Fabric Content – What Is It Made Of?

What is meant by fabric content? Fabric content consists of fibers. First of all what is meant by a fiber? A fiber is the smallest unit in all fabrics, an individual strand having a definite length before it is made into a yarn from which a fabric will be produced.

There are two types of basic fabric fiber contents. There are natural fiber fabrics and manufactured fiber fabrics. What can be said about each of them?

Natural Fiber Fabrics

These fabrics are made from materials that grown in nature. There are two categories of these fibers, cellulose, which means they come from plants and animal based fibers called protein fibers. Cellulose or plant based fibers include: cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, jute, sisal, ramie, silk and wool. Animal based fibers include: cashmere, alpaca and mohair.

Some fabrics made from natural fibers are: cotton, batiks, linen, silk, wool, ramie, mud cloth, madras, Guatemalan cotton, Thai cotton, handkerchief linen, hemp, bamboo, mohair, cashmere, and alpaca, just to name a few.

Man Made or Manufactured Fiber Fabrics

Some of these fabrics are made from plant based fibers, and include rayon, lyocell, acetate, triacetate, corn, and bamboo. Others are made from petroleum, natural gas, coal, alcohol, and limestone. These include the synthetics such as nylon, polyester, acrylic, modacrylic, spandex, metallic, vinyon, and olefin.

Knowing the fiber content helps in planning how to purchase and use a fabric. It is helpful to know something about how a fabric behaves, its fabric characteristics, how to prepare the fabric, how to plan the garment, how to sew the garment, how the fabric and finished garment should be pressed, and how to care for the garment to preserve and extend the life of the garment.

Determining Fabric Content

Since more and more fabrics are a combination of fibers, determining a fabric’s content can be determined by what is called a burn test. In order to conduct a burn test, a small piece of the fabric should be snipped off, held with a pair of tweezers and subjected to a burning match or lighter in a well ventilated area. Some characteristic results are:

Cotton burns quickly, produces a yellow flame, continues burning after the flame is removed, leaves a soft gray ash, and smells like burning paper.

Polyester burns slowly, producing a trailing black smoke, the residue is a hard black bead, and this fabric has no smell.

For more information about fiber content some great references are:

Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide

More Fabric Savvy by Sandra Betzina

For more information about fabric fiber content click here on the link to fabrics.net

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