|Modern Single Treadle Spinning Wheel |
available from Heavenly Handspinning
Fabric is commonly defined as cloth made up of fibers using one of three processes: weaving, knitting, or felting. Before the fibers can be woven or knitted, they must first be made into yarn (sometimes called thread in thinner yarns).
|Large commercial spinning machines|
Yarn made of natural fibers such as cotton, or wool is made into yarn by a process called spinning. Manufactured fibers such as nylon or polyester are generally converted into yarn by a process called melt spinning. Yarn can also be made by the division of a sheet of material such as metal foil (metallic thread), polymer film, or other material.
|Large commercial Loom|
|Small loom available from|
Plane 'n Grain on Etsy.com
Felt is a cloth that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing fibers and is a method of making fabric that pre-dates either weaving or knitting. Traditionally made of wool, today inexpensive felts are made with a minimum of 30% wool fibers combined with other synthetic fibers.
What these definitions ignore are fabrics without fibers, such as plastic films and foam, which are used for accessories, shower curtains, and in upholstery applications, or interfacings made with a non-woven process different from felt. These types of fabric have more industrial than home uses, but are used often enough for home sewers to be aware of them.
These definitions also do not address natural fabrics that have not been manufactured such as fur and leather. The manufacturing of fur clothing involves obtaining animal pelts where the hair is left on the animal's processed skin. In contrast, leather made from any animal hide involves removing the fur from the skin and using only the tanned skin. These fabrics have application to home sewing in both fashion and home décor.
Many fabrics made from natural fibers (wool, cotton or silk especially) have been imitated with synthetic fibers. A fabric will often be described as being made of one fiber or another. It is generally safe to assume that synthetic variations have also been produced. In some cases, the synthetic may yield desirable characteristics. In others, it may be a poor (but less expensive) substitute. The home sewer must consider the intended use for a fabric before deciding which to purchase.