A Guide to Buying Fabrics Online – Understanding Fibres

When it comes to buying fabrics, especially online, it can be a bit tricky. However, with a bit of knowledge, you can make an informed choice and buy the perfect fabric for your project.

When it comes to understanding fabric, there are a few key components to consider. One of the most important is the type of fibre used to create the fabric. Other important aspects to consider are the weight of the fabric, whether the fabric is knitted or woven, and finishing treatments. In this post, we are going to explore fibres.

The fibre of fabric refers to the composition of the individual strands that make up the fabric. It plays a significant role in determining the fabric’s overall appearance, texture, durability, and other characteristics. These fibres can be natural or synthetic, with different properties depending on the type of fibre used. Natural fibres come from plants or animals and can include cotton, wool, linen, and silk. Synthetic fibres are made from chemical compounds and can include polyester and nylon.

Animal Fibres

Animal fibres used to make fabric include wool, silk, cashmere, mohair, alpaca and angora. Wool comes from the fleece of sheep or lamb and is widely used in the production of clothing and textiles. Silk, on the other hand, is produced by silkworms and is known for its smooth texture and luxurious feel. Cashmere and mohair come from goats and are valued for their softness and warmth. Alpaca and llama fibres are similar to wool and are used to make blankets, sweaters, and other clothing items. These animal fibres are often blended with other materials to create a variety of fabrics with different textures and properties.

Wool Characteristics:

Wool is a popular fabric for clothing due to its many desirable characteristics. One of the main characteristics of wool fabrics is its excellent insulation properties. Wool can trap air between its fibres which helps to keep the wearer warm in cold weather. In addition, wool can regulate body temperature, making it a great choice for clothing that needs to be worn in a variety of temperatures.

Another characteristic of wool fabrics is it’s durability. Wool fibres are strong and resilient, which means that wool clothing can last for many years with proper care. Wool is also naturally resistant to wrinkles and creases, which makes it a good choice for travel and for clothing that needs to maintain its shape over time.

Finally, wool fabrics are known for their natural moisture-wicking properties. Wool can absorb moisture without feeling damp or clammy, which helps to keep the wearer dry and comfortable. This makes wool a good choice for clothing that needs to be worn in wet or humid conditions.

Heavyweight wool is a great choice for coats, as it provides excellent insulation and warmth, making it perfect for colder weather conditions. The thick and dense nature of the fabric also makes it highly durable and long-lasting, ensuring that the coat will be a valuable investment for years to come.

On the other hand, lightweight wool is often used for layering. It is thin and breathable, making it comfortable to wear underneath other clothing items. Lightweight wool is also great at regulating body temperature, which is important when wearing multiple layers. It is also an incredibly versatile fabric that can be used for a variety of clothing items.


Silk Characteristics:

Silk is a luxurious fabric that is prized for its softness, lustre, and durability. It is made from the fibres produced by the silkworm, which are carefully harvested and woven into a smooth, glossy fabric. One of the key characteristics of silk is its strength. Despite its delicate appearance, silk is one of the strongest natural fibres available, and it is resistant to tearing and stretching. This strength makes silk a popular choice for high-end clothing and accessories that are designed to last.

Another important characteristic of silk is its breathability. Silk is a highly breathable fabric that allows air to circulate freely, which helps regulate body temperature and keep the wearer comfortable in various conditions. This makes silk an ideal choice for clothing that needs to be both stylish and comfortable, such as dresses, blouses, and suits.

Finally, silk is known for its unique lustre, which gives it a shimmering, almost iridescent quality. This lustre is caused by the way that the silk fibres are arranged and reflects light in a way that creates a beautiful, almost ethereal effect. This quality makes silk a popular choice for formalwear and eveningwear, but it can also be used to add a touch of glamour to more casual outfits.

For special occasions, heavy silk is an excellent choice, as it provides a rich and opulent look. A heavy silk suit, for example, can be an excellent choice for weddings or formal events. The weight of the fabric also helps to create a structured look that is perfect for more formal occasions.

Light silk, on the other hand, is perfect for creating flowing garments. A silk dress made from light silk will drape beautifully and move gracefully with the wearer. This makes it an excellent choice for summer events or for more informal occasions.

Regardless of the weight of the silk, it is important to properly care for it to maintain its beauty and longevity. Silk should always be hand-washed or dry-cleaned and should never be placed in the dryer. With proper care, silk garments can last for many years and continue to look beautiful and luxurious.

                    Silk Fibre

Plant Fibres:

Plant-based fibres have been used for centuries to create fabrics and clothing. Some of the most common plant-based fibres include cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, and jute.

Cotton is the most widely used plant-based fibre and comes from the cotton plant, which is grown in many parts of the world. Linen is made from the fibres of the flax plant. Hemp fibres come from the stalks of the hemp plant and are eco-friendly due to their low impact on the environment. Bamboo fibres come from the pulp of bamboo grass and are soft, lightweight, and moisture-wicking. Jute fibres come from the jute plant and are commonly used to make burlap and other coarse fabrics.

Newer plant-based fibres are an exciting development in the world of sustainable textiles. Fibres include those derived from soy, corn, nettle, and banana.


Cotton Characteristics:

Cotton is a versatile and widely used material that boasts many desirable properties. One of its most notable characteristics is its crisp coolness. Additionally, cotton is highly breathable, allowing air to circulate freely through the fabric and helping to keep the wearer cool and comfortable. This makes it an excellent choice for summer clothing.

Another advantage of cotton is that it is hypoallergenic, meaning that it is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction in most people. This makes it a good choice for those with sensitive skin or allergies to other materials.

Cotton is a versatile and popular fabric that is widely used for clothing. It is available in many forms, ranging from heavyweight denim and canvas to lighter weights such as voile or lawn. The heavier-weight cotton fabrics, like denim and canvas, are ideal for bags, trousers, and jackets as they are durable and can withstand heavy wear and tear. On the other hand, lighter-weight cotton fabrics like voile or lawn are perfect for dresses and blouses as they are more breathable and provide a comfortable fit.

                  Cotton Fibre

Linen Characteristics:

Linen is a versatile fabric that has been used for centuries due to its many desirable characteristics. One of the most notable features of linen is its ability to keep you cool, even in hot weather. This is because linen is highly breathable, allowing air to flow freely through the fabric and regulate your body temperature. Additionally, linen is naturally moisture-wicking, which means it can absorb sweat and moisture from your skin, helping you feel fresh and dry all day long.

Another characteristic of linen is its tendency to crease easily, giving it a charming, lived-in look. Some people even prefer the way linen looks when it’s slightly wrinkled, as it adds to its natural, organic appeal. However, if you prefer a more polished look, it’s possible to iron or steam linen to smooth out any wrinkles.

Its breathability and ability to wick away moisture make it a popular choice for summer clothing, but it can also be worn year-round. Linen is commonly used to make casual shirts, dresses, skirts, and trousers. It is also a popular choice for beachwear due to its lightweight and airy feel. Additionally, linen is often used for home decor, such as curtains and tablecloths, due to its natural texture and aesthetic appeal.

                    Linen Fibre

Man-made Fibres

Man-made fibres are fibres that are produced by humans rather than those that occur naturally. These types of fibres can be grouped into three main categories: synthetic fibres, regenerated fibres, and biosynthetic fibres.

Synthetic fibres are made from synthetic materials such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas. They are known for their strength, durability, and resistance to moisture, heat, and chemicals. Examples of synthetic fibres include polyester, nylon, and acrylic.

Regenerated fibres are made by converting natural materials into fibres through chemical processes. These materials are usually cellulose-based and include wood pulp, bamboo, and cotton waste. Regenerated fibres are known for their softness and comfort. Examples of regenerated fibres include rayon, viscose, and modal.

Biosynthetic fibres are made from renewable resources such as corn, sugarcane, and soybeans. These fibres are biodegradable and have a lower impact on the environment compared to synthetic and regenerated fibres. Examples of biosynthetic fibres include polylactic acid (PLA) and soy silk.


Polyester Characteristics:

Polyester fabric is a popular choice for clothing due to its durability, wrinkle resistance, and low cost. It is made from synthetic fibres that are strong and resistant to shrinking or stretching. Polyester also dries quickly and is resistant to stains, making it a practical choice for everyday wear. Additionally, it can be blended with other fabrics to create a variety of textures and finishes.


Acrylic Characteristics:

Acrylic fabric is commonly used in clothing and textiles. It is known for its softness, durability, and ability to retain its shape even after multiple washes. Acrylic fibres are often blended with other materials, such as wool or polyester, to create a range of fabrics with different properties.

Viscose Characteristics:

Viscose also known as Rayon is a regenerated cellulose fibre made from wood pulp. One of the main characteristics of viscose fabric is that it is highly absorbent, making it ideal for use in clothing that needs to be moisture-wicking. It is also breathable, which makes it comfortable to wear in warm weather. Viscose fabric is lightweight and drapes beautifully, which makes it a popular choice for dresses, skirts, and other flowing garments.

                                             Viscose Fibre

Modal Characteristics:

Modal fibre is a type of textile made from the pulp of beech trees. It is a type of regenerated cellulose fibre, similar to viscose and rayon. Modal fabric is known for its softness, durability, and resistance to shrinkage. It also has good moisture-wicking properties, making it a popular choice for activewear and undergarments.

One of the main characteristics of modal fabric is its softness. It is often compared to cotton or silk, but with a slightly smoother texture. This makes it a popular choice for clothing that is worn close to the skin, such as underwear, pyjamas, and t-shirts.


Lyocell Characteristics:

Lyocell is a sustainable fibre made from eucalyptus trees. Lyocell is a type of fabric that is made from wood pulp cellulose using a solvent spinning process. This process involves dissolving the wood pulp in a solvent to create a thick liquid, which is then extruded through spinnerets to form fibres. These fibres are then woven into a fabric.

Lyocell is known for its softness, durability, and versatility. It has a smooth and silky texture that drapes well, making it a popular choice for clothing such as dresses, blouses, and shirts.

These are the most commonly available fibres for home sewers. Many other types of fibres can be used in fabric production, each with its unique properties. Look out for our next blog post, where we will discuss more properties that will help you understand fabric better.

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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