• Kaine

Sewing 106 - What are Fibres and Fabrics?

Updated: Jan 30

I am not an expert on this topic. I usually refer to other resources when trying to identify the unlabeled fabric. In fact, I was reluctant to delve into this topic in the first place, until I recently had a conversation with some friends and realised that most people do not know the difference between fibres and fabrics.

Types of Fabrics and Fibres

In a nutshell, Fabrics are made from Fibres. These fibres are either Natural or Man-made. Examples of Natural Fibres are Cotton, Linen, Wool, Bamboo and Silk. Examples of Man-Made fibres are Polyester, Nylon and Rayon. These fibres are either woven together or knitted to create fabric or textiles. All fabrics may be stretchy or non-stretchy, although knitted fabric by their very nature are usually stretchy.

In this day and age, odds are any fabric you come across maybe a mix or blend of two or more fibres creating a unique combination. Such as Wool and Linen, Polyester and Cotton, etc. Fabrics may also have special finishes such as anti-wrinkle or a sheen, these can affect the quality of the fibre.

Personally, I am not too worried about knowing the exact name of a fabric, rather I try to figure out how best to launder it and sew it. A good tip is to cut out a small swatch, wash it, iron it and stitch it to see how it handles before you make anything out of it if you find yourself unsure of the type of fabric you have.

Basic Fibres

cotton plant
Cotton Plant (Wikifarmer.com)

Cotton - It is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective case, around the seeds of the cotton plants. The fiber is most often spun into yarn or thread and used to make a soft, breathable textile. The use of cotton for fabric is known to date to prehistoric times, it was the invention of the cotton gin that lowered the cost of production that led to its widespread use, and it is the most widely used natural fiber cloth in clothing today. (Source)

flax plant linen
Flax plant (decktowel.com)

Linen - It is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant. Linen is laborious to manufacture, but the fiber is very strong, absorbent and dries more quickly than cotton. Garments made of linen are valued for their exceptional coolness and freshness in hot and humid weather. (Source)

Wool (Wikipedia.com)

Wool - It is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and other animals, including cashmere and mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, angora from rabbits, and other types of wool from camelids (Source)

silk worm cocoon
Silworm cocoon (Britannica.com)

Silk - It is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm. Silk's absorbency makes it comfortable to wear in warm weather and while active. Its low conductivity keeps warm air close to the skin during cold weather. It is often used for clothing such as shirts, ties, blouses, formal dresses, high fashion clothes, lining, lingerie, pajamas, robes, dress suits, sun dresses and Eastern folk costumes. For practical use, silk is excellent as clothing that protects from many biting insects that would ordinarily pierce clothing, such as mosquitoes and horseflies. Fabrics that are often made from silk include charmeuse, habutai, chiffon, taffeta, crepe de chine, dupioni, noil, tussah, and shantung, among others. (Source)

bamboo forest taiwan
Bamboo forest (Wikipedia.com)

Bamboo - A bamboo textile is cloth, yarn, or clothing that is made from bamboo fibres. While historically used only for structural elements, such as bustles and the ribs of corsets, in recent years, different technologies have been developed that allow bamboo fibre to be used for a wide range of textile and fashion applications. Bamboo yarn can also be blended with other textile fibres such as hemp or spandex. Modern clothing labeled as being made from bamboo is usually rayon. (Source)

polyester fabric
Polyester Fabric (whatispolyester.com)

Polyester - As a specific material, it most commonly refers to a type called polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Fabric woven or knitted from polyester thread or yarn are used extensively in apparel and home furnishings, from shirts and pants to jackets and hats, bed sheets, blankets, upholstered furniture and computer mouse mats. Industrial polyester fibers, yarns and ropes are used in car tire reinforcements, fabrics for conveyor belts, safety belts, coated fabrics and plastic reinforcements with high-energy absorption. Polyester fiber is used as cushioning and insulating material in pillows, comforters and upholstery padding. Polyester fabrics are highly stain-resistant (Source)