Textiles

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Textile materials are made in three stages:

  1. spinning: fibres are spun into yarns
  2. weaving or knitting: yarns become fabrics
  3. finishing: fabrics are finished to make them more useful                                              There are two types of textile fibres:
    • natural
    • synthetic
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Natural Fibres

Natural fibres come from plants, animals and minerals. They usually have short fibres, called staple fibres. The exception to this rule is silk, a natural fibre whose continuous filaments are up to one kilometre in length!

Sources of natural fibres

  • Cotton from the cotton plant.
  • Linen from the flax plant.
  • Wool from sheep.
  • Silk from silkworms.
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Synthetic Fibres

Synthetic fibres are man-made, usually from chemical sources. They are continuous filament fibres, which means the fibres are long and do not always have to be spun into yarn.

Sources of synthetic fibres

  • Viscose comes from pine trees or petrochemicals.
  • Acrylic, nylon and polyester come from oil and coal.
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Natural Fibres From Plants-Cotton

Used for making jeans, T-shirts and towels and has the following qualities: 

  • cool to wear
  • very absorbent, dries slowly
  • soft handle
  • good drape
  • durable
  • creases easily
  • can be washed and ironed
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Linen

Used for summer clothing, tea towels and tablecloths and has the following qualities: 

  • fresh and cool to wear
  • very absorbent, dries quickly
  • stiffer handle
  • good drape
  • durable
  • creases badly
  • can be washed and ironed
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Wool

Used for jumpers, suits and blankets and has the following qualities: 

  • warm to wear
  • absorbent, dries slowly
  • breathable, repels rain
  • soft or coarse handle
  • can shrink, should be dry cleaned
  • good drape
  • not durable
  • creases drop out
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Silk

Used for evening wear and ties and has the following qualities:

  • warm to wear
  • absorbent
  • soft handle
  • good lustre and drape
  • durable
  • creases drop out
  • dry clean
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Synthetic Fibres-Viscose

A regenerated fibre from natural polymer materials like cellulose. It is used for shirts, dresses and linings and has the following qualities: 

  • low warmth
  • absorbent, dries slowly
  • soft handle
  • good drape
  • not durable
  • creases easily
  • can be washed and ironed
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Acrylic

Used for jumpers, fleece jackets and blankets and has the following qualities: 

  • warm to wear
  • non-absorbent, dries quickly
  • stiffer handle, like wool
  • good drape
  • durable
  • crease resistant
  • easy care
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Nylon

Used for active sportswear, fleece jackets, socks and seat belts and has the following qualities:

  • warm to wear
  • absorbent, dries slowly
  • breathable, repels rain
  • soft or coarse handle
  • can shrink, should be dry cleaned
  • good drape
  • durable
  • creases drop out
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Polyester

Used for raincoats, fleece jackets, children's nightwear, medical textiles and working clothes and has the following qualities:

  • low warmth
  • non-absorbent, dries quickly
  • soft handle
  • good drape
  • very durable
  • crease resistant
  • easy care
  • can be recycled
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Modern Fibres

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Microfibres

Polyester or nylon microfibres are 60 to 100 times finer than a human hair. They can be blended with synthetic or natural fibres and are used for clothing for outdoor pursuits and active sportswear.

Thermoplastic polyester or nylon microfibres can be heat-treated to give them coils, crimps and loops, which makes these textured yarns stretchy and warm. They are used for underwear, sportswear, knitwear and carpets.

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Fibre Blends

Blending different fibres together produces yarns that have the combined properties of each component fibre. Using fibre blends improves the appearance, performance, comfort and aftercare of fabric. Blending can also reduce the cost of an expensive fibre.

  • Polyester/cotton blend: shirts are more easy-care and crease-resistant than shirts made from 100 percent cotton.
  • Cotton/lycra blend: jeans are more comfortable, stretchy and fit better than cotton jeans.
  • Acrylic/wool blend: trousers are less expensive than 100 percent wool trousers.
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Modern Microfibres

  • Elastane (Lycra) is always used in a blend with other fibres. It is used to make sportswear, body-hugging clothes and bandages. It has good handle and drape, is durable, crease resistant, stretchy (more comfortable) and is easy care. It has low warmth and is absorbent.
  • Tencel is a 'natural' microfibre made from cellulose derived from wood-pulp. It is used for shirts and jeans. It has soft handle, good drape, is breathable, durable, crease-resistant, easy-care and biodegradable. It is absorbent and has low warmth.
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