• Kaine

Sewing 106 - What are Fibres and Fabrics?

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)