|What are the materials that are in different
types a fabrics? How are fabrics different?
|Question Date: 2005-01-05|
There are two main types of fabrics: natural and
synthetic. Natural fabrics such as wool, cotton,
silk, and linen are made from animal
coats,cotton-plant seed pods, fibers from
silkworms, and flax (fiber from the stalk of a
plant), respectively. Synthetic fabrics such as
nylon,spandex, rayon, polyester, and acrylic are
man-made. These fabrics differ in a number of
ways, such as:
1. Warmth: Wool is particularly
warm because the fibers have little crimps in
them. These create pockets of air in the material
that help to insulate.
2. Breathability: Cotton
"breathes", which means when used as clothing i
tallows air to circulate to your skin. Many
people prefer 100% cotton topolyester blends
because of the breathability factor.
Strength: Linen, spandex, and polyester are all
quite strong and durable.
4. Dying Properties:
Linen, for example, is a good fabric to dye
because the color sets well and won't fade
5. Softness / Scratchiness: Many wools,
of course, are quite itchy (due to the crimps in
the fibers), and cotton and silk are known for
6. Properties when wet:
"Absorbent" cotton will retain 24-27 times its own
weight in water and is stronger when wet than
7. Luster (shininess): This property is
what makes silk so desirable. Rayon is a man-made
substitute than can look similar.
Elasticity: A lot of the synthetic fibers are very
elastic. This means you can stretch them and they
will "bounce back" to their original shape.
Spandex was developed with this property in mind.
Nylon, which is used in hosiery, is also very
Fabrics are made of fibers - strands that are much
longer than they are wide and generally round on
cross section. These fibers may be from natural or
synthetic sources. Humans originally made cloth
from natural sources, but have subsequently found
the means to make their own fibers starting from
basic chemicals. Each type has different
properties of flexibility, ability to serve as
insulation, ability to conduct
Wool - From
sheep most commonly, but also from a host of other
animals including Llamas, vicunas, alpacas,
horses, camels, etc. Good insulation, flexibility,
may resist wetting.
Cotton - From the
fibers of the seed pod of the cotton plant,
Gossypium. Good flexibility, wearing qualities.
Linen - From the fibers
of the stem of the flax plant, Linum.Heavier than
cotton, but still flexible. Excellent wearing
characteristics. Transmits water
From the surficial fibers of a small tree of the
Linden family, Cochorus. Very tough, rough, not
too flexible. Often more for rope, but may be made
Hemp - From the stem fibers
of Cannabis. As for Jute.
Tapa - from
the bark fibers of Broussonetia. Soft, but not
very flexible. Rare in western culture.
Cotton and Linen are by far the most widely used.
And there are a LOT more. Seek out a text on
Economic Botany and consult the chapter on
"cloth" if you want to learn about
More recently, humans have learned to
make their own fibers, primarily from two sources.
First, by dissolving the cellulose found in the
cell walls of plants and then re-forming it into
thread. This is the source of Rayon. Since
cellulose is the primary constituent of all but
the wool fibers noted above, we are just
re-inventing the wheel.
synthesizing cellulose-like molecules from oil. By
example, Nylon, polyester.
The synthetic forms
tend to be quite flexible, but often are very poor
at "breathing", that is, letting body heat and
sweat out. Hence they are often mixed with cotton.
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