What is TEXTILE?

Updated on January 5, 2023 by Sarina Tariq


Textiles refer to materials made from fibers, thin threads, or filaments that are natural or manufactured or a combination. Textiles 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 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.

Important criteria for quality textiles

Type of textile fibers 

classification of textile fibers - natural fibers and manmade fibers
This refers to the yarn used in making the fabric. Check out the post on different types of textile fibers for more detail on this.

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.

Thread count

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. 

Learn more about Thread count and why it is counted as a quality yardstick of textiles

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


What is textile

Related posts on Different types of fabrics

More such 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.

Different fibers that form textiles

The fibers that form textiles are of 2 types.

  • 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.Check out the post on Textile fibers for more details on 7 main categories of textile fibers.textile fibers 

    How are textiles made ?

     After the fibers are produced, they are made into yarn. Different types of fibers undergo different types of spinning processes to make them into 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.

    what are textiles

    Classification according to Textile making processes

    Knitting -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.

    Felting – 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.

    Weaving – 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.

    Braiding – 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.

    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 18 different types 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 Knits

    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

    list of woven fabrics according to weight

    list of knit fabric according to weight

    Read more on fabric weight here.

    Classification of textiles according to their use

    Apparel textiles, which include fabric used for making fashion wear, household textiles which include Table linen, bed sheets, towelling etc;

    Industrial Textiles, used for making filters, medical textiles, geo textile etc;

    Consumer textiles which include fabric for making sleeping bags, bags 

    Floor coverings 

    Furnishing textiles includes that are used for curtains, upholstery, wall coverings etc

    Some textile related terms

    • Count of cloth – The number of ends and picks per inch in a woven fabric.
    • Thread count – The total number of warps and wefts per square inch of a woven fabric. This is an indicator of the quality of a textile
    • Ply – This refers to the number of threads used to form a yarn used to weave the fabric – it indicates the weight of yarn. Larger the ply, heavier the fabric.
    • Selvedge (Selvage) – The two long finished edges, one on
      each side along the length of the fabric
    • Sley – The number of warp ends per inch in a fabric exclusive of selvage. A fabric of high sley has a high number of warp yarns per inch.
    • Textile Finishes – This is a general term which refers to the treatment of a fabric to add a functional or decorative quality to it
    • Tear Strength – The force necessary to tear a fabric. This is usually expressed in pounds or in grams. 
    • Yarn – The continuous strand of fiber or group of fibers used in weaving knitting etc forming  the fabric
    • Warp yarn – Lengthwise yarn in a woven textile
    • Weft Yarn – Crosswise yarn in a woven textile (also called pickings or filling yarn). They are interlaced with warps in a crosswise direction to make a fabric. 
    • Warp-faced textile – Fabric which has prominent warp yarns on the surface
    • Weft-faced textile – Fabric with prominent weft yarns on the surface
    • Zephyr – Lightweight fabrics

    Learn more by reading :

    • Textiles By Bobbie Sumberg
    • Fashion from concept to consumer by Gini Stephens Frings
    • Textiles : Fiber to Fabric : B.P Corbman
    • Technology of Textile Properties – M A Taylor
    • Understanding textiles – P. G Totora and B.J Collier
    • You can find more textile books here

    Interesting reading

    Barber, Elizabeth Wayland, Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times

    Related posts :

    fabric types

    rayon clothing fabric

    different types and names of cotton

    sewing with satin

    what is leather      types of denim

    flax fabric linen

    stretchy materialdifferent types of laces

Did you like this post?

Click on the stars to rate it!

Average rating / 5.


Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

15 thoughts on “What is TEXTILE?”

  1. Hi Barbah
    I am so happy to know this site helped you. I am afraid I do not have an organisation such as you hope for. Best wishes in your sewing journey.

  2. Thank you very much for your time and help with to enlighten us more about the sewing technics and guide,I really appreciate that,As for me am a professional Seamstress/ Tailor living in the Western part of Africa to be precise, I really want to join an organization or company out of my country so that I take my career into another level.but am still interested and I always follow up your program in sew guide in my email address which I have been for so long.as Tailoring is m professional job presently. would it be possible for someone like me to join you there so that I contribute to the up coming seamstress/ Tailoring as a employee in that organization?

  3. For the purpose of tariff codes, if a cotton material does not have a finished edge is it not considered a textile article (Chapter 63)? It is only considered a cotton fabric?

  4. yOur article is really helpful and your article covered all textile Information. thanks a lot sir for this information.

  5. Hi Connie
    This is a problem I face too. So I have no solution other than empathize. I am always looking at the thick knits and wanting them : ) Even the Rayon I get is not as good as the ones of ready-made clothes

  6. So where can one purchase quality fabrics? All the fabrics one can get at like, Wally World one could read the newspaper thru, and that, to me, doesn’t indicate quality. It would seem pointless to even sew if one had to literally line every garment they make in order to maintain modesty. We have upholstery shops here in town that carry better quality fabrics, but who wants to look like someone’s deck chairs or the sofa in the doctors office or something like that. Where do commercial garment makers get the kind of cotton like for t-shirts that is thick enough to cover things nicely, and hang better?

  7. This definitely is an amazing piece! It’s loaded with vital information on the subject, and then some more. I thoroughly enjoyed the read.

  8. Hi,
    I live in Phoenix and need 100% cotton tee shirts that has a weave that will block UV rays. I have already had two precancerous places removed from my back. I bought three denim shirts off of eBay and the sunlight comes right through them. Synthetic material makes me itch. Can you help me? I bought two cool bar shirts and the sunlight passes through. They are now four years old. I still wear them, but they are so expensive. The heat is so hot and sunlight is so bright. I thought you might know something with a certain weave and not too expensive that might help me. Thank you for any reply. I am at my wits end. Thank you. Greg

  9. Awesome!! i love this, am into cloth making and just starting a fashion school. I find this so useful. many thanks. Would love to be one of your followers.

Leave a Comment