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RELAXED KNIT FABRIC FINISHING

AND COMPACTING (TUBULAR AND OPEN WIDTH)

R. Michael Tyndall
Director, Technical Services
Dyeing & Finishing
Cotton Incorporated

COTTECH CONFERENCE 1993
Cotton Incorporated
Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley
November I 1-1 2, 1993
Commercially available extractors and dryers are equipped with spreading and overfeeding
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devices to regain width and return the stretched loops to a more normal state. Spreading must

be accompanied with overfeed in order to be effective ’ Relaxation drying allows those

excessive tensions to be released since the fabric is dried under little or no restraints. Most

relaxation dryers are based on the belt principle, where the fabric is placed between two belts

and then passed through the drying zone. The bottom belt supports the fabric but allows for

shrinkage, while the top belt prevents any stretching. In some cases, the bottom belt can be

vibrated for additional mechanical action. Air flow is normally directed down and up through

the fabric to give a ripple/wave effect. Once the drying is completed under relaxed condtions,

those excessive tensions which have occurred during prior processing, have been released. If

the fabric has been spread with overfeed prior to relax drying, width shrinkage occurs first.

This may prevent the length from shrinking initially, but as the drying progresses, both width

and length shrinkage occurs. At the exit of the relaxation dryer, the fabric width will be

inconsistent and may not be completely wrinkle-free. Thus, calendering or compacting is

necessary to provide a uniform, finished roll for cut and sew3.

Fabrication

If there is any one statement which should provide a quideline for optimum shrinkage control,

it is that prouer construction is essential. Without a doubt, too often many fabrics are not

constructed properly to meet end-use specifications. In most cases, a particular fabric is made

using a certain gauge machine with a specific yarn which should have 5x5 shrinkage at a

certain weight and width. Once finished, the customer may find that at 5x5 shrinkage, the

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RELAXED KNIT FABRIC FINISHING AND COMPACTING
TUBULAR AND OPEN-WIDTH
R. Michael Tyndall

Introduction

Knit fabrics are popular for today's active lifestyle and will remain strong at retail. Many of

these garments are constructed of 100% cotton which makes shrinkage reduction all the more

difficult. Finishing of tubular and open-width knitted fabrics present a constant challenge to

the finisher. This challenge is to consistentlv produce a finished fabric which possesses

acceptable shrinkage. Because knitted fabrics are elastic, processing by normal methods often

stretches the fabric lengthwise, thus increasing shrinkage in that direction. What must happen

next, is to "normalize" or regain that bulk which in turn will reduce shrinkage. Because of

research such as STARFISH' which emphasizes proper construction and processing techniques

like relaxation drying and compacting, low shrinkage values are more within reason than ever

before. Many of these techniques are now in commercial practice and offer the finisher

opportunities to minimize shrinkage.

Relax Processinq

Of course. any processing sequence involves the movement of the fabric through some

equipment or from one station to the next. Normally, this involves length tension which will

increase the length shrinkage and decrease the width. Depending upon the type of equipment

and the condition of the fabric (wet vs. dry), these lengthwise tensions can vary significantly.
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Taking these four fabrics and determining their relaxed dimensions by washing and tumble

drving five times according to AATCC Test Method 135-78 IIB, the following results were

obtained.

SHRINKAGE WIDTH, WEIGHT THREAD COUNT
LXW INS ozm2 cxw

240 Inches
Initi ai -- 66.8 4.0 38 x 34
5 HLTD 13.0 x 17.0 63.0 5.3 (5.3) 56 x 41 (56 x 40)
265 Inches
Initial -- 67.0 3.7 42 x 34
5 HLTD 21.0 x 5.0 64.8 4.9 (4.9) 49 x 38 (50 x 38)

260 Inches
Initial -- 65.8 5.2 40 x 34
5 HLTD 16.5 x 13.5 63.0 7.3 (7.8) 49 x 39 (49 x 40)
285 Inches
Initial -- 66.3 5.1 36 x 34
5 HLTD 20.0 x 10.0 63.5 6.9 (7.3) 43 x 39 (45 x 39)

The values in parentheses are STARFISH predictions. As shown by this table, those

predictions are very close to actual values.

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weight is too heavy Then you have a situation where changes need to be made in the

construction which might involve increasing the stitch length (makes a lighter fabric, but

increases shrinkage), substituting a finer yarn (may be too costly), changing machines (not the

best solution) or revising the specifications (not likely). Stitch length is often increased or

lowered to help meet these targets and is one parameter used in the STARFISH program for

prediction of shrinkage and reference state. Fabrics knit tight, or with low stitch lengths, tend

to be heavier in weight, have lower shrinkage and are more consistent in shrinkage values.

Fabrics knit loose, or with a higher stitch length, tend to be lighter in weight, have higher

shrinkage and are inconsistent in shrinkage. Stitch length is calculated by dividing the coarse

length (inches of yarn per revolution) by the total number of needles.

To demonstrate this theory, two constructions were selected for this study. One a 100% cotton
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single jersey constructed from 30/1 CP ring spun and the other an interlock made with 40/1

CP ring spun cotton yarns. Both fabrics were knit at two different stitch lengths to illustrate

the influence stitch length has on process and residual shrinkage. Table I summarizes both

fabrics.

YARN GAUGE DIAMETER NEEDLES STITCH COARSE TIGHTNESS
LENGTH LENGTH LENGTH

A 30/1 CPRS 28 26 2256 0 106 240 0 16 4
B 30/1 CPRS 28 26 2256 0 117 265 0 14 9

A 40/1 CPRS 21 30 2232 0 116 260 0 13 0
B 40/1 CPRS 24 30 2232 0 128 285 0 11 8

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Resu I ts

After the first drying stage and after compaction. each fabric was checked for residual (actual

fabric shrinkage after SHLTD) shrinkage The following graphs summarize those values

SHRINKAGE DATA
SINGLE JERSEY TUBULAR -
% Length Shrinkage
25
21.0 240 Inches
20 .
I2 6 5 inches

- 15
11.0
10 9.0

5

0
Greige Dry Dry Compact Compact
No Spread Spread No Spread Spread
Table I
Processinq

Each fabric was then processed by the following routes and checked after drying. before

finishing to determine process and residual shrinkage

PROCESSING ROUTE
Tubular

No

Jet Prep Wet-on-Wet
f Spread I Relax
-+ Compact
And Dye -b Extract -b Soften

I Spread
f Dry

w/OF

PROCESSING ROUTE
Open Width

Jet Prep -on- Compact
-b Extract -b Slit -b Wet
And Dye

’Often \ Tenter
Dry
/”
Tubular processing includes relax drying with and without spreading. Open-width evaluates
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relax drying in comparison with tenter drying.
SHRINKAGE DATA
SINGLE JERSEY OPEN WIDTH -
% Length Shrinkage
25
2 1.0 2 4 0 inches
20 265 inches

15
12.5
- 11.0
10 8.0

5

0
Greige Dry Dry Compact Compact
Tenter Relax Tenter Relax
Table I11
SHRINKAGE DATA
INTERLOCK = TUBULAR
% Length Shrinkage
25
260 Inches
20.0 2 1.0
285 inches
20 18.0

15.0
15 ,13.0
L

10

5

0
Greige Dry * Compact Compact
'Growth in Width No Spread Spread No Spread Spread
Table I1

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Conclusions

Taking each graph and summarizing those results. certain statements can be made

Graph I - Single Jersey, Tubular

1 . Length shrinkage was reduced bv = 50% by relaxation drying
2. Spreading prior to drying gave even lower shrinkage.
3. It is more difficult to obtain lower shrinkage after compacting when spreading is not
used.
4. Spreading with compacting gave best results.
5 . Knitting tighter gave best shrinkage.

Graph I1 - Interlock, Tubular

1. Shrinkage reduced substantially more by spreading with overfeed prior to drying.
2. Without spreading, shrinkage that occurred during relax drying was difficult to stabilize.
3. Width growth was measured when no spread was used.
4. Knitting tighter gave best shrinkage values.

Graph HI - Single Jersey, Open Width

1. Tenter drying did not reduce shrinkage as much as relax drying.
2 . Compacting after relax drying (with spread and overfeed) gave lower shrinkage than
tenter.
3. Again, the fabric knit tighter gave best results.

Graph IV - Interlock, Open Width

1. Drying relaxed was not much better than tenter.
2 . Due to the stitch instability, compacting to a low shrinkage was difficult
3. Fabric knit at 285 inches was very unstable and difficult to process.

References

Burkitt, F. H., "The STARFISH Project, An Integrated Approach to Shrinkage Control in
Cotton Knits", International Institute for Cotton Publication, 1986.

' Gordon,
B. W., et.al., "Shrinkage Control of Cotton Knits bv Mechanical Techniques",
AATCC Journal, November 1984., p. 25
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Tyndall, R. M., et.al., AATCC Journal, March 1990, p. 19

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SHRINKAGE DATA
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INTERLOCK = OPEN WIDTH
% Length Shrinkage
25 1
2 6 0 Inches
20.0
20 2 8 5 Inches

15 12.5 13.0
10.5 11.0
10

5

0
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Greige Dry Dry Compact Compact
Tenter Relax Tenter Relax
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Table I V

All of these values were determined after five home launderings and tumble dryings. Other

data was collected such as thread count, width and weight in order to establish finish width

Before compaction. the tarset width was to be two to three inches above the desired finish

width in order to accommodate expected width shrinkage during compaction. For tubular

processing. spreadins with overfeed was incorporated prior to compacting. Relaxation drving

before compacting gave low shrinkage values. but in most cases at a width less than that

specified
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