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The anatomy of great textiles

  • October 12th, 2022

Textiles are everywhere in our lives and can be found in a huge amount places, from everyday garments and accessories to furniture, carpets, and more. The term "textile" is an umbrella term that encompasses a vast array of materials, including cloth, yarn, thread, fabrics, and other fibrous materials.

For centuries, people have relied on textiles to make their lives more comfortable and stylish. From breathable fabrics for summer clothing to cozy throws for the winter, textiles are essential for both function and fashion.

A great textile has a combination of desirable attributes that make it perfect for use in products like furniture and clothes. It's not just the parts; it’s their combination that creates an amazing fabric.

What's the difference between textiles and fabrics?

Fabrics are a type of textile. Textiles are materials made from fibers, such as cotton, wool, or silk, that are woven or knitted together. Fabrics are the finished product made from textiles, such as sheets, curtains, or clothing.

The main difference between fabric and textile is that fabrics are finished materials that have a specific use, while textiles are more general and can be used for a variety of purposes. The word fabric comes from the Latin word 'fabrica' which literally translates to 'workshop', 'skillful trade', or 'art'. Fabrics are often used for clothing items such as dresses, skirts, blouses, shirts, and trousers. Furthermore, fabrics tend to be more durable, and they require less maintenance than textiles. All in all, fabrics come under the general umbrella of textiles, yet they are crafted with a specific purpose in mind.

What is a textile, exactly?

Fabrics are made from yarns, which in turn are made from fibres.

Fibres are natural or synthetic materials that can be spun into yarns to make fabrics.

The most common form of fibre used in the textile industry is cotton, followed by wool and other animal fibres such as silk or alpaca. Natural fibres consist mostly of cellulose; however, there are various synthetic variants on the market today with properties like stain resistance and wrinkle resistance that come from treating these materials during processing.

How are furnishing fabrics categorised?

Fibre is the raw material of textiles, made up of natural or synthetic ingredients. They're categorized by the type of fibre they are made from: natural fibres and synthetic fibres.

Natural fibres include cotton, linen, ramie, and hemp to name a few; while synthetics include nylon, acrylic and other regenerated cellulosic.

Cotton, for example, is the most common natural fibre used in textiles. It comes from the cotton plant and is grown in more than 80 countries around the world. Cotton has a long history of use, dating back to ancient Egypt and China. Today, it remains one of the most widely used materials for clothing, bedding and other products that require softness, durability, and comfort.

A key difference between natural and synthetic is the way they are processed. Natural fibres are spun by hand while synthetic ones are extruded through machines at high speeds to create a yarn or thread that's strong enough to weave into fabric.

Learn more: Performance fabrics: perfect for home interiors >

All about yarns

Yarns are twisted together or bound in some way to form a long and continuous line or thread that’s used for weaving cloth (or fabric).

Yarns come in many sizes: from fine gossamer threads to bulky ropes—but they’re all twisted together! Many different types of fabric have been developed using different types of yarn; some have been around since ancient times while others have more modern origins.

How to tell the difference between staple yarn and filament yarn

Staple yarn is made up of a single length of continuous fibres. The fibres are spun together to make one long thread, which is then woven into fabric.

Filament yarn is made up of short lengths of continuous fibres, each one twisted together to form a single strand. Filament yarns can be found in both natural and synthetic fabrics.

The type of yarn used in a textile fabric determines its characteristics, such as the feel and weight of the fabric. Staple yarns tend to be stronger than filament yarns, but they also have less elasticity and stretchability. This makes staple yarns ideal for creating heavy-duty fabrics like denim or canvas.

Spinning fibres to make fabrics

The raw material of textiles is a fibre, which is a natural or synthetic filament. Fibres are made of one or more filaments that have been twisted together to increase strength and durability.

In the textile industry, these fibres are used to produce yarns that can then be woven into fabrics. The size and strength of a yarn depend on its construction and how many filaments are present in it.

The process of staple yarn spinning

The staple yarn spinning process starts with the carding of the fibres. This is done by making a sliver bundle of fibres and then passing them through a series of combs that separate the fibres into uniform lengths.

This can be repeated several times to create a sliver that has consistent lengths and thicknesses. The next step is to prepare the fibres for spinning into yarn, which involves drafting and combing.

During drafting, the sliver is pulled through a series of rollers that draw out the fibres until they are parallel to each other. Combing removes any short fibres from the sliver, leaving only long ones behind so that there are no joins between them when they are spun into yarn.

Once all these steps have been completed successfully, spinning begins by creating a thin strand called a roving from this draft sliver using a spinning machine.

These strands are then twisted together at high speed to form yarns with different thicknesses and textures depending upon how many times they were twisted during manufacture: ply counts can range from two (twice-twisted) to twelve (twelve-ply) for example! Staple yarn spinning is a continuous process involving the following steps:

  • Filling of the machine with raw material by using a blend of different types of fibres.
  • Drawing in of fibres to form a yarn which is then twisted with other strands to form a staple fibre.
  • Cutting of the staple fibre into shorter lengths, which are then wound onto bobbins for further processing and use as product.

Fabric ply and thread count

The number of plies refers to the number of strands of fibre within the whole chunk of yarn. Interestingly, yarn weight and ply number are interchangeable in some countries, e.g., a fingering weight yarn, no matter how many strands the yarn has, is sometimes called "4-ply" in Britain and Commonwealth countries.

Yarns are composed of individual fibres twisted together into strands known as ply (e.g., S-ply). The number refers to how many times the same fibre was twisted around itself before being used in spinning; each twist increases strength while also reducing elasticity and softness—these qualities make up what we call “hand” (i.e., feel).

For instance, an S-ply yarn has two plies: one made up from two fibres twisted around themselves once; another made up from four fibres twisted around themselves twice; etcetera…

A quick look at fabric construction and what it means for upholstery

If you're looking to buy upholstery and want to know what fabric construction means, you're in the right place.

A fabric's construction refers to how it's put together. The two most common types are woven and non-woven (sometimes called "fabric-like").

  1. Woven fabrics have a horizontal warp and vertical weft. They're often made with yarns of different colours, which are woven together to create patterns. Woven fabrics are typically more durable than non-woven ones, but they aren't as resistant to stains or sunlight fading.
  2. Non-woven fabrics, on the other hand, don't have any threads running through them—they're just one continuous piece of material that's been formed into a shape. Non-woven fabrics tend to be less expensive than woven ones because they're easier to produce, but they're also less durable and stain more easily.

The structure of a fabric can have a dramatic effect on its texture, appearance, and performance. There are many different weaves that can be used to create beautiful patterns, such as plain weave, twill weave or satin weave. Also, when multiple colours of yarn are used in a weave, intricate designs or patterns can be created.

Yarns are made up of fibres that have been twisted together or bound in some way to form a long and continuous line or thread.

The type and size of the yarn has been shown to have dramatic effects on fabric properties such as transparency, comfort, and strength. For example, if you were to take two pieces of cloth with different weaves (e.g. plain weave vs twill), it would be easy for you to see how much stronger one piece was than the other because they have different structures!

Explore more: 13 Things About Textile and Fabrics You May Not Have Known >

Yarn types: why size matters

As mentioned above, yarns are made up of fibres that have been twisted together or bound in some way to form a long and continuous line or thread. The type and size of the yarn has been shown to have dramatic effects on fabric properties such as transparency, comfort and strength.

  • The type of yarn is determined by the fibre type, whether it is spun or filament, and the size of the yarn.
  • The size of the yarn is determined by how many times it has been twisted together.

For example, Dralon could be described as a “polyester fibre” with a diameter of 1mm (1/32″), which is much thicker than the 0.015mm used for most other fabrics. It also has more elasticity but less strength than cotton yarns of similar size.

Finishings and upholstery fabrics

A finish is a product applied to the surface of a fabric. The main finishes are colour dyeing, pattern printing, and coating.

Each has different characteristics that affect how the finished fabric looks and feels.

Textiles are an essential part of our lives.

They make up the fabric of the chairs we sit on, the clothes we wear and the sheets we sleep on, but they also have so much more to offer than just comfort and warmth. Textile fabrics can be made from a variety of materials that have different features such as strength, stretchiness, and absorbency. All these characteristics are important when choosing the right fabric for your specific needs!