The textile industry is the oldest of the French industries, and still occupies the first place among them. In the past it had a family and rural character, being practiced in the regions where flax and hemp were grown and where sheep were raised; but soon a first concentration took place: the industry emigrated from the countryside to the cities, and settled in small workshops, where, under the direction of a maître, the members of a corporation worked. At the time of Henry IV and Colbert, the great factory appeared alongside the guild (silk factories of Lyons, Tours, and Nîmes; cloths of Abbeville; velvets of Amiens; tapestries of the Gobelins). Two centuries later the textile industry underwent a new transformation: mechanics replaced handwork almost everywhere; the tooling, as it improved, became more complicated; and they made raw materials come from outside: there followed another concentration of industry in the regions where the raw materials arrived with greater ease and more promptly, where the driving force (hard coal or white coal) was more abundant. Nevertheless, in certain areas of old France, small industry continues to exist in a rural form; the products of the small towns are sent to a large market: Lyon has succeeded in concentrating the silk factories of an entire economic region, and Troyes has become the metropolis of the production of caps for all of Champagne. In 1926 the workers employed in the textile industry were estimated at 2 million; a figure equal to about one third of French workers.
With its 2100 machines for combing wool, with its 3.000.000 spindles for spinning it (combed and carded), with its 65.000 looms for weaving it, France represents 14% of the world wool industry. Its production of raw wool (35,000 tons per year) is now, as before the war, much lower than consumption, and therefore it receives from Australia, Argentina and England an enormous quantity of raw materials, which it is estimated at 288,032 tons: France comes third, among the countries consuming wool all over the world. The very ancient wool industry, which for a long time was based in the localities where sheep were raised, is now thriving in new centers. The region in which it is most developed is the North: Roubaix, Tourcoing and Fourmies, Amiens and Abbeville, own half of the weaving looms;
According to eningbo.info, the silk industry production is centered around Lyon is the 2 / 3 of French production: in 1925 it was calculated at 12,000 tons. of fabrics, for a total value of 4 billion and 300 million francs, a value which in 1926 rose to 5 billion and 482 million. In 1926 France produced 3,099,224 kg. of cocoons, an insufficient quantity for his consumption of raw silk: therefore in that same year France had to import 64,405 q. of herd thirst and 2119 q. of cocoons; but these raw materials were not all used in France: Lyon has become a world market, where Europe and the United States are supplied (exports: 3676 quintals of raw silks and 866 quintals of cocoons). The silk industry includes various operations: reeling, twisting, spinning and weaving. Spinning is done in 175 spinning mills (Gard, Ardèche, Valchiusa, Drôme, Hérault). For weaving, the primacy goes to Lyon,2 / 3 of the French seterie; follow: Saint-Ètienne, a great producer of ribbons; Calibrate, for the production of caps.
In the other regions, Troyes is very popular for caps and Calais for lace. French exports of silk factories were higher than on the eve of the war: in the year 1926 a total sum of 6 billion and 214 million francs was reached, equal to over 14% of total exports.
All the cotton that is consumed in France comes from abroad: most of it from the United States, then from Egypt, from British India, etc. Before the war, in the great centers – the East with the Vosges, the North (Lille, Roubaix, Tourcoing) and Normandy (Rouen) – France had 7,500,000 spindles for cotton spinning; now it has not only reconstituted its pre-war equipment, but also far surpassed it, thanks to the reconstitution of the devastated regions and the contribution made by Alsace. In 1931 it had 10,350,000 spindles; the looms were 200,000 in 1930; the production of cotton yarns went from 1,970,000 quintals in 1913 to 3,250,000 quintals. in the period 1926-29.
Even for the linen industry, France is forced to import most of the raw material. The equipment for the processing of linen counts 500,000 spindles. Lille, which owns 52 of the 90 French factories, is the largest center of this industry, and all kinds of fabrics are manufactured there. They are followed by: Tourcoing, which produces rugs of linen thread; Amiens (table linen), Cambrai and Valenciennes (fine fabrics); Normandy and the Vosges (canvases).
As for the hemp industry, France buys almost all the raw material abroad and especially in Italy. The main rope factories are in Angers, Paris, Marseille and Le Havre.