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Module 1: Understanding Textile Fibres, Yarns, and Fabrics

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After learning about threads, fibres, and yarns, it might all seem a little overwhelming, especially when it all results in a final garment. As a fashion designer, it is important that you understand how all of these materials work together to make the fabric that you work with every day.
With all these elements, you might be asking yourself how you can pull everything off your mood board to make your sketches and vision come to life. 
Let’s begin by looking at the basics of fabric construction. Most fabrics are made by knitting or weaving yarns, but there are non-woven fabrics that are constructed through bonding or felting fibres together.
One important thing to remember as the designer is that a fabric’s appearance and performance is greatly impacted by how it is constructed. 
The following pages explain some ways that fabrics are constructed:
 Woven Fabrics
A woven fabric can be manufactured in different widths and cut in different shapes. These materials are excellent for producing different styles in garments. Woven fabrics are constructed with interlocking yarns strewn together on a loom.
The yarn going across the width of the fabric is referred to as a weft and the yarn going down the length is called a warp. On the side of the fabric, there are wefts, which are double backed with a non-fraying edge. These are called the selvedge.
There are three types of woven fabrics that you should be familiar with:
Plain weave
A plain weave forms a strong criss-cross pattern and is used for sheets, shirts, and basket weaving.
Twill weave
Another strong weave that drapes well and is used for jackets, jeans, and curtains is a twill weave. This material is formed with diagonal crossings of weft and warp threads.
Satin Weave
A satin weave fabric is constructed with a complex arrangement of threads, which create longer ‘floats’ of thread. The long floats create a smooth, shiny surface, which is used in nightgowns, sheets, and evening gowns.
Knitted Fabrics
If you have some creative skills or enjoy crafting projects, you might already know how to knit, which will be handy in your fashion design career. Knitting involves constructing elastic fibres into knitted fabrics. Knits are easy to sew, lightweight, and are comfortable to wear.
Since knitted fabrics are more flexible and can be built in smaller pieces, they are very like woven fabrics. However, the construction methods are a little bit different. Knitted fabrics can be made by hand or machine, and the process involves strewing together long lengths of yarn.
Knitted fabrics can be either weft knitted or warp knitted. If you remember a weft fabric, you will remember that it runs in a row across, so a weft-knitted fabric is made with yarn run in rows across the fabric and diagonally for a warp knit.
There are many types of knit fabrics in the fashion industry, but the most common ones that you will see include jersey, rib, and interlock fabrics. Although there are several knitted fabrics, many of them share the following characteristics:

Knitted fabrics do not unravel
Knitted fabrics wrinkle less than woven fabrics
All knitted fabrics have a degree of built-in stretch

 Laced Fabrics
Lace fabrics are manufactured in a variety of widths and measurements, which means you might see them used as embellishments, or in an entire garment. Lace consists of a network of yarns or threads formed into an intricate design.
There are two common types of lace fabrics: 
Trimming:  Generally used for décor or apparel and is available in a range of costs. They are manufactured with a narrow width range. 
Nylon:  Nylon net lace fabric contains a net background for embroidery.
Woollen Fabrics
When you learned about animal fibres, you might remember learning about wool fibres, so you already know where wool yarn derives from.
Woollen fabrics are loose woven fabrics that are constructed from wool yarn using a plain or twill weave. These fabrics are soft and extremely durable.
You might see a wool fabric used in a thick men’s coat.
 Blended Fabrics  
If you think back again to what you learned earlier in the module, you will remember that there are two types of yarn and that a staple yarn is produced from short fibres.
A blended fabric is the combination of these two different types of yarns, which results in a third type that contains both properties of the fabrics.
These fabrics are desired for their stylish patterns, softness, and various designs.
An example of a blended fabric might include a polyester cotton blend or a cotton silk blend.
 Non-woven Fabrics
When a mass of fibres is held together with a fusing action of heat, adhesive, or chemicals, it becomes a non-woven fabric. An example of a non-woven fabric would be spun lace, bark cloth, and felt.
 Fabric Performance Characteristics and Finishes
 You just received a basic overview of the fibres, yarns, and fabrics that you will see in the fashion industry. 
Since it is impossible to cover every material used in the fashion industry, you should try to always stay up to date with the latest trends. 
With what you learned in this module, you are well on your way to understanding any new fabrics or materials that might become fashionable throughout your career. There are a few more terms, which you will need to know, that relate to fabrics.
When you are designing, you will need to consider the performance characteristics of different fabrics you use in your garments.
To get a better understanding, we will look at what you need to take into consideration when deciding what fabric to use over the next few pages:
 Abrasion Resistance
When a fibre, yarn, or fabric meets another surface, it will cause damage to the surface of the material. To avoid this, abrasion resistance testing is applied to ensure the material can resist surface wear.
Absorbency
The absorbency of fabric is a very important property that can affect many elements of your design, including shrinkage, skin comfort, static build-up, and wrinkle recovery. Absorbency refers to the ability of a material to take in moisture.
Antibacterial
The chances are good that you have an antibacterial product somewhere in your home. You do not have to be a germaphobe to be familiar with these, but it might surprise you to know that they are infused into fabrics. Antibacterial fabrics are chemically treated fibres that inhibit the growth of micro-organisms.
Anti-Static
You will want to be familiar with anti-statics, which come in either fabrics or fibres that eliminate the build-up of friction or rubbing. This is especially important when designing high-end fashion clothing for women.
Flame Resistant
A flame-resistant fabric has been treated with a chemical agent or finish making it resistant to burning.
Stain Resistant and Stain Repellent
Both fabrics are chemically treated materials designed to be resistant to tough stains. One of them is resistant to stains, and the other is repellent to water and wetting.
Wrinkle Recovery
If you were to take a simple cotton blend shirt and twist, wrinkle, and distort it, you would find that it is wrinkled far beyond saving. However, with a wrinkle resistant shirt, the fabric is designed to bounce back, so it recovers and is more resilient.