Cottage industries

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A cottage industry (also called the Domestic system) is an industry – primarily manufacturing – which includes many producers, working from their homes, typically part time. The term originally referred to homeworkers who were engaged in a task such as sewing or lace-making. Some industries which are usually operated from large centralized factories were cottage industries before the Industrial Revolution. The business operators would travel around, buying raw materials, delivering it to people who would work on them, and then collecting the finished goods to sell, or typically to ship to another market. One of the factors which allowed the industrial revolution to take place in Western Europe was the presence of these business people who had the ability to expand the scale of their operations. Cottage industries were very common in the time when a large proportion of the population was engaged in agriculture, because the farmers (and their families) often had both the time and the desire to earn additional income during the part of the year (Winter) when there was little farming work to do.

The use of the term has expanded, and is used to refer to any event which allows a large number of people to work part time. For example, eBay is said to have spawned a cottage industry of people who buy surplus merchandise, and sell it on their auction system.

History of Cottage Industries

Current applications of the term "cottage industry" include: A program, process or practice that takes up lengthy and/or inordinate amounts of time while detracting from the main task at hand. Cottage industries were the precursor to the factories that would characterize the Industrial Revolution. Their formation was prompted largely by the enclosing of the common lands. Common lands were lands set aside for the common people on which to garden or graze their livestock. Over time the rich aristocrats enclosed the common lands, largely without censure or punishment of any kind, leaving the poor people in a major predicament. Bear in mind that if one was not a land owner, highly skilled, or highly educated there were few opportunities to make a good living. Cottage industries were the solution that solved this problem and saved many of the common people.

Most of the work was carried out in the home and was often combined with farming. There were three main stages to making cloth: carding, spinning and weaving. Most cloth was made from either wool or cotton, but other materials such as silk and flax were also used. The woven cloth was sold to merchants called clothiers who visited the village with their trains of pack-horses. Some of the cloth was made into clothes for people living in the same area. However, a large amount of cloth was exported.

The process of the cottage industry involved the entire family as most work performed in the 18th century did. In fact the entire process moved from child to the mother then to the father. First was the process called carding. Carding was usually done by children. This involved using a hand-card that removed and untangled the short fibres from the mass. Hand cards were essentially wooden blocks fitted with handles and covered with short metal spikes. The spikes were angled and set in leather. The fibres were worked between the spikes and, be reversing the cards, scrapped off in rolls (cardings) about 12 inches long and just under an inch thick.

The second process was known as spinning and this was performed by the mothers. The spinning of wool, cotton or flax was originally done by the spindle and distaff. The distaff, a stick about 3 ft long, was held under the left arm, and the fibres of wool drawn from it were twisted spirally by the forefinger and thumb of the right hand. As the thread was spun, it was wound on the spindle. The spinning wheel was invented in Nuremberg in the 1530s. It consisted of a revolving wheel operated by treadle and a driving spindle. this slow process of spinning was a tedious process that remained unaltered until the invention of James Hargreaves who invented what is known as the Spinning Jenny. It is claimed that one day his daughter Jenny, accidentally knocked over the family spinning wheel. The spindle continued to revolve and it gave Hargreaves the idea that a whole line of spindles could be worked off one wheel. The machine used eight spindles onto which the thread was spun from a corresponding set of rovings. By turning a single wheel, the operator could now spin eight threads at once.

The last process was performed by the fathers or the men of the household, this process was called the weaving. The weaving was done on a machine known as the handloom weaver so weaving was also referred to as handlooming. The handloom was devised about 2,000 years ago and was brought to England by the Romans. The process consisted of interlacing one set of threads of yarn (the warp) with another (the weft). The warp threads are stretched lengthwise in the weaving loom. The weft, the cross-threads, are woven into the warp to make the cloth. Like the process of spinning, weaving remained unchanged for a great period of time. Then the twelfth child of a Yeoman farmer, John Kay invented the flying shuttle, which enabled a weaver to knock the shuttle across the loom and back again using one hand only. The speed of weaving was doubled; and a single weaver could make cloths of any width, whereas previously two men had sat together at a loom to make broad cloth. Unfortunately John Kay had to fight for the royalties of his invention his whole life and died a poor man.

Recently cottage industries have been encouraged by environmental groups to preserve areas of the rainforest by aiding the local tribes in a sustainable way. The Maisin tribe and others in Papua New Guinea is a notable example to sustain the rainforest for future generations.

 Category:Economic history
 Category:Industrial organization

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