Types Of Fabrics And Their Uses With Properties
Hurray! I can see my designs appear on Google Images now. The feeling is overwhelming, while it made me realize that I should work on the types of fabrics and their uses in detail. Nothing related to designs, my designs are quite good, at least for now! The colors I chose and the fabric used had the issue. It took a while for me to realize that it is important to know the types of fabrics and their uses with their 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 that material. If the 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 fabric selection was not always right. My material selection became almost monotonous. Consequently, came the need to know the types of fabrics and their uses. Let’s get into the types of cloth materials with pictures.
Before we start! It’s not just types of fabrics, there’s much more:
What Are The Different 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 fibers. This fiber grows in flax plant stalks. Before all machinery came, each fiber 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 fibers and they are available in plenty.
Man-Made fibers came into existence because although natural fibers fulfilled their purpose, they each have their restrictions (such as creasing and shrinking). These were in use much later.
Purpose of Man-Made fibers:
The first synthetic fiber produced and distributed in 1910 is a rayon to replicate silk. Nylon came 29 years later made with petrochemicals. These synthetic fibers replaced silk and rayon fibers due to their more favorable properties and joined the types of fabrics and their uses.
The demand for natural fibers decreased and more comfortable synthetic fibers 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 fibers are not completely avoided over man-made fibers’ advantage. Natural fibers serve a variety of purposes. Crafting uses natural fibers also knitting and crochet work to use wools and yarn. Likewise, cotton is an easy fabric to work on sewing projects. Each fabric has its unique composition and individual properties that make it ideal for specific applications. So, let’s get into the 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 fiber.
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 fiber 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 fiber is a fluffy staple fiber of half to two inches long. Each cotton fiber is composed of concentric layers. The outer cellular layer on the fiber is separable from the fiber. 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 fiber 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, bedsheets)
- Well-suited for heavy-duty stitch crafting
Kapok is the name of the tree. The fiber is also called silk cotton or java cotton. The cotton-like fluff obtained from its seed pods, similarly, Kapok fiber is obtained from its seed hair. Lignin (woody plant substance) and cellulose (carbohydrate) are used to make this fiber.
- buoyant fiber
- Life Jacket fills
These fabrics are made with fiber collected from bast(phloem of the plant) called the skin. fibers such as Hemp, Flax, Jute, Ramie are extracted from the bast of the plants.
A super fiber is obtained from herbaceous, a high yield plant. Hemp fabric is made from cannabis Sativa fiber.
- Long lifespan
- Softens over time
- 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 fibers grow inside the stalks of the flax plant. Types of linen you need to know based on the usage.
- High conductivity
- Poor elasticity
- Gets soft on washing
- High natural luster
- Decorative furnishing industry( such as wallpaper/wall coverings, upholstery, window treatments)
- Bed and bath fabrics (such as tablecloths, bath towels, dish towels, bedsheets)
- Suits, dresses, skirts, shirts, handkerchief
- Luggage, canvases, sewing thread
- Oil painting
A vegetable fiber composed of cellulose and lignin collected from bast, similar to hemp, flax. It is soft, long, and shiny and called Golden fiber one to four meters 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 fibers. It is somewhat similar to linen.
- Tensile strength (eight times Stronger than cotton and seven times stronger than silk)
- Silky luster
- 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 process into products like silk, Wool, and feathers.
These are specialty hair fibers from Camel’s family animals.
Alpaca is a South American member of the camel family. People process their hair, the protein into Alpaca fabric. Huacaya is an alpaca that grows soft spongy fiber. It has a 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. Its 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 fiber. Cashmere goats’ fur is used to produce cashmere fiber. The fibers are warm without weight. Thin cuticle cells on the fiber surface make it smooth and lustrous. After combing or shearing the undercoat hair, it goes into the sorting and scouring process, then the fibers are cleaned of coarse outer hairs.
Sheep’s wool fiber is about 36 microns and cashmere fiber 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 fibers
- softer rather than sheep’s wool
- warmer rather than sheep’s wool
- lustrous(because of thin cuticle cells on fiber)
Manufacturers hunt or domesticate Llamas to collect Llama fiber. The camel, guanaco, llama, alpaca, and vicuña fibers 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 fiber 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 the word ‘wool’ by itself refers to sheep fiber.
- Provides Insulation
- Very soft
- Lanolin free
- wall hangings
Animal-hair fiber obtained from the Angora goat is Mohair fiber. Mohair fiber, like wool, is composed chiefly of the protein substance keratin. The fiber 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 fiber 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 fibers have a central canal or medulla.
- Good affinity
- Absorbs and retains water much like wool
- Sensitive to chemicals
- Summer weight suits
- Knitted Goods
Long fibers with a fine diameter and light color are usually the most desirable and expensive. An exception is a vicuña which is valued for its fairly dark cinnamon-brown color.
- Highly sensitive to chemicals
- Dressing gowns
Wool is a natural fiber 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 fibers are continuous fibers like natural silk or synthetic.
A natural filament protein fiber 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 fibers are not naturally available. Human researchers made artificial fiber 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 from fiber 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
- specialty 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
Viscose is a semi-synthetic type of rayon fabric made from wood pulp that is used as a silk substitute, as it has a similar drape and smooth feel to the luxury material. The term “viscose” refers specifically to the solution of wood pulp that is turned into the fabric.
On hot summer days and nights, it is an excellent choice as it whisks both moisture and heat away. Those actions are due to the breathable nature that is part of the Viscose material.
- Versatile – it blends very well with other fibers
- Drapes well
- Excellent color retention
- Highly absorbent
- Very smooth
- Does not trap body heat
- Relatively light
- Strong and robust
- Soft and comfortable
- No static build-up
- It can shrink when washed
- Can wrinkle easily
- Deteriorates with exposure to light
- Susceptible to mildew
- Fibers can weaken when wet
Synthetic Polymer Base:
Synthetic polymers are human-made polymers
Polyester is a polymer which has an 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 fiber is known for its superior flexibility and excellent resilience.
- Abrasion resistance.
- Good elasticity
- Lustrous (bright to light)
- Clothing (such as jackets, dresses)
A synthetic fiber 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 fiber 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 fibers.
- 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 fibers. Such a blend is ideal as the metal fibers 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 utilization 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. I hope, this helps you choose your next material right.