How pantyhose are made – knitting and finishing the productThe preparation of the fibers used for the making of nylon pantyhose is just the beginning of a long and intricate process that will in the end result in a pair of perfect pantyhose, folded and packaged the way you see it in hosiery shops and at online pantyhose vendors. This is where the real science comes into the equation.
The actual knitting process is done by specially designed circular knitting machines which use the nylon yarn (the manufacturing of which was covered in a previous blog post), and about 300-420 needles rotating at 1,200 rpm to make the hose leg. These machines are computer controlled, and as such, operators can pretty much control the knitting right down to every single stitch. Patterns and various style-specific designs are introduced during this phase. It takes a reasonably advanced pantyhose knitting machine about 90 seconds to create a pantyhose leg.
The job of the knitting machine operator resumes to the following: he/she has to place the spools of nylon yarn onto the creel. He/she has to thread the machine after which it can be started up. During operation, he/she watches over the process, reporting possible machine malfunctions to the maintenance department.
It is also the operator's job to remove the knitted hosiery from the machine and to inspect it for possible faults. He/she may mark such faults with a crayon. The knitting machine operator will also be required to classify and to bundle the resulting products into quality, mend and reject categories. It is also one of his/her duties to clip connecting threads and other such loose-hanging debris from the hosiery. The length of the resulting hosiery may also be measured by the machine operator.
The product resulting from the knitting phase is a far cry from the finished fabric you will unwrap from the package though. This fabric is somewhat loose, not very elastic and each leg is extremely long. It needs to be shrunk to size before the next phase – the seaming phase – of the operation can begin. The shrinking is done through heat treatment. The pantyhose legs are introduced into steam ovens, the exact temperature of which is of course computer-controlled too. A lot hinges on this phase, so special care needs to be taken to make sure that the resulting nylons do indeed retain the physical attributes that the creator envisioned.
Once out of the steaming oven, the hosiery legs are closed up, meaning that the openings at their bottoms are seamed and trimmed. They are then sewn together to form something that finally starts to resemble the finished product. It is during the seaming phase that crotch panels are introduced, where required. The seaming phase is when the special lace thigh-bands are sewn onto stockings. The lace usually comes from a different manufacturer. Stay-ups feature silicone inserts in the lace-band. Those usually come from yet another manufacturer.
After the seaming is complete, the pantyhose are washed and dried to remove all impurities from the fabric before the dying process begins. The mixing of the dye and the actual dying is done in a special machine, and needless to say, this process is entirely computer controlled as well.
Apparently, all pantyhose are made of white fiber, so they all need to be dyed in order to give them the proper shade of color the designer is aiming for (yes, even suntan). The dying process is an extremely delicate part of the manufacturing chain. In order to make certain that pantyhose are indeed consistently of the same shade of color, samples are continuously pulled and color testing is done on them.
Pantyhose are then dried and pressed before they hit the packaging machine that folds them up and seals the packages. Before the packaging, one last quality check is conducted on them. The last thing the customer would want is to pull the tights from the package only to find a nasty run or a snag on them.
High-end nylons go through yet another phase of production, which is meant to make them fit better: they're steam-pressed into a leg-shape, and they actually do retain that form for you to see when you open the package after purchase.