Types Of Fabrics And Their Uses With Properties
Hurray! I can see my designs appear on Google Images now. This was overwhelming, while it made me know about the types of fabrics and their uses in detail. Because I found something that’s been told to me recently. But, after comparing with other images only, I found the defect. Nothing related to designs, my designs are quite good, at least for now! The colours I chose and the fabric used had the issue. It took a while for me to realise that it is important to know the types of fabrics and their uses with its properties for better material selection. This will add to your designing skills. Therefore, you’ll see that cloth selection can change the comfort and look of the outfit in the end.
I started designing clothes like this:
- I’ve collected materials I liked.
- Then start to think of what style will suit for that material. If a material is heavy, not going for any heavy pattern like in my palazzo pants outfit or kalamkari kurta design.
- Imagine a design and start to sketch.
- Adjust pattern cuttings according to sketch and cut material.
- Then stitch it up.
It seems like the first step was not always right. My material selection became almost monotonous. Consequently, came the need to know the types of fabrics and their uses.
Types Of Fabrics And Their Uses:
Clothing, a term in our daily life for fabrics, is quite essential. Fabrics as in ‘Fabric’ is essential for a designer.
Flax is the first natural cellulose fibres. This fibre grows in flax plant stalks. Before all machinery came, each fibre is separated into individual strands and weave or plait them manually to form a basic fabric piece. These fabric pieces are then dyed from plants if needed. Natural fabrics among all types of fabrics and their uses Linen, cotton, wool and silk are organic and renewable fibres and they are available in plenty.
Man-Made fibres came into existence because although natural fibres fulfilled their purpose, they each have its restrictions (such as creasing and shrinking). These were in use much later.
Purpose of Man-Made fibres:
The first synthetic fibre produced and distributed in 1910 is rayon to replicate silk. Nylon came 29 years later made with petrochemicals. These synthetic fibres replaced silk and rayon fibres due to its more favourable properties and joined the types of fabrics and their uses.
The demand for natural fibres decreased and more comfortable synthetic fibres such as acrylic, polyester and spandex came in. These provide more comfort, strength, breathability, cost efficiency, greater fabric manipulation, and a vast amount of dying opportunities among all types of fabrics and their uses.
In contrast, natural fibres are not completely avoided over man-made fibres’ advantage. Natural fibres serve a variety of purposes. Crafting uses natural fibres also knitting and crochet work use wools and yarn. Likewise, cotton is an easy fabric to work on sewing projects. Each of fabric has its own unique composition and individual properties that make it ideal for specific applications. So, let’s get into types of fabrics and their uses.
Fabrics are mainly classified into Natural Fabrics and Man-made Fabrics.
These are made out of naturally available ingredients extracted from plants and animals. Natural fabrics are further categorized into Cellulose Base, Protein Base and Mineral based on the element used to make fibre.
Cellulose Base Fabrics:
These are formed from cellulose, a starch-like carbohydrate. Cellulose or wood pulp are dissolving by nature and are generated by extrusion and precipitation.
From seed hair:
This fibre is almost pure cellulose and made out of cotton plant’s seed hair. It grows in the seedpod, a protective case around the seeds of the cotton plants. Cotton fibre is a fluffy staple fibre of one-half to two inches long. Each cotton fibre is composed of concentric layers. The outer cellular layer on the fibre is separable from the fibre. It consists of wax and pectin materials.
Cotton plants grow in warmer climates. Under natural conditions, the cotton bolls will increase the dispersal of the seeds. The fibre is composed of 90% cellulose, 6% moisture and the remainder fats and impurities.
- Moderately strong(affected by moisture)
- Relatively cheap material
- absorbs water
- Wrinkles easily
- Withstand heat
- Slow to dry
- Inelastic and rigid
- Very long lifetime
- Patchwork projects
- Creating lightweight garments(such as button-up shirts, dresses, socks, t-shirts, bed sheets)
- Well-suited for heavy-duty stitch crafting
Kapok is the name of the tree. The fibre is also called silk cotton or java cotton. The cotton-like fluff obtained from its seed pods, similarly, Kapok fibre is obtained from its seed hair. Lignin (woody plant substance) and cellulose (carbohydrate) are used to make this fibre.
- buoyant fibre
- Life Jacket fills
These fabric are made with fibre collected from bast(phloem of the plant) called the skin. fibres such as Hemp, Flax, Jute, Ramie are extracted from the bast of the plants.
A super fibre is obtained from herbaceous, a high yield plant. Hemp fabric is made from cannabis sativa fibre.
- Long lifespan
- Softens overtime
- Light material clothing
- paper, rope, ships rigged, canvas, sailcloth, sacks
- heavy lifting and pulling ropes and cables
- Commercial Industrial Purposes
These seeds are also known as linseed, which is used to produce linen. The cellulose fibres grow inside the stalks of the flax plant.
- High conductivity
- Poor elasticity
- Gets soft on washing
- High natural lustre
- Decorative furnishing industry( such as wallpaper/wall coverings, upholstery, window treatments)
- Bed and bath fabrics (such as tablecloths, bath towels, dish towels, bed sheets)
- Suits, dresses, skirts, shirts, handkerchief
- Luggage, canvases, sewing thread
- Oil painting
A vegetable fibre composed of cellulose and lignin collected from bast, similar to hemp, flax. It is soft, long and shiny and called Golden fibre one to four metres long.
- Strong threads
- High tenacity
- Sound and heat insulation
- Low thermal conductivity
- Affordable(second to cotton)
- High cash value
China grass is the common name for Ramie. Its bark contains gums and pectins which causes fibres. It is somewhat similar to linen.
- Tensile strength (eight times Stronger than cotton and seven times stronger than silk)
- Silky lustre
- Softens with age
- Blends with wool, cotton, silk
- hold shape
- Less wrinkling
- Strong(even more strong when wet)
- Stiff and Brittle
- weaving yarns
- Apparel (such as shirts and shorts, tablecloths, napkins and handkerchiefs)
- Cotton blend sweaters
Protein Base Fabrics:
Animal proteins like hair, wool processes into products like silk, Wool and feathers.
These are speciality hair fibres from Camel’s family animals.
Alpaca is the South American member of the camel family. People process its hair, the protein into Alpaca fabric. Huacaya is an alpaca grows soft spongy fibre. It has natural crimp, thus making a naturally elastic yarn well-suited for knitting. Suri has no crimp and thus a better fit to weave.
- Light or heavy(depends on spun)
- water repellent
- bedding, hats, mitts, scarves, gloves, jumpers, Rugs, toys
- coating and as a lining for outerwear
Camel hair fabric is made out of camel’s fur. It’s fur is of two types, the Guard hair and undercoat hair. Guard hair is the coarse, inflexible outer protective fur. Haircloth is woven using guard hair. The undercoat is short and fine insulating than guard hair. It is very soft and frequently used in the making of textiles for coats.
- warm(warmer than sheep wool)
- Sensitive to chemicals
- Coats, jackets also other outerwear
- Oriental Rugs
- Fabric Coatings
- Blazers, Skirts
- Knitting Yarn, Knitwear
- Sweaters, Gloves, Scarves
- Industrial textiles (such as machine belts and cloths).
It is a wool fibre. Cashmere goats’ fur is used to produce cashmere fibre. The fibres are warm without weight. Thin cuticle cells on the fibre surface make it smooth and lustrous. After combing or shearing the undercoat hair, it goes into sorting and scouring process, then the fibres are cleaned of coarse outer hairs.
Sheep’s wool fibre is about 36 microns and cashmere fibre is finer, typically between 7 and 19 microns. Because of its fineness and softness, it is used for baby clothing.
Cashmere fabric became known for its use in beautiful shawls and other handmade items produced in Kashmir, India.
- Extremely fine fibres
- softer rather than sheep’s wool
- warmer rather than sheep’s wool
- lustrous(because of thin cuticle cells on fibre)
Manufacturers hunt or domesticate Llamas to collect Llama fibre. The camel, guanaco, llama, alpaca, and vicuña fibres are all from members of the genus Lama. They almost have the same application, except for a few specific usages for their little differences in properties.
The fibre is hollow unlike wool with a structure of diagonal ‘walls’ which makes it strong, light and good insulation. However, it is called Llama wool, as a word ‘wool’ by itself refers to sheep fibre.
- Provides Insulation
- Very soft
- Lanolin free
- wall hangings
Animal-hair fibre obtained from the Angora goat is Mohair fibre. Mohair fibre, like wool, is composed chiefly of the protein substance keratin. Fibre structure is similar to that of wool, although the outer layer, or epidermis, has about half the number of scales found in fine wools. Because the scales lie almost flat, with little overlapping, the fibre surface is fairly smooth. The fleece grows in uniform locks. The cortex portion, striated throughout its length, often contains air-filled pockets, and less than 1 percent of the fibres have a central canal, or medulla.
- Good affinity
- Absorbs and retains water much like wool
- Sensitive to chemicals
- Summer weight suits
- Knitted Goods
Long fibres with fine diameter and light colour are usually the most desirable and expensive. An exception is a vicuña which is valued for its fairly dark cinnamon-brown colour.
- Highly sensitive to chemicals
- Dressing gowns
Wool is a natural fibre that comes from the fleece of a sheep, goat, llama, or alpaca.
- Excellent absorbency
- High moisture retain
- Warmer than other materials
- Resistant to Acids
- Good resiliency
- Good elasticity
- Blankets, Carpeting
- horse rugs
These fibres are continuous fibre like natural silk or synthetic.
A natural filament protein fibre produced by Mulberry silkworm in the construction of its cocoon. Silk has various benefits, you can check out the most used types of silk fabrics for more information and better use.
- Non-slip texture
- Low elasticity
- Loses strength over time
- Good affinity to dyes
- Good insulation
- Light and comfortable
- Formal dresses
These fibres are not naturally available. Human researchers made artificial fibre to make Man-made fabrics.
These fabrics are categorized into Natural polymer base and Synthetic polymer base.
Natural Polymer Base | Cellulose base:
A silk-like fabric made from wood pulp or other vegetable matter. Modal is a variety of rayon made from cellulose from beech trees with anti-crease properties and easy care.
- A cheaper alternative to silk
- Smooth and comfortable
- Low Elasticity
- Absorbs moisture
- Garments for hot weather
Lyocell is a form of rayon. It differs with fibre made from dissolving cellulose pulp (bleached wood pulp) using dry jet-wet spinning. These are made for high intensity dying purposes, unlike rayon.
- Very strong (when wet or dry)
- Resistant to wrinkles
- High absorbency (more than rayon)
- Moisture absorbent (50% more than cotton)
- Blend well
- Conveyor belts
- speciality papers
- medical dressings
Acetate and Triacetate:
These are made from cotton filaments or wood pulp and acetic acid. Acetate and triacetate fabrics differ by only a few chemical properties.
- Mildew resistant
- Low moisture absorbency
- fast drying
- No pilling
Synthetic Polymer Base:
Synthetic polymers are human-made polymers
Polyester is a polymer which has ester functional group in their main chain. It most commonly refers to a type called polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
- Chemical resistant
- resistant to shrinking and stretching
- resistant to wrinkling and abrasions
- Very strong
- Easily dyed
- Retains shape
- Heat sensitive
- Outdoors clothing
- Fashion, Footwear, Sewing threads
- Fleeces, Coats and anoraks
- Bedding such as sheets, duvet covers and sleeping bags
- Fillings for duvets (due to its insulating properties)
- Soft furnishings and upholstery
- Luggage and other bags
This fibre is known for its superior flexibility and excellent resilience.
- Abrasion resistance.
- Good elasticity
- Lustrous (bright to light)
- Clothing (such as jackets, dresses)
A synthetic fibre made from polyurethane. It is known for its exceptional elasticity. Because of its elasticity and strength (stretching up to five times its length), spandex is used in a wide range of garments, especially in skin-tight garments. Lycra is the trademarked spandex fibre produced by DuPont.
- Highly elastic
- Stronger and durable than rubber
- Compression garments (such as foundation, motion capture suits)
- Shaped Garments (such as bra cups, superhero outfits)
- Home furnishings (such as microbead pillows)
- Clothing (such as miniskirts, skinny jeans, leggings)
It is manufactured as a filament, then cut into short staple lengths similar to wool hairs, and spun into yarn. Because of its warm feel, anyone allergic to wool can use acrylic sweaters.
- Warm (wool-like)
- furnishing fabrics
This is made up of fine glass fibres.
- High Tensile Strength
- High Heat Resistance
- Fire Resistance
- Good Thermal Conductivity
- Good Chemical Resistance
- tent poles, pole vault poles, arrows, bows and crossbows, translucent roofing panels, automobile bodies, hockey sticks, surfboards, boat hulls, and paper honeycomb
This fabric is not completely metal but rather metal-coated plastic or yarn fibres. Such a blend is ideal as the metal fibres will not tarnish.
- Non tarnished
- Club clothing
- Cold weather clothing
- Survival clothing
- Everyday wear
Therefore, with all the types of fabrics and their uses, we understand that the material also affects how easy a specific style is to sew. Like thick and stiff fabrics such as cotton, linen and wool are usually easy to sew whereas thin, flowing and slippery materials such as chiffon and satin are often more challenging. There are quite a few good resources to find more content on fabrics.
Style of the Garment:
Choose the material according to what you want the garment to look like keeping all the types of fabrics and their uses in mind. For example, a thin and well-draping material, such as satin is picked up, if you want a bell skirt that flows and drapes smoothly. And if you want the same skirt to be more structured, choose something stiffer and thicker, such as brocade or cotton or linen lawn.
Use of garment:
The use of a garment is also an important factor to keep in mind when choosing the fabric. If the garment needs to be warm, you should pick a thicker and tighter material or at least similar to it. Similarly, a hard-wearing fabric is chosen, if the garment needs to be durable. For garments that should last long, such as coats, a very good quality fabric is chosen even though they might cost a bit more from the types of fabrics and their uses. However, all garments are made to last as long as possible, so it’s always best to choose good quality materials.
Maintenance of Garment:
The maintenance of a garment is also essential. The utilisation of the garment must define how we choose the material from all the types of fabrics and their uses. If the garment is supposed to undergo a lot of washing or ironing, we’ve to choose the fabric such that it can take a lot of washing and is easy to press. However, to prevent the final garment from shrinking, washing and ironing all fabrics before cutting is advised.
Finally, all the main types of fabrics and their uses with properties are covered but there are still many clothing fabrics yet to be learned. Hope, this helps you choose your next material right.