolls. 

Packing Room 

Cloth is plaited into 1 yd. laps, examined for faults and finally delivered to customer. 

Engraving Department 

The artist's design is placed in an opaque enlarging camera and reflected in colour on to a piece of zinc covered with white paint. The sketchmaker outlines figure or shapes as enlarged and passes this plate to another craftsman (the Plate-cutter) who cuts with a graver all the lines defining the shapes and dividing the colours. 

The plate is now taken to the pentagraph machine which reproduces on the roller, the engraving cut on the paint coated zinc plate, each colour of the design having a separate roller. The craftsman operator of this machine follows the cut lines with a tracer at the same time pressing a treadle operating a diamond point. 

The mechanism of the pentagraph machine ensures the reduction of the image on the zinc plates to the original size of the artist's design and the diamond point makes contact with the copper roller. The copper roller has previously been covered with an acid 

resisting varnish, this, the diamond point penetrates and when the roller is put in the acid bath the part where the varnish has been removed by the diamond point, is etched to the appropriate depth, according to the material to be printed. 

Laboratory Research Department

Tests are carried out in the laboratory on the many different materials necessary in calico printing. 

The small sampling printing machine enables experiments to be done without interfering with the works production. 

Investigation of the many practical works problems is also a feature of this department.