Stitching Times serves up stories, examples and tutorials about needlework related crafts, especially quilting and crochet. Almost all of the projects shown have been designed by Kay Stephenson

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fabric Friday: Fabric Manufacturing Process

Modern Single Treadle Spinning Wheel
available from Heavenly Handspinning
I thought it might be interesting to cover the basics of how fabrics are made, and to introduce you to a couple of tools you can use to make your own. 
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
Weaving is the process of interlacing threads of the weft and warp on a loom. The warp represents the lengthwise threads that are strung on the loom and the weft (also sometimes called woof or filling) makes up the horizontal threads, which cross the warp to make up the woven cloth.
Small loom available from
Plane 'n Grain on
Knit fabric consists of loops of yarn (called stitches) pulled through each other. Fabric created on knitting machines also use the terms warp and weft. A weft knit will have more stretch than a warp knit, but a warp knit will be less likely to run (when stitches come undone or unravel) if a thread is snagged.
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 d├ęcor.
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.

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