The testing equipment

The testing equipment

Little is known about the inner workings of the testing room, but the identification of objects from the Quarry Bank Mill collection has allowed for an insight into the textile testing procedures undertaken there.

Little is known about the inner workings of the testing room, but the identification of objects from the Quarry Bank collection has allowed for an insight into the textile testing procedures undertaken here.


The equipment in our collection suggests yarn and cotton were tested for strength, twist count, quality and weight. Additionally, apparatus was used to prepare textiles for testing and for ensuring the constant condition of the testing room. For instance, apparatus for supplying humidity and circulating air was used, as changes in atmospheric moisture content could impact yarn properties. Ensuring all fabrics were tested under the same conditions was therefore imperative for accurate outputs, and humidity tables and hygrometers were likely used to ensure moisture levels were constant.


By testing the strength, weight, twist count and quality of textiles, Quarry Bank could ensure the yarn it purchased and cotton it produved met required standards. In this way, the textile testing room may have played an important part in protecting the reputation of the mill within the Lancashire cotton industry. While research into these items in the collection has given a little insight into the purpose of the testing room, still relatively little is known about its inner working. However, our extensive archives and collections are still being catalogued, so there is a possibility that more concrete evidence about its role may come to light.


Find out more about the textile equipment below, and follow the links to see the objects on our online collection.


(Ilustrations taken from H.Curtis, The Testing of Yarns and Fabrics (1926), and The Testing of Textiles (J. Nesbitt Ltd, 1926)


Illustration of a wrap wheel

Wrap wheel - Preparing yarn for testing

Before testing could start the yarn had to be prepared. A wrap wheel was part of the standard equipment expected of a cotton mill during the late-nineteenth century. The advent of such machines signalled routinisation, greater cleanliness and more delicate handling of yarns. It was used to draw yarn out of up to four cops, tubes or bobbins at once and spread it evenly, without any overlapping, around a winder. This way the yarn could be easily examined for quality, length and weight.

Illustration of a hank winder

Hank winder

A hank winder served a similar purpose as the wrap wheel, but had the added ability of being able to measure yarn to desired lengths. Yarn was wound around the hank winder and a bell would ring when the yarn reached the set length.

Illustration of a humidity table

Humidity Table

The properties of cotton yarn were directly influenced by the amount of moisture in the environment. Therefore it was necessary that standard conditions of humidity and temperature were adopted in the testing room. By using the humidity table and a hygrometer, testers could ensure atmospheric conditions were constant and did not affect test results.

Illustrataion of a humidity table

Cotton scales

Once the yarn was prepared on the wrap wheel it was cut to length. The next step was to weigh it with cotton scales. This test required the utmost care and precision to ensure accurate measurements. The scale was enclosed in a wooden box with glass panels to maintain visibility, prevent damage and keep dust out. The weight was measured against grains and decimals of grains and once the weight was established the count was noted by referring to a wrapping chart.

Illustration of a quadrant

The quadrant balance

The quadrant balance was used for any length of yarn and could be adapted to any count system to measure the weight of yarn. The sample was taken off the wrap reel and placed on the pan of the quadrant, on the right hand side. This was fixed to a weighted arm which then moved over an engraved scale. When it came to rest, the pointer indicated on the scale the count of the sample.

Illustration of a twist

Twist Testing

Twist was needed in yarn to hold fibres together and provide strength. The twist count of the yarn was determined using apparatus such as the Goodbrand and Co Twist Testing Yarn Machine. This instrument untwisted yarn while a counting device indicated how many twists were present. A twist tester was used to count the number of twists per inch. Thread was held between two clamps, one stationary and one rotated, and the yarn slowly untwisted. A counting device along the base indicated the number of turns present in the yarn.

Illustration of a rockbank tester

Twist Tester - The Charles Baker ‘Rock Bank’

The Charles Baker ‘Rock Bank’ tester performed a similar task, but had an electric light and magnifying glass, allowing the operator to view the untwisting and double check counts.

Illustration of a Strength

Nesbitt Cloth Strength Tester

Yarn and cloth were also tested for their strength. Strength testers could be driven by hand or electricity. Samples were inserted between clamps or hooks and weight applied using the hand wheel. The lower hook would then move downwards stretching the yarn or cloth. Strength was determined by the weight required to break the sample and indicated on the gauge.

Illustration of a thorp

Thorp and Tasker’s Yarn Tester by John Nesbitt

A Thorp and Tasker’s spiral tester made by John Nesbitt, Manchester. This instrument was an alternative to the yarn and cloth quadrant. It consisted of a glass coil spring, to which a hook and pointer were attached. A length of yarn was removed from the cloth and when suspended from the hook, drew the pointer down over a scale to a position denoting the required count. Prior to undertaking this test, the user had to ensure the pointer rested on zero. The scale was adjustable, and could be moved up or down as required. The operator also had to be wary of air movement such as breathing, which could impact the test result. Regardless of which method was used, allowances had to be made for the presence of filling or colouring in the fabric. The usual trade practice was to minus from the count of the yarn in the finished cloth a set percentage in order to account for this.

Illustration of an examining

Yarn Examining Machine

A yarn examining machine was used to ensure that yarn was of good, consistent quality with no knots that could compromise the value of the cotton produced. Threads were drawn from one or more bobbins and spread evenly over a black shiny surface to allow for defects to be spotted. The machine was manually operated and allowed for yarn to be graded as per national standards after visual examination. Manufacturer: John Nesbitt was located at 42 Market Street, Manchester. The workshop manufactured instruments for the textile industry such as weighting scales, yarn balances, wrap reels. In 1913, John Nesbitt took over scale makers H. Sutcliffe & Co, which was also located in Manchester.

Illustration of a microscope

Counting the thread

Testing the quality of cloth was not only carried out in the testing room but also on machine floors so almost everyone in the textile industry owned one, from mill operatives and weavers to manufacturers. Although it wasn’t the most accurate testing instrument there were two key advantages to glass counters. They were cheap so everyone could afford one and their size meant that they could be carried around easily. Aside from glass counters, small microscopes were developed so that the cloth was secured in place and the glass could move smoothly along the cloth to count the threads.