The Basics of Fabric
After an interesting poll on the LannyxStudio Instagram stories about whether people are aware of how fabric is made or where it comes from, it was a unanimous vote that people didn't know but they wanted to. So I've put together a blog series all about fabric, the processes and there will be a few fabric case studies to follow that will hopefully give you the answers in an easy, digestible way.
Introducing the first of the series all about the basics of the fabric process.
The Basic Overview - Fabric starts as fiber that is converted into textile yarns then woven or knitted to form fabric.
What are Fibers?
Fibers are raw materials that can be converted into textile yarns. They can be split into 3 types;
- Natural – Derived from plants or animals
e.g. Cotton, Flax, Hemp, Wool, Cashmere, Silk
- Regenerated – Semi-synthetic and derived from natural resources but go through an intensive chemical transformation process.
e.g. Rayon (viscose), Soybean protein
Synthetic – Man-made, derived mainly from crude oil
e.g, Polyester, Nylon, SpandexExample
Cotton is a natural fiber as it comes from the cotton plant, it is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective case, around the seeds of the cotton plant and therefore needs to be harvested. In modern day, cotton is picked by machine but it has recently come to light that forced labour may still be happening in parts of the world. The harvested cotton goes through a process called ginning, a machine that separates the cotton fibers from their seeds, ready to be turned into textile yarn.
The Cotton Plant
Image courtesy of rawpixel.com
What are Textile Yarns?
Yarn is a continuous length of interlocked fibers and there are two main types;
Staple Yarn - Formed by twisting staple fibers together to make a cohesive or single thread and is referred to as spinning. (think of cotton)
Filament Yarn – Formed by forcing liquid or semi-liquid polymers through small holes to create single or multiple yarns. (think of polyester)
Creating Actual Fabric
To form a useable fabric length the raw material that has now been turned into textile yarn must be woven or knitted with the exception of non-woven & felting which are formed by chemical or mechanical treatments without using any weaving or knitting process.
Woven Fabric: Yarn is woven by machine known as a loom or by hand in two distinct directions, at right angles called the warp and the weft to create the fabric design. A few woven fabric examples include poplin, flannel, seersucker and corduroy.
Modern Industrial Weaving Machine: Image courtesy of fashion-history.lovetoknow.com
Knitted Fabric: Formed by the inter-looping of yarns or inter-meshing of loops to create a useable textile, knitting can be done by machine or by hand with the two main types being warp knitting and weft knitting. A few knitted fabric examples include jersey, rib knit, interlock and cable.
Modern Flat Knitting Machine: Image courtesy of www.knittingindustry.com
Important Note: A few other processes to mention in the production of fabric is dying and finishing but I will cover them in a separate blog post as they are lengthy topics, particularly the dying process as it can be carried out several stages.