Whether you’re a tailor, a budding fashion designer, or just someone who’s interested, understanding the different characteristics and feel of various kinds of fabrics can be very helpful, especially when deciding a fabric to make an item with.
Each fabric has its qualities and functions better as a specific product. Different fabrics also require specialized kinds of care to ensure they last as long as they can.
To help you develop a better understanding of fabric and get some basic knowledge, here are some popular fabrics out of the hundreds used out there.
Natural Vs. Synthetic
Fabrics can be largely differentiated depending on the type of fiber used. This mainly consists of natural and synthetic fibers.
As the name suggests, natural fibers come from plants and animals. For instance, silk comes from the aptly named silkworm and cotton comes from plants. Alternatively, synthetic fibers are made entirely by humans with the synthetic matter.
The second differing factor is the way it’s produced. Different fabric types can be sorted into three broad classes, including knitted, woven, and occasionally, nonwoven fabrics. Here’s an infographic to help you get a sense of these three fabric classes.
Cotton is known across the world and has been the most used fabric for a long time. With its versatility, comfort, and lightweight, cotton is used to make all kinds of clothing and products. It is made from the natural fibers of the cotton plant.
The fluffy cotton material is spun into yarn, which is then woven to create a soft yet durable fabric. It is commonly used for everyday garments like t-shirts and home items like bed sheets. Cotton holds a prominent place in the fashion industry.
Denim is a staple in the fashion industry and there are not many wardrobes that don’t include it. High-quality denim fabrics are soft, durable, and most importantly, fashionable for almost any type of occasion.
It’s a woven cotton twill fabric, usually made from entwined cotton wrap yarn and stuffing yarn. It widely stands out with its vivid texture and sturdiness. Most popularly, denim is dyed with indigo and darker colors to create blue or black jeans. In addition to jeans, it’s also used for shirts, jackets, and shorts.
Chiffon is made from twisted yarn, giving it a somewhat rough feel. Its small packers are what makes it a little rough to the touch. The yarn can be made from a variety of textile types, including silk, nylon, rayon, and polyester. The fabric itself is lightweight and plain-woven.
Chiffon is easy to dye, so it’s typically used to make scarves and dresses, including prom dresses, wedding gowns, and even Jovani feather dresses. Its light, flowing material makes it perfect for long and flowy dresses.
Leather is a particularly odd fabric, due in part to the various kinds of animal hides or skins that it’s made from, including crocodiles, pigs, cows, and lamb.
Materials derived from each animal have to be treated differently due to their unique properties. It’s a stylish fabric that has been in fashion for decades and its durability lasts for quite a long time.
Suede is another type of leather, usually the kind made from lamb. It has a unique flesh side that creates a velvet-like surface on the outside. Leather is typically used in bulky clothing items like shoes, jackets, and belts.
Silk is a smooth, elegant fabric that’s soft to the touch and has a shimmering, glossy look. It’s often regarded as the most luxurious natural fabric out there. It comes from silkworm cocoons, found in various parts of the world including Europe, South Asia, and China.
Even though it’s a very tough and durable fabric, it can be challenging to clean and handle with care. Silk doesn’t last long if washed, because fabric weaves tend to tighten or pucker. It should ideally be dry-cleaned or washed by hand.
Silk is commonly used in extravagant clothing items like evening gowns, wedding dresses, ties, lingerie, and scarves. Kashmir and Shantung are the most popular types of leather fabrics
Wool is quite a unique fabric that comes from sheep, llama, goat, and alpaca fleece. It’s characterized as being a hairy and fluffy material that can keep your body warm. It is usually woven but can be knitted too.
Wool is somewhat delicate as it needs to be hand-washed or dry-cleaned but it can also be pretty resilient as it’s resistant to dust and wear and tear. Due to its warm attributes, it’s commonly used in sweaters, gloves, and socks to keep various parts of the body heated.
Velvet is a soft and luxurious fabric, synonymous with royalty in the past thanks to its complex production process and rich finishing. Velvet can be made from linen, cotton, nylon, silk, polyester, or a combination of a few of them. This makes it a heavy, versatile material that’s neither too stretchy nor too inelastic.
Velvet has a smooth pile effect on one side. Its quality can be determined by the pile tuft’s density. It’s often used in shirts, coats, blouses, skirts, and even in home decor where it’s used as curtains, pillows, etc.
Synthetics is a general term used to collectively refer to several fabric types, including polyester, nylon, and spandex. They are quite different from regular or delicate fabrics and are typically resistant to water or liquid stains.
Arguably the most important out of all these synthetic materials is spandex, also known as Lycra. It’s made from polyurethane and is known for its elasticity, strength, and lightweight. Being blended with several types of fiber, this form-fitting material is used in a variety of clothing, including sportswear, swimwear, hosiery, and dresses.
Nylon is also well known for its strength and flexibility, but unlike spandex, nylon is completely synthetic. It’s quite a long-lasting fabric and handles wear and tear very well. This is why it can be often seen in tough outerwear like jackets and long coats.