The fabric is part of our everyday life. All our homes and closets are filled with them. They have been used by mankind for thousands of years. In the last 100 years, a number of new man-made fabrics have been created for example Nylon.
Here are some interesting facts about 5 popular types of fabric.
This flexible material comes from an assortment of animals such as sheep, goats, and rabbits.
It is durable, flame resistant, and keeps its shape> It is also odour resistant. The quality of wool is determined by its thickness, colour, and strength. Raw wool is full of impurities.
Fine wools are used for garments and coarser wool for products like blankets and rugs. Wool can be blended with natural and synthetic fibres as well. The processing of wool is totally mechanized except for the shearing and grading process. A process called carding is used to straighten the fibres and remove excess dirt.
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The next process is spinning the fibre together into yarn. The wool is then woven into a fabric. Finishing procedures include immersion in water, shrink proofing and dyeing.
Wool is used for items such as socks, jerseys, jackets hats etc.
Interesting fact: Wool is used in fireman’s uniforms
Cotton comes from the cotton plant and is grown in plantations. It is a long thin fiber that has been grown for thousands of years. Cotton fiber is often woven into other fabrics. The process of producing cotton starts with the cleaning and removal of impurities. Spinning mills convert fiber to yarn. Yarns then go through the process of weaving. It is then bleached and washed, dyed and in some cases, printed on.
Cotton fibre is often woven into other fabrics.
Cotton is absorbent, comfortable, durable and not static.
The final products that reach the shops include Socks, shirts, underwear, and sheets.
Interesting fact: Cotton is used in products such as fishnets and banknotes
Silk is a natural fibre produced by silkworms undergoing metamorphosis. Other producers of silk are web spinners who produce silk throughout their lives. Billions of silkworms die each year to produce silk products.
Factories turn cocoons into silk threads. The silk gum holding the cocoon together is softened by emersion in water. Several strands of silk filaments (fine slender threads) are reeled together and wound into skeins (a length of thread/yarn). A throwing machine twists the threads to prevent it from unravelling. Then the weaving machine does the rest. The production of silk is a long and intricate process.
Silk regulates body temperature, repels mould and is hypoallergenic.
Silk is used in products such as lingerie, pyjamas, and ties.
Interesting facts: Silk is used in bicycle tires and in the medical field for wounds and burns.
This is a very popular material which has been used since about 500BC. It is made from fibers growing inside the flax plant. Once the flax is harvested it is spread out to dry for a few weeks. It then undergoes threshing which is the separating of usable flax from the rest of the plant.
Then comes the retting process which is the prolonged exposure to moisture. After this process, It is then stored for weeks to cure (dry out).
The fibres are combed and straightened for spinning. The yarn is transferred to bobbins for weaving.
Linen is used to produce dishtowels, rugs, tablecloths and in industrial products such as luggage and canvas. It is totally biodegradable. All that is needed to make amazing creations is a good sewing machine.
Linen is non-static and provides UV protection
Interesting fact: Mummies have been found wrapped in clothes made of linen. This is probably because it is resistant to fungus and bacteria.
Leather has been around since approximately 1200BC. It is made of animal skin, most commonly cowhide. The more exotic leathers come from animals such as snakes and crocodiles.
The skin is removed from the animal. Flesh and hair are then removed from the skin. It is the salted and once ready to be processed, soaked in water. Next comes the tanning process. Tanning preserves the material and stops decomposition. Thereafter comes the drying process. The leather is then graded.
The leather is used in the binding of books, horse saddles, shoes, belts, clothing etc.
It is durable, flexible and last longer than most fabrics. It is also resistant to mould.
Interesting fact: In the 19th-century golf balls were made with leather stuffed with feathers.
Due to advanced technology we now have a huge assortment of fabrics to choose from. Natural fibres cause less pollution during production making it a better choice than modern synthetics such as nylon and polyester. Environmentally friendly or not, they remain an integral part of our daily lives and will be, for thousands of years to come.