Ribbon to dye for

November 11, 2007|By JULIE E. GREENE

Next time you buy someone a gourmet gift decorated with ribbon, that ribbon might have been in Hagerstown before.

The Berwick Offray ribbon plant in Hagerstown, which employs more than 200 people, dyes 10 million yards of ribbon in one week, Plant Manager Rick Lee said.

The company has had a local ribbon plant since 1922 when Offray had a plant on North Prospect Street, Lee said. The local plant also was known as Maryland Ribbon for several years.

Lee said ribbon arrives at the Hagerstown plant in strip form, having already been woven into fabric of various ribbon widths at Berwick Offray's Leesville, S.C., plant. In Hagerstown, the ribbon is dyed various colors, has messages printed on it or patterns added to it, Lee said.


At the start of the process, the ribbon is washed and dried. After it is dyed, the ribbon is washed and dried again in ovens or steamers to remove residual dye and to set the color in the fabric, Lee said.

Then the ribbon is wound onto cardboard rings to create the spools of ribbon people are familiar with seeing in craft shops. Ten yards of ribbon can be spun onto a ring in approximately 10 seconds.

When Lee began working at the Hagerstown plant in 1984, much of the ribbon being dyed and printed at the plant was sold for use with apparel such as trim on garments such as lingerie.

Now a lot of garment ribbon is made by overseas companies, and Berwick Offray's polyester ribbons are used for gift wrap, for lanyards, and for adorning high-end food or gourmet products and perfume containers. Nylon wallet tape is dyed to be used as binding to be stitched around the edge of a wallet.

Photos by Yvette May


Berwick Offray's Hagerstown plant dyes about 10 million yards of ribbon per week, according to Plant Manager Rick Lee.

Ribbon gets washed before the dye process. The water is approximately 190 degrees, Plant Manager Rick Lee said.

Dye range operator Sandy Garvin checks the pink ribbon being dyed. Lee said dye range operators check the ribbons' quality - eyeing the color and making sure the ribbon has not become folded or creased.

Decorative dots are placed on green polyester ribbon in the printing department. The dots are made of a specialty printing ink, Lee said.

Ruby Martin prepares the ends of the ribbon for the machine that rolls finished ribbon onto cardboard rings. Sometimes, defects have to be cut out, or the end of a large spool of ribbon has to be spliced with tape to the next roll to keep the ribbon moving through the machine, Lee said.

Lisa Whitmore tags and boxes true white ribbon. Even white ribbons are dyed because there are a variety of shades, and undyed ribbon is yellowish white, Lee said. Popular ribbon colors are red, white and black.

Some ribbons are not dyed. Berwick Offray's South Carolina manufacturing plant makes striped or plaid ribbons and weaves wire into ribbons so they can be used to make bows or manipulated for craft arrangements. Spools of ribbon from the South Carolina plant are stored in a warehouse at the Hagerstown plant. When customers order these ribbons, they are finished with a process similar to steam ironing and then packaged to be shipped to customers.

Berwick Offray has a ribbon outlet store at its Willow Circle plant. The store sells a variety of ribbons that are overruns, obsolete items or have a defect, Lee said.

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