Fabrics (102) Fibres, What are clothes really made from ?

Fabrics (102)  Fibres,  What are clothes really made from ?

Welcome back to the wonderful world of fabrics. One of our earlier blogs we  looked at the difference between knit and woven fabrics and how this influences the way garments feel and the choices made by the designer.

Fabrics are just part of the story and to get a full picture we need to go to their source. Fabrics are made of yarns of varying size and texture which are put together in interesting ways to make fabric. When it comes to your favourite clothes it’s not just the look of the fabric but how the garment feels and performs and this mostly comes down to the fibre used to make the fabric.

Fibres are grouped into three categories

  1. Natural - animal, vegetable or mineral
  2. Man - made - natural fibres that are physically or chemically changed
  3. Synthetic - fibres made completely from chemicals

Because all fibres have different plus and minus qualities many fabrics are made from a blend of fibres to get the best of both worlds and minimise the down sides. Let’s have a look at how these fibres will perform.

Natural Fibres

Remember the guessing game when the first question was “animal, vegetable or mineral ’ well this is the starting point for figuring out natural fibres.

  • Animal - Wool, Alpaca, Mohair, Cashmere, Angora and Silk [ from silkworms]
  • Vegetable - Linen - from flax plants, Cotton, Jute, Sisal, Hemp
  • Mineral - Metals, asbestos, and glass

Manmade Fibres

Fibres are regenerated or modified physically or chemically

Bamboo, [Viscose -Europe, Rayon – USA] – these are from the spruce tree and other plants

Tencel, Acetate and Cupro

Synthetic Fibres

Nylon [Polyamide], Polyester, Acrylic, Elastane – made completely from chemicals, Polypropylene

As a rule, natural fibres are more expensive because they are not as readily available.

All fibres have plus and minus properties, but I think we can all agree we want our clothes to be …

 

Like people no fibre is perfect so that’s why many fibres are blended together to maximise performance of the garment and suitability for the style.

Understanding your clothes, a little better will increase your enjoyment of your wardrobe.

 

Fibre

 

 Positives

 

Negatives

 

COTTON

Strong, especially when wet, Durable, and absorbent. Cool to wear, able to have a variety of textures.

Sustainable and decomposes

 

Can fade if left in sun, can shrink if not laundered properly.

Creases, not warm to wear

 

SILK

Can be used to create fine light weight garments. Absorbs moisture so is comfortable to wear. Warm, luxurious

Decomposes

 

Creases

Can fade and rot

Not very strong

 

LINEN

 

Strong, absorbent, durable

Cool to wear

Luxury fibre – softens with age and wear

Sustainable and decomposes

 

Can fade

Creases

Can shrink if not laundered properly

 

 

 

BAMBOO

 

 

Breathable

Anti-fungal

Anti-bacterial

Sustainable and decomposes

 

Heavy when wet

Can shrink if not laundered correctly

Wrinkles and creases

VISCOSE/RAYON

Fine to heavy weight garments

Lustrous - shiny

Soft

Highly absorbent

 

Can fade

Weak fibre

Shrinks if not laundered correctly

Not warm to wear

 

WOOL

 

Degrades in light

Stretchy

Flame retardant

Dirt repellent

Anti-static

Drapes well

Doesn’t crease

Warm

Can pull out of shape when in a lightweight fabric

Prone to damage from moths and mildew

 

 

 

 

 

ACRYLIC

 

 

 

Won’t fade

Non absorbent

Strong

Stable

 

Can be prone to pilling - rubbing

Not sustainable

 

 

NYLON

 

 

 

Light

Strong

Abrasion resistant

Stable

Adds strength to other fibres

Weakens over time

Doesn’t breathe

Not sustainable

 

 

 

POLYESTER

 

 

 

Stretchy

Flexible

Durable

Resistant to abrasion

Light fast

Good wrinkle recovery

Non-absorbent or breathable

Prone to sweating

Doesn’t decompose readily

 

 

POLYPROPYLENE

 

 

Colour fast

Fast drying

Stain and soil resistant

Strong

Petro-chemical by product

Not sustainable

Can be sweaty

 

 

MICROFIBRE

 

 

Very fine strands

Soft

Hold shape

Not very absorbent

 

 

Doesn’t breathe

 

 

 

 

Like people no fibre is perfect so that’s why many fibres are blended together to maximise performance of the garment and suitability for the style.

Understanding your clothes, a little better will increase your enjoyment of your wardrobe.

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