Fabric 101

Fabric is just fabric! What possibly can there be to learn about fabric? A whole book actually, YES, not kidding at all! Look it up, the book is called “Understanding Fabrics: From Fibre To Finished Cloth” by Debbie Ann Gioello. Absurd Right?? Well, not at all because if you ask how important is fabric frankly? Fabrics determine the overall look, comfort and fit of the clothes that you wear and it is not only confined to your clothes and fashion. Your home needs fabric too, from your curtains, carpets to the sofas and rugs, meaning whole of your home decor. So to answer the question concisely – Fabrics ARE very important. You see each kind of fabric has its own characteristics and depending on how you want to use the fabric you you’ll have to choose the fabric to manufacture. You can’t use cotton to make fire proof suits for the firefighters. You’ll have to use fiberglass or any such durable fabric. Similarly we wear woolens in winters because they keep us warm and cozy, we use linens in the hot summers due to its breathability. Various fabrics are also used to make Shoes, Handbags, Hats, Furniture and what not.

Now that we’ve already hopped in, let’s dig a little more deep into FABRICS – there are only three types, Plant Based, like cotton, linen and hemp. Animal Derived like wool and silk. And Man Made, now these are quite varied in their origin – cellulose helps make Rayon. Then there are petroleum based fabrics which include Acrylic, Nylon, Polyester and Spandex. After their source there comes the Fabric Structure – Yes… there is more science in textile than you might have imagined. We know, fabric is made of Fibres and Yarns. Almost all the garment fabrics are either knitted or woven from these yarns. Some of them are even made of fibres bonded together by Heat, Mechanical or Chemical Treatment. Yeah…. Too much science and tech for you goldbricks! So, there are basically three types of fabrics based on the techniques that are used to manufacture them,

Woven Fabric, Separate yarns cross each other at right angles. There are different types of weaves when it comes to woven fabric, these weaves behave very differently, for example; Muslin, Denim and Satin are all woven but they all have a different look and feel to them. Just the technique of making the fabric changes it completely.

Knit Fabric, A knitting machine, very intricately creates the fabric by interlocking the yarns. The fiber content of the knit determines its degree of stretch and recovery. It is generally used in garments which are required to stretch to a certain degree for comfort. For example, t-shirts, athletic clothing and swimwear.

Non Woven Fabric, It is widely accepted that weaving and knitting are the most common fabric production methods. However, fabrics can also be made by Molding, Bonding and Felting techniques. Real and faux leather, suede and another complex paper like fabric called Tyvek belong to this group.

Now this was just a brief overview of the fabrics, but it goes as deep as the ocean bed. If you look at it closely enough, fabric has been an integral part of everyday life since the Prehistoric Times. It serves a variety of purposes because it is such a flexible medium. Cloth can be wrapped tightly or draped loosely, woven to one shape or knitted to stretch and conform to changing shapes, or pieced together and combined with other material to create items as different as Rag Dolls and Tents. And I strongly believe that exploring Fabrics can never end. Ciao!

Vansh Dhama

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