Textiles refer to all fiber-based materials including fibers, thin threads, or filaments that are natural or manufactured or a combination and the things you make with them.
The terms ‘fabrics’ and ‘textiles‘ are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct differences. ‘Fabric’ refers to a material composed of fibers, threads, or yarns that are woven, knitted, or otherwise bonded together to form a sheet of material. On the other hand, the term ‘textile’ encompasses not only fabrics but also the fibers, yarns, and threads that are used in their creation.
Fabrics are created by interlocking these yarns in specific patterns resulting in a length of cloth.
As per the Federal Trade Commission’s website – The term “fiber” or “textile fiber” means a unit of matter which is capable of being spun into a yarn or made into a fabric by bonding or by interlacing in a variety of methods including weaving, knitting, braiding, felting, twisting, or webbing, and which is the basic structural element of textile products.
The word “textile” comes from the Latin word “textilis,” which means “woven” or “to weave.” It is derived from the verb “texere,” which also means “to weave.”
The textile fibers are spun into yarn and then made into fabric by different methods like weaving, knitting, felting. It forms the building block of a garment. So many properties of the fiber, like fiber type, yarn gauge, twist yarns per inch, weave float, and how it is processed and finished, determine the final product.
Difference between fabric and textile ? In a nutshell, a fabric is a type of textile, but not all textiles are fabrics.
Textiles play a vital role in our daily lives. They provide us with clothing, furnish our homes, and serve various industrial applications. They determine the look, feel, and functionality of clothing and other products. Understanding textiles involves learning about their types, manufacturing processes, properties, and uses.
In this article I will cover:
In this article I will cover:
Classification of textiles based on different textile fibers
The fibers that form textiles are of 2 types.You can classify textiles as natural textiles and synthetic textiles.
Main Natural textiles are Cotton, Silk, Denim, Flannel, Hemp, Leather, Linen, Velvet, and Wool; synthetic textiles include Nylon, Polyester, Acetate, Acrylic, Polar fleece, Rayon, and Spandex.
- Natural fibers
They are harvested from plants or by shearing animal fur. The most common ones you must know are wool, silk (from animals) cotton, jute, flax (from plants). You can read more on natural fabrics and fibers and animal fibers in detail here.
Hair-bearing animals like silkworms and sheep are shorn of their fur to produce these fibers( wool, silk); Fibers are also extracted from roots, leaves, etc., of plants like cotton, flax, etc. Minerals like asbestos are also used to make fibers.
- Manufactured fibers ( Man-made fibers)
Major players in the textile industry invest in developing fibers that are economical as well as carry many qualities which are highly desired. These versatile fibers are much in demand and make up almost half of the fiber produced today.
Manufactured fibers consist of the following three types –
1. Regenerated cellulose fibers that are made from a viscous solution of cellulose that is purified wood pulp.
2. Synthetic fibers that are basically chemical raw materials.
3. Blended fibers, manmade fibers made by blending other manmade fibers or with natural fibers. They are mostly a cross between natural and manmade fibers.
Classification according to Textile making processes
How are textiles made ?
The manufacturing process of textiles involves various steps that transform raw fibers into finished textile products.
After the fibers are produced, they are made into yarn. Different types of fibers undergo different types of spinning processes to make them into different varieties of yarns. The finished yarn is made into fabric by different methods like weaving & knitting. Other methods like crocheting, felting, laminating, knotting etc are also used.
Production of textiles is woven into the history of their respective regions. Each textile tells a specific original story of the people who made and used them down the centuries. Some of these textiles are no longer in use, or they have lost their commercial importance for several reasons.
Man has since invented many processes and technologies to produce beautiful textiles with spectacular designs and patterns in the most cost-effective and streamlined ways.
Mass production of textiles with minimum dependence on manual labour has cut down the production cost of textiles and has made most of the textiles affordable for ordinary people like you and me.
This is a process in which loops of fibers are interlocked to form the fabric. Weft knitting involves forming of loops one at a time in a weftways direction. Eg. Purl knit, Interlock, Rib knit.
Warp knitting involves a set of arp yarns which are simultaneously formed into loops. These loops are interlinked by connecting the chains of loops with warp thread which are moved sideways.
This is a process which makes use of heat, pressure and moisture and adhesives to interlock fibers to produce the fabric. Learn more about felting here.
This is a process in which warp fibers (threads that is lying along the length of the fabric) and weft fibers (threads that are lying along the width of the fabric) are interlaced to form the fabric.
Non woven methods
The fabric is made directly without knitting or weaving with the fibers held together with gum, resin, heat, and pressure, or needle punching. The processes include Felted, Spun-Bonded, Film Tufted, Needle-punched, Spun-Laced Foam, and Stitch-Bonded.
Fibers are twisted and braided – some trimmings are made this way.
Knotting and interlacing
Fibers are knotted at intersections, interlaced, and interloped to form an open mesh fabric. Lace is an openwork fabric made by looping, plaiting, or twisting thread by means of a needle or a set of bobbins; this includes fabrics made by crochet. Fishing nets, macrame etc. are other examples.
More posts on fabrics can be found in this Fabric page.
Humans have been making textiles for a long, long time and have since discovered different methods of making them, decorating them, and making things with them.
Different types of fibers originated in different parts of the world – cotton in India and Africa; silk in China, wool in the Mediterranean, and flax for linen in Europe and Egypt; later, these textiles reached all parts of the world and were adopted by all cultures and geographical regions.
Classification of textiles based on their weave
According to the method by which the textiles are made they can be classified as follows
Plain weave textiles
eg : Most fabrics Muslin, broadcloth, Canvas ( In this type of woven textiles the weft yarn is alternately passed over one warp yarn and under the next yarn perpendicular to each other). Read more about plain weave fabrics.
Satin weave textiles
Eg: Satin. (Woven Textiles with a smooth finish on one side and a matt finish on the other side due to the weaving that makes either weft or warp thread dominate the weaving structure.)
Twill weave textiles
Eg. Denim (Woven Textiles made in a special weaving pattern that produces a diagonal weave / ridges throughout the fabric); More on twill weave fabrics here.
Basket weave, rib weave, dobby weave, jacquard weave, herringbone weave etc are other types of classifications. You can learn more about the all kinds of fabric weaves here
Single cloth or Double cloth
According to the way the fabric is woven the textiles are further categorized as single cloth or double cloth.
The single cloth is made when one yarn of warp and one yarn of weft are interlaced. In this type, there may be a balance of weft and warp yarns or an imbalance. When there is a balance and the weft and warp yarns are of equal thickness, the textile is called an ordinary structure. But where there is a prominence of a yarn this is called a rib structure. There may be warp rib structure with weft yarn stronger and a warp surface rib is formed.
In some textiles, extra threads (warp or weft) are stitched on the back of the fabric for weight – (this is not visible from the front). This is called a backed cloth.
A double cloth will have two warp and two weft yarns interlacing resulting in a much stronger textile with more weight. Sometimes the double cloth is separated as in the case of velvet.
Types of Knitted textiles
Tricot Knits (A warp knit textile which is very soft and stretchy; Used to make lingerie)
Raschel Knits (Another warp knit fabric with a complex structure; it almost looks like lace or crochet)
Jersey Knits (The most basic weft knit textile which is more stretchy than warp knits; sweaters, lingerie are all made in this knit)
Double Knits (A weft knit textile made with 2 different yarn feeds interlocking), Interlock knits, Purl Knits, Rib Knits, Float Jacquard knits ( with a pattern on the face of the fabric) Full Jacquard knits (with pattern on both sides) are all weft knit textiles.
Classification of textiles based on Fabric weight
Classification of textiles according to their use
This include fabric used for making fashion wear, household textiles which include Table linen, bed sheets, towelling etc;
They are used for making filters, medical textiles, geo textile etc;
These are textiles in the medical field including surgical gowns, wound dressings, and implantable devices.
They include fabric for making sleeping bags, bags
Includes rugs, carpets etc.
This includes textiles that are used for home furnishing, curtains, upholstery, wall coverings etc
Classification of textiles after surface treatments
Textiles after dyeing and printing
The whole aesthetics and functionality of textiles can be changed by the process of dyeing and printing
Textiles after finishing treatments
Finishing treatments, such as chemical processes and mechanical treatments, enhance textiles’ properties like softness, wrinkle resistance, and water repellency.
Classification of textiles based on current trends
There is a growing demand for sustainable textiles, made from recycled materials or organic fibers.
Textiles are being made from new fibers from recycled materials, such as plastic bottles and discarded textiles.
Consumers are increasingly looking for personalized textiles, with unique designs or features.
Textiles are being designed with new technologies that improves the production and performance of textiles For eg. 3D printing and smart textiles, textiles with new features such as moisture-wicking and wrinkle-resistance. Textiles are being made using advanced Materials like carbon fibers and graphene.
These textiles are made from materials that can be broken down by microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi. This helps to reduce pollution and waste.
These textiles are embedded with sensors or other technology that can monitor the wearer’s health or environment. For example, smart textiles can be used to track heart rate or body temperature, or to detect exposure to harmful chemicals.
These textiles are created using 3D printing technology, which allows for complex and intricate designs. 3D-printed textiles can be used to create custom-fit garments or to produce textiles with unique properties, such as increased strength or flexibility.
Important criteria for quality textiles
This refers to the number of threads per inch of fabric (yarns-per-inch). This denotes how tightly or loosely the fabric will be woven. Higher the thread count higher the number of threads woven per inch and the higher the quality.
Balance of weft yarn and warp yarn
In the weaving of the cloth, there will be a balance in the proportion of horizontal weft yarn and the vertical warp yarn. This is very important in any fabric. This balance (in numbers or in size) will always be maintained in high-quality fabric.
The fibers that are woven to make the fabric will either be as a single strand or they will be formed by combining two yarns (twisted) or even more.
When two or more fibers are so twisted together, they result in a stronger, durable yarn which also resists pilling. A two-ply yarn is superior to a single ply yarn
These are processes used on the fabric to improve its appearance as well as performance. Pre-shrinking, Making it non-wrinkle, dyeing to different colours, sizing, sanforization etc. More on fabric finishes here