Cone Adds More Vintage Selvage Looms at White Oak Mill
To keep up with demand for American-made selvage denim, Cone Denim is increasing capacity of selvage denim by 25 percent by installing several vintage selvage looms at its historic White Oak mill in Greenboro, N.C.
The American Draper X3 loom is a fly-shuttle loom from the 1940s, which produces narrow selvage denim fabric. The installation of the new-to-Cone machines is expected to be complete by the end of the month.
“Demand continues to grow for authentic Made in the USA selvage denims and has exceeded the capacity of our current X3 looms,” said Kara Nicholas, vice president, product development and marketing, in a statement.
The company had retained a number of vintage shuttle looms, gradually adding them back into production as demand increased beginning in the 1990s.
“With no more looms in storage, we began searching; this is an extraordinary find for us,” Nicholas said.
The Cone team searched “scrap yards, grassy fields and abandoned mills” before finding the looms, which required extensive restoration by Cone technicians. Parts had to be fabricated, and some of the looms were overhauled and reassembled.
“The restoration of the looms has been tedious and would have been impossible without the expertise of our technicians, many of whom worked on the original X3 looms,” Nicholas said.
The reclaimed X3 looms will join Cone’s existing X3 looms, which produce denim with “a depth and dimension different from other denims.”
“Vintage weaving is more art than science,” Nicholas said. “Each loom that is installed gives us an opportunity to continue to master the intricacies of shuttle weaving and transfer that know-how to the next generation.”
Moses and Ceasar Cone founded the company in 1891. Over the years, the company expanded to a global operation with manufacturing facilities in the U.S., Asia and Mexico. At the the company’s flagship White Oak mill, denim is made using modern equipment and technology as well as vintage looms from mid-century denim-making techniques.
“It is exciting to strategically invest in our U.S. manufacturing base and to further the White Oak legacy,” said Ken Kunberger, president and chief operating officer of Cone Denim and Cone’s parent company, International Textile Group. “Our customers and the consumer’s passion for authentic American selvage denim, coupled with the history and heritage of White Oak, continues to grow.”