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The Past, Present, and Future of the Textile Industry

Textile manufacturing is a fascinating and diverse industry, with a long and complex history, and exciting advances in modern technology that are continually being modified and improved.  To have an appreciation for the industry, we’d like to explore some of the roots of the textile industry, and then discuss some of what we’re anticipating for the future of textile fabrication.

Humankind has been interlacing threads and fibers for a very long time to make a variety of things, ranging from baskets and rugs to clothing and tapestries.  Textiles can have both practical uses and artistic value, and often both.  Several historical examples come to mind, such as the famous and desirable hand-woven Persian rugs, or the iconic Greek togas and tunics.  Textile trade flourished on the famed “Silk Road” where different dyes and materials made their way across Eurasia, disseminating different styles and practices, and contributing to the interdependence we see across ancient, medieval, and early modern culture, a phenomenon currently being showcased at the “Interwoven Globe” Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Today, synthetic materials and automated looms have modernized the industry from the organic materials and hand-craftsmanship of its past.  The range and capability of modern synthetic materials and processes has vastly increased the type and capabilities of textiles, with applications as diverse as medical mesh, automotive textiles, and protective abrasion-resistant materials.  As technology moves forward, advances like 4D printing may have significant implications for a whole new scope of industries, as we are increasingly able to create materials that respond to external stimuli and adapt or change in specific ways based on what is around them.

Jason Mills has both a fond appreciation for the things that have brought the textile industry to its current place, and an eye on the future, as we see technology progress in exciting new ways and directions.  Make sure to visit our blog again to get our latest opinions and insights into the vast and interwoven world of the textile industry.

The Fundamentals of Global Textile Trade and the TPP

The textile industry has seen extensive news coverage recently for a number of reasons, especially as it relates to the ongoing negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on international trade policy between some 12 countries, and several more key interested observers. The effects of these negotiations for textile trade between these countries are significant. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll only examine an overview of the issues, and perhaps expound upon our findings in a follow up blog as the negotiations develop, so our readers can come to appreciate some the subtlety and the stakes of these talks.

Foremost among the concerns for the textiles industry in the TPP is the reaffirmation of a version of the “yarn-forward” rule, which has been present in most U.S. Trade agreements since NAFTA. The yarn forward rule outlines rules of origin for textiles manufacturers, and specifies that in every stage “from the yarn forward” of the manufacturing process, the materials and processes must be sourced from a member of the partnership agreement. This “puts the spotlight” on Vietnam, which, if the negotiations move forward without the yarn forward rule, could act as a conduit for duty-free Chinese access to the U.S. Textile market.

This opens the door to another, highly contentious debate about global trade policy: fair trade vs. free trade. To avoid the risk of becoming too much of an economics lecture, we’ll note that generally, Jason Mills falls on the side of fair trade, which we see as taking advantage of the ideal that is a robust and healthy global trade network, and seeking to account for the fundamental imbalance in working conditions, wage scale, and economic and environmental responsibility of participating nations. Having said that, global trade is an increasingly complex machine, and we think that attitudes and positions need to be accordingly complex.

As policy discussions like the TPP and similar initiatives from the WTO and other organizations emerge, we think it’s a part of our job here at Jason Mills to be informed and aware of the implications of pending discussions not just for our business, but for our industry as a whole. We’ll be sure to continue to give our readers a window into the textile manufacturing world, and provide our perspectives here on our blog, so make sure to stop back soon!

Textile Styles

The process of textile production is vast and complex and there are many different methods of fabric construction. The two basic methods, often confused, are knitting and weaving. Weaving involves interlacing yarns; knitting involves an interlocking series of loops (also known as interlooping) of yarns. This basic difference has implications on the qualities of the finished material – knit fabrics are more flexible, traditionally bulkier, whereas woven fabrics are more rigid, prone to wrinkle, and more wind resistant.

As a manufacturer and supplier of technical meshes, we deal strictly with knit materials, more specifically warp knit meshes. Warp knitting refers to the “warp”, or the thread that runs vertically, as opposed to the “weft”, which runs horizontally. A mesh is characterized by a more open construction – think pool skimmer or mesh sports bag instead of grandma’s Christmas sweater; while both are knit, the sports bag is an open construction. Warp knitting is done primarily on machines in which individual threads for each needle are necessary. This allows for increased speed and flexibility of fabrication, as well as an increased capacity for the width of the fabric.

Within mesh warp knitting there are a variety of styles that each produce different characteristics in the resulting mesh, and therefore have different applications. Our two primary knits are Tricot and Raschel. Tricot knits use lighter weight yarns, with more stitches per inch to produce a higher guage fabric – much like the thread count of bed sheets. Raschel knits are thicker, usually used for more industrial applications, and have less stitches per inch. Each process has its advantages and disadvantages for different end uses. Some applications are able to use either method of construction, while others are much better served by one type or the other.

Here at Jason Mills, we focus on industrial and specialty fabrics – it’s our job and passion to know the intricacies of different textile types and their applications. With a broad line of over 100 different meshes, we’re confident we can research, develop, and provide the fabrics that fit the needs of our customers. Get in touch with our team today for quality textile expertise and solutions.

Making Safety Standard Issue

Here at Jason Mills, we do business with a variety of industries – sports, fashion, transportation, medical, and many more – but last month was designated National Safety Month by the National Safety Council, we’d thought it a good time to highlight our several safety-specific products.

Last year we blogged about our high visibility fluorescent line which serves industries like construction, highway maintenance, and traffic control. We supply several fabrics that comply with the strict ANSI standards for luminescence and porosity, and other high quality fluorescents, depending on our customer’s preferences and end-use application. Our fabrics also comply with most commercial fire-resistant certifications. These fabric solutions are vital to the construction and safety industries to help minimize risk to employees, and ensure the highest measures of safety possible in settings that are inherently higher-risk.

Another specialty safety textile that we manufacture is our cut-resistant material. This protective apparel, offered in both nylon and polyester varieties, is ANSI certified for both abrasion and cut-resistance. Used in such applications as glass manufacturing, our cut-resistant fabrics are designed and certified to provide quality protection in environments where sharp or abrasive materials are handled regularly, providing a welcome and effective layer of protection between those sharp edges and your skin.

We also manufacture three dimensional spacer meshes for the safety industry. This technical mesh is used in harnesses for cushioning and ventilation, for all kinds of harness applications such as rock climbing and rescue operations.

Suffice it to say that at Jason Mills, it’s our business to be concerned with a host of different safety issues; we are glad that we’re able to provide the textile expertise necessary to supply materials that keep people safe, and we’re proud to provide materials that comply with the latest standards in the industry. So remember, if you’re in the business of ensuring the safety of your employees, come to us for the materials that can help you meet the safety standards you’re seeking.

Your Golf Game: Both a Science and an Art

If you were to encounter the phrases “500 lbf”, “thousands of impacts”, “impact-resistant fibre”, and “fire resistant”, what would you think of? You might think of mixed martial arts, or another high intensity contact sport. You might think of an extreme sport like street luge, or maybe of high durability clothing for a dangerous application, like firefighting. Perhaps surprisingly, the true application of these specs is in our impact screen mesh… for golf simulation. Yes, you read that correctly – golf simulation.

That material that repeatedly catches your golf practice strokes is more highly engineered than you might imagine. When you realize that the momentum of a golf ball can approach that of a 0.22 caliber bullet just fired from a rifle, you begin to understand why we manufacture our mesh to such stringent specifications. In addition to the strength of the material, it needs to possess similarly stringent aesthetic properties to be able to display an image capable of realistically simulating the greens and open fairways of your favorite golf course. This is why we use a particularly bright-lustered yarn with a high reflective gain. Other safety specs of our impact screen mesh include fire resistant testing (NFPA 701 Test 2), and a finish that allows the ball to hit the screen and drop to the floor safely, thousands of times, with no breaks.

So the next time you line up a great drive at the simulator, rest assured that science and technology are supporting your golf game, so you can focus on perfecting the art.

TECHTEXTIL: Exploring Technical Textiles in Spring 2013

While technical textiles may not be a topic that’s top of mind for all right now, with spring breaks approaching for many, the topic is integral in the measures taken to ensure traveler safety. From our vehicles’ airbags; to the fire-resistant mesh seat pockets for safety literature we find on planes; to the hotel drapes, those polyester and nylon knit textiles are carefully selected to meet federal motor vehicle and aviation requirements and industry specifications. Although these are details that we at Jason Mills are invested in year-round, we’re particularly interested now with this year’s North America edition of TECHTEXTIL coming up next week.

We’ll actually be welcoming in the spring season at this unique event from March 19-21, held in Anaheim, CA for the first time. TECHTEXTIL shows bring together all aspects of the global technical textile and nonwovens industry, including R&D, raw materials, production processes, and even recycling. As a U.S. manufacturer of technical mesh for a range of end uses, this is a promising opportunity for us to learn about new technologies and products from fellow exhibitors, presentations, and Q&A sessions. Our materials continue to make their way into the finished work of major aerospace manufacturers, top automakers, and leaders in the healthcare industry, so we take every effort to stay at the cutting-edge of the textile industry.

We understand and fully meet fire resistant codes and technical regulations, including FAR 25.853 and FMV SS302, but we also are eager to stay connected with the industries we serve to ensure our quality standards are unmatched; we’ll be at Booth #412 (and can always be contacted via our website) to discuss specialty, safety knits and mesh for your commercial or institutional application.

Made Smart in America

For years, companies, especially companies in the textile industry and those that rely on textiles, fled the U.S. for cheaper labor and sweetheart deals- first to Latin America and then to Asia. It appeared that this trend would only end when the U.S. had been drained of every last high-paid manufacturing job. Then a funny thing happened, the exodus not only slowed, but also started to move in reverse.

Over the past few years, the concept of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., referred to as reshoring, has become a hot button topic. For a long time, Americans were just happy to access cheap clothing and TVs, but the novelty wore off when these same consumers lost their jobs. Even the undisputed champion of low-cost, outsourced retail, Wal-Mart, recently pledged to buy an additional $50 billion in U.S. made goods over the next decade.

Amidst this great news, we must understand that this positive movement is not a result of protectionist policies but a combination of economic cycles plus a bit of economic nationalism. It’s too soon to tell if the recently passed U.S.-Panama TPA can eliminate obstacles to trade and boost our own manufacturing base.

At Jason Mills, we firmly believe that there is a strong future for the American textile industry. We will continue to proudly manufacture cost-effective, environmentally compliant and technically superior nylon and polyester mesh textiles in the US, all the while attempting to push into markets across the globe. We are living proof that it is possible to not only survive but prosper as an American-based textile company.

Helping You Pick the Perfect Backpack

School’s back in session for another year! It is a bit of a mixed blessing for parents. On one hand, you know your kids are out of the house and – presumably – learning. That being said, there is also the giant pain involved in getting them all the right school supplies.  Buying the right backpack for your kids is perhaps the biggest challenge. It has to be “cool” (or rad or whatever kids are saying these days), as well as functional and safe. As far as safety, experts say that you should consider a few important keys. First, the backpack should weigh no more than around 15% of your child’s body weight. Overloading a backpack can really mess up a growing child’s back. With this in mind, you also might want to consider a backpack on wheels. Because that can be a hard sell for some kids (not really that “cool”), if they do choose a regular backpack, make sure they only carry what they need for that day and that they load the heaviest items closest to their backs.

At Jason Mills, we know a thing or two about backpacks. Whatever style of backpack you choose; there is a good chance it includes at least some of our innovative mesh. We offer eight different types of backpack mesh, and it’s not only used to help kids get their books to school, but also is fielded by the police and military. Our mesh has the ability to make backpacks lightweight, strong, breathable, and cool enough to please even the most style-conscious kid.  So if you’re still in the market for some school supplies or just  want to choose the perfect, next backpack, remember our tips and when in doubt, go with mesh!

Jason Mills and Our Work in the Tennis Industry

With the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament having just recently wrapped up, it’s a good time to talk about how polyester and nylon knit mesh plays a major role in modern tennis. As you might imagine, the game itself wouldn’t be very interesting or playable without a net. Heck, you could play it with your hands, but if there wasn’t a net, it just wouldn’t be the same game. But before we get into what makes a “quality” net, let’s take a quick look at the history of the game.

The game of tennis dates back several thousand years. It is believed that European monks created the game in the 12th century as a form of entertainment during religious ceremonies. It wasn’t until the 16th century that rackets and a net were introduced (tennis actually plays a major dramatic role in at least one Shakespeare play). In 1874, the U.K.’s Major Walter C. Wingfield was the first to patent the equipment and rules that are much like the ones used today.

Since the beginning of the modern game, players and court owners have been on the lookout for technology that can make the game more exciting and easier to play. Polyester and nylon have made clothing, shoes, and even rackets, lighter, stronger, and more responsive. At Jason Mills, we also know that the netting used for tennis court nets across the world couldn’t and wouldn’t stand up to the wear and tear unless they were made from some pretty amazing materials. We offer 100% Polyester and Nylon netting in a wide variety of sizes and thicknesses which can be used for not only Tennis applications but also for all of your sports netting needs, like soccer, baseball, and golf.

So next time you’re watching a match, just remember, all those great 5-set cliffhangers wouldn’t be possible without the kind of history that tennis has – and without the high quality polyester and nylon sports netting we provide at Jason Mills.

DISCOVER 2012 and Jason Mills

Recently, we attended the U.S. Commercial Service’s DISCOVER 2012 forum. This year’s gathering took place at the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel from September 24-26 and was held in cooperation with the Mid-Atlantic District Export Council. The U.S. Commercial Service is the Dept. of Commerce’s lead export promotion agency, so this forum attracted not only high-ranking government officials, but also international business leaders. Overall, DISCOVER 2012 was outstanding for a number of different reasons, including:

  • Providing everyone with the most up-to-date and insightful market intelligence
  • Offering practical strategies for exporting goods to new markets
  • Providing us with the perfect opportunity to network with a uniquely-placed group of public officials, private buyers, and market experts

We especially enjoyed the “Ask the Experts” roundtable sessions and the meetings with buyers from Costa Rica and the U.A.E.

All of this was quite helpful because as we have mentioned in previous blogs, Jason Mills is making a strong push into some of the world’s biggest foreign markets, including India. We are introducing as many people around the globe to our durable, flexible, and customizable meshes. Meeting with and listening to what buyers and consumers want and need is the only way to make the name Jason Mills as popular overseas as it is here in the USA.