Fabric, a term you are going to encounter a lot if you are in the fashion industry. If I ask you to tell me what fabrics are, you will say "easy, it's what we use to make a garment, right?!" Now, what if I ask you to tell me what a fiber is, or to tell me the difference between a fabric and a fiber. Would you be able to answer that?
Did I lose you there? Don’t worry, many people get confused with these two terms, but once you understand each of them it will be easier. Keep reading and I will explain the difference between fabrics and fibers!
Before we talk about fabrics, we have to first understand fibers
You've heard the saying knowledge is power, right? Well it's true, if you want to be an entrepreneur in the fashion industry, you have to learn about everything, and the best way to do so is to start from its root.Acquiring knowledge about how textiles are produced, their components, and their impact on product performance will give you the foundation you need to not only make wise decisions regarding textile materials, but to communicate effectively with factories and suppliers.
Fibers, yarns, fabric construction and finishes are elements that contribute to the beauty, durability, care and comfort of textile products. In this article, we are focusing on fibers and the important role it has in creating a fabric. Understanding fibers and their performance is essential because fibers are the basic unit of most fabrics and it will make the process of choosing the right fabric easier.
What’s a fiber?
Any substance, natural or manufactured, with a high length-to-width ratio and with suitable characteristics for being processed into fabrics. Fibers are composed of billions of atoms bonded together in millions of long molecular chains.
So, after learning the official definition, we can conclude that, in other words, a fiber is a long and thin strand or thread of material that can be knit or woven into a fabric.
Why are fibers so important?
Because fibers not only create a fabric, they influence product aesthetics, durability, comfort, appearance, retention, care, environmental impact and cost.
There are 2 types of fibers:
1. Natural fibers:
The natural fibers are those that come from natural sources like, animals, plants or mineral sources, and do not require fiber formation or reformation.
An interesting fact to know is that the first manufactured fiber was produced commercially in 1885; before that, fibers were produced only by plants and animals.
Cotton is one of the most common fibers in the world. It grows in a form known as a boll around the seeds of the cotton plant.
Wool is commonly made from the fleece of sheep but it can also refer to other animal hair fabrics as well.
Flax (Linen)Flax, or more commonly known as Linen, is made from the fibers inside the stem of the flax plant.
Silk is composed mainly of fibroin which is produced by the silkworm when it builds its cocoon. It requires a great deal of handling and processing, which makes it one of the most expensive fibers.
Structure of natural fibers:
Natural fibers have 3 distinct components (except for silk):
- An outer covering, called a cuticle or skin
- An inner area
- A central core, which may be hollow
2. Synthetic Fibers:
Synthetic or Manufactured (man-made) fibers are made into fiber from chemical compounds called polymers and are produced in manufacturing facilities.
PolyesterPolyester is the most commonly used synthetic fiber. Synthetic polyester is made using a chemical reaction involving coal, petroleum, air and water
Nylon is made when the appropriate monomers (the chemical building blocks which make up polymers) are combined to form a long chain via a condensation polymerisation reaction
Rayon was the first synthetic fiber to ever be manufactured. Rayon is a manufactured regenerated cellulose fiber. It is made from purified cellulose, primarily from wood pulp, which is chemically converted into a soluble compound.
Structure of synthetic fibers:
They usually consist only of a skin and a core.
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