Susan Smyth

R&D/Product Development project manager

Thorneburg Hosiery Mills, Statesville, N.C.


When did you start in the textile industry? 1989


What is your background?

Project Management – from idea to manufacturing to shipping. I started with Thorneburg Hosiery Mills 31 years ago.  I worked to define and implement the formal research and development processes for product design and implementation that we use today.


What types of products does your company specifically produce and what types of end products are they used in?

We make activity specific socks (sports, outdoor, casual, dress, work, diabetic, etc). Our first design criteria is consumer benefit. Our focus is making the very best product we can make for our consumers so they will experience an improved quality of life in whatever they do.


What does your job mean to you, your family and your community?

I always say I have the best job in the company. I see first-hand through product trials the difference our products make in the lives of our consumers. My work community has pride in the product they make and we appreciate the caring family atmosphere we have here. Most of us have been here a long time.


What is your role in producing PPE products or inputs for these products for your company?

I worked with our yarn suppliers to get the protective yarns urgently to our facility. I designed and conducted tests with consumer groups to make sure our masks met the specified requirements. I worked with the engineer to create the final specifications and completed all work needed to get the masks into production and out to consumers ASAP.


How does it feel to have your company step up to address the PPE shortage during the pandemic?

For us, there was no question about it. We knew we had to help. We have the talent and machinery to create solutions and we felt it was our duty. We all have a great sense of pride doing what we’ve always worked to do – improve quality of life, or in this case, possibly saving lives.


Why is it important for textiles to be made/cut and sewn and/or finished in America?

We make our products with a quality mindset that puts the consumer’s needs first. I believe that is a core value in American manufacturing. During this pandemic, it was critical for us to source the materials we needed quickly. Having yarn suppliers close by, on American soil, allowed us to make the masks quickly and get them out there. Quality, safety, reliability and efficiencies.  That’s why American manufacturing is important to me.


Thorneburg Hosiery Mills’ efforts


Thorneburg Hosiery Mills, Inc. employs the best sock engineers in the world. When “stay-at-home” restrictions were put into place and the U.S. was facing PPE shortages, the company used this expertise and TH Mills’ sock knitting machines to produce double layer cloth face masks, called Face Tek™. This provided for the PPE needs in our community and beyond while keeping employees at work. TH Mills used yarns that were in existing inventory, which included the use of CuTEC™ copper ion yarns that are antimicrobial.


“We were excited to be able to produce these masks using our USA production capacities and expertise,” said Dave Varsik, chief innovation officer/director of R&D for TH Mills. “There was an immediate need for PPE in the consumer sector – Face Tek served this need while keeping our factory running and our community employed.”