Updated on October 1, 2022 by Sarina
Textiles refer to materials that are made from fibers, thin threads or filaments which 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, how it is processed and finished determine the final product.
The most important criteria for quality textiles are
Type of textile 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.
Basically speaking you can classify the textiles as natural textiles and synthetic textiles. Main Natural textiles are Cotton, Silk, Denim, Flannel, Hemp, Leather, Linen, Velvet, Wool; The synthetic textiles include Nylon, Polyester, Acetate, Acrylic, Polar fleece, Rayon and Spandex.
This refers to the number of threads per inch of a 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 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. In high-quality fabric, this balance (either in numbers or in size) will always be maintained.
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
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More such posts on fabrics can be found in this category 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, Africa; silk in China , wool in Mediterranean and flax for linen in Europe and Egypt ; later these textiles reached all parts of the world and was 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 of the textile industry invest in developing fibers which 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 in the world today.
Manufactured fibers consist of the following three types
1. Regenerated cellulose fibers which are made from a viscous solution of cellulose which is purified wood pulp
2. Synthetic fibers which are basically chemical raw materials.
3. Blended fibers, man made fibers made by blending other man made 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
How are textiles made ?
After the fibers are produced, they are made into yarn. Different types of fibers under go 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 of the textiles 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 due to a number of 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
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, Needlepunched ,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)
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 dominating 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
Read more on fabric weight here.
Classification of textiles according to their use
Apparel textiles, which includes 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
Furnishing textiles includes that are used for curtains, upholstery, wall coverings etc
- 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
Barber, Elizabeth Wayland, Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times
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