ACETATE FIBER: the second oldest manufactured fiber.
Used more for a women’s, it is important in linings
for men’s tailored jackets and suits, often in a blend with filament rayon.
Also gets trendy in men’s sport shirts every few seasons. A cellulosic
fiber, it is made of cotton linters (a biproduct of cotton ginning) or wood pulp.
It prints and dyes very well and is popular for attractive linings. Its largest
single market is cigarette filters. Triacetate is a more heat-resistant version
of acetate, not made in the U.S.
ACRYLIC FIBERS: made of acrylonitrile, this synthetic fiber was created as
a substitute for wool and has wide uses in sweaters and other knit goods. Lighter
versions were created for a greater range of garments.As in the case of nearly
all manufactured fibers, it is resistant to shrinking and moths. One of the best
known names in acrylic fibers, Orlon, developed by DuPont (inventor of acrylic
fibers), has not been produced since the Eighties, but is still asked for and
discussed, illustrating what a successful marketing job DuPont did with this
fiber. Acrylics are excellent in socks, where their moisture wicking ability
ALPACA: see llama.
ANGORA: the angora goat provides mohair fibers. Angora fibers
come from the angora rabbit. Make sense?
ARTIFICIAL FIBERS: a classification of manufactured fibers made
from natural sources such as wood or other plants, such as acetate, triacetate,
rayon, and the new ones lyocell and modal. Different from synthetics that are
ANTI-STATIC FABRICS: textiles designed to resist static, either
through a special carbon fiber, or chemical additive. Important in home
furnishings, but also very useful in apparel, both for comfort and safety
(static causes sparks.)
BASKETWEAVE: Variation of the plain weave, made by
grouping yarns and weaving them as one. Two by two and four-by-four
patterns are common. A semi-basketweave is made by grouping
the yarns in only one direction.
BATISTE: a sheer muslin with lengthwise streaks used
for men’s summer shirts, usually mercerized.
BEDFORD CORD: a rugged fabric with pronounced ridges,
traditionally for men’s pants. Originally wool, but
now often cotton. Not corduroy.
BEMBERG: Cupramonium rayon. See Cupro.
BIRDSEYE: a fine worsted wool fabric with a weave effect
and color resembling a bird’s eye.
BROADCLOTH: a plain-weave fabric of cotton or poly-cotton
blends, sometimes even silk, with a filling rib
finer than poplin. Used for men’s shirts, especially
with pima cotton.
CARDED COTTON: a necessary step in preparing cotton
fiber for fabric forming. On a carding machine with wire
brushes, the tangled
fibers are straightened and aligned in one direction and impurities
are removed. Carded yarns can be woven into more inexpensive
Combing, an additional step, provides a much finer yarn. Combed
cotton has the short fibers removed and the longer fibers are
closely rranged in a high degree of parallelism. This is the
best cotton yarn.
CAMEL HAIR: the down or inner fibers from the two-humped
camel (beware of hair from the one humped animal). It provides
a fine tan-Colored luxury fabric, prized for men’s
jackets and top coats, as well as accessories like scarves.
It can also be dyed, and sometimes blended to cut costs.
The market for camel hair, as for cashmere and silk, is primarily
controlled by China, where most of it comes from.
However, as China learns capitalism (they are doing it pretty
fast), prices sometimes drop or rise inexplicably.
CASHMERE: the leading luxury fiber. Found in men’s
sweaters, suits, jackets, as well as a wide range of accessories.
Comes from the
Cashmere or Kashmir goat, mostly residing in Asia. Its softness
and luxurious hand is virtually unsurpassed by any readily
available fiber. The true, top cashmere comes from the down
or soft hairs. The rougher hairs are sometimes sold as cashmere,
at a lower price. The hand really tells the truth. While the
Chinese were once content to sell the fiber to upscale European
and other manufacturers, they are increasingly aiming to produce
their own finished product.
CAVALRY TWILL: a rugged woven fabric most often used
for trousers. It got its name because the British cavalry
used it for their pants.
Usually wool, but could be a blend.
CELLULOSIC FIBERS: the first manufactured fibers, made
from cellulose, the fibrous substance of all plants including
wood, cotton linters, and corn. Includes acetate, rayon,
modal, lyocell and some new fibers like Ingeo.
CHALLIS: A lightweight fabric, usually silk, but originally
wool. The term is also used to describe the small patterns
printed on it.
Neckwear is a major application.
CHAMBRAY: a cousin of denim. From the French Chambrai, it is a lightweight
cotton shirt fabric, traditionally in light blue, achieved with
white and blue yarns.
CHEVIOT: a woolen or worsted twill with a rough texture. The best are
woven of fine worsted yarns in herringbone or other patterns, and
used in men’s suits and jackets.
CHINO: originally the military issue tan fabric. After WWII, it became
popular as a men’s trouser fiber. Usually cotton, but can be blended
with synthetic fiber to add performance characteristics such
as wrinkle resistance. Now frequently called khaki, meaning
dust, which is really a color that emanated from India, via
the British military. See khaki.
COMBED COTTON: see Carded Cotton.
COOLMAX: a licensed polyester fabric system developed by DuPont,
now Invista. It is noted for breathability and moisture wicking properties.
COMFORTRELL XA: a proprietary polyester co-polymer fiber developed
by Wellman Fibers. Designed to be a low pill, super white fiber.
CORDUROY: an historic textile originally from France. It was
called cord du roi or the cloth of the king, because a monarch's servants
wore it. It is commonly woven in cotton, but can be produced
from almost every fiber, including cashmere and silk. Its distinction
it is a lustrous ribbed fabric. The ribs or wales (also called
floats) are on a woven ground and are cut to form valleys or
races. The widths of
the ribs or wales vary according to style from wide wale to
fine. The smallest are pinwale corduroy.
CORE-SPUN YARN: a spinning process where one yarn is spun around
another to give extra characteristics. For instance, cotton can be
spun around a spandex core to create a yarn, and a resultant
fabric that has stretch, but with a cotton hand. There are
several core-spun combinations.
CORDURA: a trademarked proprietary nylon fiber developed by
DuPont.Very rugged, originated for the outdoors trade, including backpacks,
but now lighter, softer versions are used for street active
apparel. It is now an Invista fiber. It’s actually a
recycled name, once used by DuPont for tire cord.
COTTON: one of the most widely used apparel fibers in the world,
vying with polyester for this role. Very strong in the U.S. market.
Cotton is soft, comfortable and the main fiber for denim. Most
cotton grown in the U.S. is called upland, and over 60 percent
of it is exported
worldwide, where it is noted for its uniform quality. In addition
to upland, there are finer grades of cotton, the best known
is pima. See
Supima. Egyptian cotton is finer, but uniformity has been a
problem. One of the world’s oldest fibers, cotton continues
to evolve, solving such
problems as shrinkage and wrinkling.
CREPE: Worsted fabric with a crinkled or pebble surface, usually produced
with tightly twisted crepe yarns in one or both directions of a loose or plain
weave. Made in various weights for coats, suits, dressed and blouses.
CROCKING: in textiles, this refers to the rubbing off
of a color, either during wearing of the garment or sometimes
even from one garment
rubbing against another in the store. It is usually the result
of poor dye fastness, or lack of prewashing.
CUPRO: rayon made by the cupramonium process, a very old fibermaking
technology. Recently rediscovered by designers. It has a great hand,
takes both color and printing very well. Widely used in menswear as
linings for upscale suits and jackets, along with filament rayon, which
is slightly different. It is only produced by two companies, Asahi
(Japan) and Bemberg (Italy).
DENIER: the thickness of manufactured fibers, which
can be controlled in production, unlike natural fibers. The
lower the number, the finer the
fiber. Technically, denier is the weight in grams of 9000 meters
of fiber. For instance, filmy pantyhose are made of 12 denier
filament. Tough tire cord is about 840 denier. Microfiber polyester
is just under one denier per filament. See microfiber. Denier
is used for the U.S. market while Europe uses the term d-tex.
DENIM: a twill fabric, usually indigo-dyed cotton, used
to make jeans, and considered to be the most famous American
fabric. While its
origins are European (denim is supposed to come from serge
de Nimes in France), its use in the American west made it famous.
It was the
basis of the Levi Strauss Company, which sold it to gold miners
in San Francisco. It is a huge business worldwide and designers,
for something new and different have done almost everything
to it to from stone washing to blasting it with shotguns and
washing it in acid. Traditionally woven with an indigo dyed
warp yarn and a natural or white fill. Purists say ring-spun
cotton yarns make the best denim.
DIAGONAL: Another name for any fabric with a visible
DOBBY: a loom attachment that allows the inexpensive weaving of small
geometric designs with frequent repeats. Also the weave itself.
Nail-head men’s suiting patterns are dobby weaves.
DOUBLE KNITS: a double-sided knit fabric using two sets
of needles. About 40 years ago, polyester double knits were
thought to be the “doom of the loom”, and would
replace other fabrics. The textile industry rose to the occasion
by so over producing polyester and poly double
knits that there was enough to clothe the whole world. Overproduction,
tasteless design and poor quality doomed the double-knit, (not
loom) and did serious damage to the image of polyester. Actually
double knits, when done well, are very good fabrics. They can
be knit of cotton, wool and other fibers and blends.
DOW XLA: one of the newest fibers on the market. It is
a stretch polypropylene, with considerably less stretch then
spandex, so it is less
stiff. Could be used at 100 percent, but usually appears in
blends and combines well with most other fibers, including
cotton. It was developed by Dow Chemical in 2002, but has moved
slowly in menswear.
DRI-RELEASE: a patented microblend of synthetic (polyester)
and natural (cotton or wool) fibers that provide a wicking
action that moves
sweat from the body through the fabric and into the air.
DYEING: the coloring of a fabric or yarn. Yarn dyes are
dyed after being spun and are noted for deep, rich colors
and can be used to create interesting effects in weaving.
Disadvantages are that they must be inventoried and an unpopular
color can be costly. Most fabric is piece dyed, i.e., the
whole fabric is dyed after weaving and this gives market
flexibility, because dyeing can be done after the order is
in. Huge, continuous dye ranges color fabric, such as denim,
in mass production type lots. Garment dyeing is where the
finished garment is dyed. This allows for special effects,
especially on jeans, such as selective distressing and odd
patterns, color choices, and last-minute dyeing depending
on market whims.
ELASTANE: Another new name for an old fiber, this time
spandex. Designers prefer this to spandex, and elastane has
been used in Europe for some time. Invented by DuPont in 1958,
it is the ultimate stretch fiber and never used alone. Two
to five percent in a suit fabric is all that’s
needed to give a comfortable stretch, because spandex has over
500 percent stretch and recovery.
ELASTERELLE-P: A special stretch fiber awarded a generic
fiber subclass designation by the Federal Trade Commission.
Actually a stretch polyester. Not nearly as stretchy as Lycra
spandex, but easier to use. Popular in men’s pants,
jackets and shirts. It blends well with other fibers. Usually
called T-400 by Invista, DuPont’s fiber successor.
May be marketed as Lycra T-400.
ELITÉ: a stretch polyester fiber produced in Italy
by Nylstar and used in dress and sportshirts.
FILAMENT FABRIC: made of filament fiber almost always polyester
or nylon. Filament fiber is produced in a continuous strand
and can be knit or woven directly, while staple fiber is chopped
up in short lengths and has to be spun before it can be woven
or knit. Spun yarns give a softer hand, but less strength.
Filament fibers, on the other hand, unless they are engineered
to be otherwise, are less comfortable to the hand.When a fiber
is extruded as a multi-filament yarn, it is more pleasing to
the touch. Since polyester entered the market, there have been
several texturing methods to improve comfort. Textured polyester
and nylon are prevalent in hosiery and activewear.
FLANNEL: a soft woolen or worsted fabric in either a
plain or twill weave and slightly napped on one side. Also,
a soft cotton fabric with a napped side.
FLEECE FABRIC: a cloth with a deep, thick-napped surface.
Can be knit or woven in a wide range of fibers, including
cotton, wool and acrylic.
FORTREL: well established polyester trade name. First
owned by Celanese and now the flagship for Wellman Fibers’ polyester
GABARDINE: a diagonal warpfaced twill. Originally
wool, now is woven of several different fibers. Used often
in men’s trousers.
GENERIC FIBER CODES: codes developed by the International
Standards Organization for manufactured fiber: Acetate-CA; Acrylic-PAN;
Cupro-CUP; Elastane (or spandex)-EL; Lyocell-CLY; Modacrylic-MAC;Modal-CMD;Nylon
(or polyamid)-PA; Polyester-PES; Polypropylene-PP; Rayon (or Viscose)-
CV and Triacetate-CTA.
GLEN -PLAID: Pattern of small woven checks altering with squares
of larger checks. It is short for Glen Urquhart plaid, a distinctive
wool tartan worn by that Scottish clan. May be woolen or worsted and
used for suits, sportswear or coats, Sometimes call glen check, especially
when only two colors are used.
GORE-TEX: the mother of all breathable, waterproof, windproof
fabrics, made by W. L. Gore. Actually not a fabric but a
composite of two fabrics—a knit or woven of most fibers—and
a waterproof breathable membrane in between. Since its development,
it has evolved into several fabric combinations. There is
also three-layer Gore-Tex. New developments include Paclite,
the lightest Gore-Tex fabrics and the most breathable, XCR
(a two or three layer composite). New for fall ‘04
will be softer fabrics with stretch. Gore-Tex fabrics have
found great success in the urban market.
GRAY GOODS: fabrics just as they come off the loom, before any
finishing or dyeing. Sometimes called greige goods. Gray goods until
a few years ago were a major commodity fabric, and converters, manufacturers
and speculators took future positions in the fabric either to cover
their needs against increasing prices or simply to make money on future
HARRIS TWEED: see tweed.
HERRINGBONE: a fabric in which reversing twill weaves
give the effect of, yes, the bones of a herring.
HOUNDSTOOTH: Popular wool pattern made with a variation
of the twill weave to form jagged, broken checks. The characteristic
twill line is not readily apparent. Widely used to make many
types of fabrics, especially suitings.
INGEO: a new fiber with a soft hand, made of polylactide
polymer, introduced by Cargill Dow and touted as coming from
a renewable source.
(Since Cargill is one of the largest corn products producers
in the world, guess what renewable source they are planning
to make the fiber from?) Currently popular in the home furnishings’ market,
but apparel made from Ingeo is being marketed in Japan and
INVISTA: most of the fiber operations formerly owned
by DuPont, spun off as a separate company, called Invista,
which was then bought by Koch Industries, a giant polymer
chemical company. This activity is being closely watched
by fabric and apparel manufacturers and retailers because
the DuPont fiber operation was such a major player in the
textile and apparel business, with important fibers. Koch
is best known as a huge commodity resin producer.
JACQUARD: a loom attachment invented in 1801 by Joseph
M. Jacquard. Used today in a modern form, it allows for an
almost unlimited range of intricate designs in woven and
knit fabrics. The loom attachment features a large series
of perforated cards corresponding to the design, controlling
the weave. Setting up a jacquard design is time consuming,
even today with modern methods. While expensive, it can achieve
very interesting and beautiful patterns, not otherwise possible
by other methods. It is really the first computer-controlled
JERSEY: Knitted fabric with fine lengthwise wales on the face
and a plain back. Made in various weights for men's and women's coats,
suits, sportswear and dresses.
KEVLAR: a very tough fiber of the aramid class, developed
by DuPont, and amazingly, still owned and produced by them.
Its best known use is as a bullet-resistant vest material used
by the military and police forces all over the world. However,
it has been used in blends for apparel fabrics, usually for
tough, outdoor garments. It has also been blended with cotton
KHAKI: originally a color. Now refers to the tan and
other-hued slacks sold and bought by every man. See Chinos.
LAMBSWOOL: Fine, soft, wool from the first shearing
of a lamb, usually when it is about seven months old.
LINEN: arguably the world’s oldest natural fiber that
requires a manufacturing process. Egyptian mummies were wrapped in
it 10,000 years
ago; the shroud of Turin is made of linen. But despite its
ancient pedigree, it continues to be modernized. It is made
from the flax plant in
a complicated process, including retting (which roughly means
rotting off the stalks to form the fibers). Once “guaranteed
to wrinkle”, it now can be finished with wrinkle resistant
treatments. First developed as a summer and spring fabric,
now it is used year-round in men’s sport
jackets, suits and shirts.
LLAMA: a South American camellike animal whose family boasts some of
the finest and most interesting fibers in the world. Family members include
the alpaca, guanaco and vicuna. All four produce hair for men’s topcoats,
suits and jackets. The llama and alpaca are domesticated and their hair is
fairly plentiful. The guanaco and vicuna are wild (although some are being
domesticated) and harvesting their hair is very complicated. The vicuna is
protected by international law, and its fiber is the most expensive in the
world. Limited quantities are sold in Europe, Asia and finally in the U.S.
The Loro Piana Company of Italy has worked closely with the Peruvian government
to protect and commercialize vicuna and the company is the major source of
LODEN CLOTH: a soft, thick windand water-resistant fabric, usually
made of wool, dating back to 16thcentury Austria. Loden also refers
the style of a coat made from the fabric. Traditional color
is dark green, but it is produced in a range of colors as well
LYOCELL: a sort of super rayon and one of the newest successful
manufactured fibers. Tencel is the best known and first of this fiber,
produced by Acordis. Lyocell is also produced by Lenzing of Austria,
as Lyocell by Lenzing. It is made from wood, and therefore a renewable
source. Successful applications include men slacks and jeans, as well
as shirts and jackets.
MERINO: a breed of sheep producing the finest wool. Most
live in Australia, which issued a stamp in the sheep’s
honor a few years ago.
MELTON: a close woven, heavy duty wool cloth with a short
nap.Navy uniforms and overcoats are big markets.
MERCERIZATION: a finishing process, usually for cotton,
in which the fabric is held under tension and treated with
a caustic solution under
uniform temperature. It improves the fabric’s luster,
strength and affinity for dyes. It is definitely an improved
fabric, but expensive.
MICROFIBER: the finest manmade apparel fibers. Usually
polyester, but includes some nylon. True microfibers are
less than one denier per filament in weight. This is not
an arbitrary number. When the fiber industry, mostly Dupont,
set out to make these super-fine fibers, silk was the finest
natural fiber, at one denier per filament, so micro fibers
had to be finer. Microfiber is expensive. Since fiber is
sold by the pound, 100 feet of a finer fiber is priced higher
than a heavier one. Also, quality microfiber is harder to
make than a thicker fiber. Usually microfiber fabric is brushed
or sanded to give it a more luxurious finish. While it looks
and feels good, it has great performance characteristics
like wrinkle resistance, washability, strength and reduced
MICRON: the measure of the thickness of a wool fiber
in billionths of one meter. See super 100’s.
MILLIKEN: one of the few U.S. mills still actively pursuing
proprietary, trademarked fabrics. Also probably the largest privately
owned mill in the world. While much of its volume comes from home furnishings
and industrial fabrics, it is still a major player in apparel fabrics,
especially for menswear. Trademarked fabrics include Visa; VisaEndurance
(a new fabric that controls odor for the life of the garment and provides
moisture management), Comfortease and Clearguard (stain and wrinkle
resistant fabrics) and StainSmart (a fabric that resists stains and
allows ground-in stains to wash out easily). Partners with retailers
to develop apparel programs.
MODAL: a super rayon, but can be labeled as a generic modal
fiber now. Performs well when wet, unlike regular rayon.
MOHAIR: long silky hair from the angora goat. Produced in Texas,
among other places. It produces a smooth fabric and is often blended
with other fibers, including wool.
MOLESKIN: an old fabric now popular again, especially in menswear.
A soft, smooth, usually napped twill used in pants and jackets.
NANOTECHNOLOGY: in textiles, this complicated technology
is used to impart various high performance properties directly
into the fiber, so
that they will be inherent and not wash or wear out. For example,
Burlington Industries in the U.S., through its Nano-Tex subsidiary,
four such products: Nano-Care, Nano-Pel, Nano-Dry and Nano-
Touch, which are said to create stain repellancy, breathability,
hand and water repellancy to synthetics. Companies using one
or more of these products include: Levi Strauss, Eddie Bauer,
Men, Perry Ellis, Savane and Haggar. Asian fiber companies
are also developing Nanotech products, including Hyosung of
NATURAL FIBERS: textile fibers from animals and vegetables,
without a major manufacturing process needed. Top vegetable fibers
are cotton, wool, and linen. Top animal fibers include wool, camel
hair, and silk (which actually comes from a worm’s cocoon).
NATURAL STRETCH: results from the combination of yarn treatment
and special weaving—does not involve spandex or other stretch
yarns. Certain mills refuse to divulge their formula.
NONWOVEN FABRICS: one of those terms that nobody is quite happy
with. It refers to fabrics that are not woven or knit. They are formed
a number of ways, including dry and wet entanglement of fibers
and with a binder. The interlinings in jackets and shirt collars
are often nonwoven. For over 40 years attempts have been made
to create a practical nonwoven apparel shell fabric by several
companies, including DuPont.
NYLON: the first synthetic fiber, was invented by a DuPont team
led by Wallace Carothers. It was introduced at the 1939 World’s
Fair and was considered a miracle at the time, and still is a very
good fiber. Carothers also did original research on polyester, but
abandoned it because he thought nylon was more important. A British
chemist later developed polyester for ICI. Carothers later committed
suicide, but this was not considered fiber related. It has become popular
to refer to nylon by its chemical family name, polyamide, possibly
to make it seem more modern.
OLEFIN FIBERS: this is the fiber family from which polypropylene
is the major apparel fiber member. Polyprop has been a favorite
outdoors and active wear crowd. It is very light (the lowest
specific gravity of all fibers), quick drying, sunlight resistant
and doesn’t rot. It is colorfast, because it is usually
dyed in the fiber form.
OXFORD CLOTH: a basket-weave cotton fabric, considered
a classic for men’s shirts. Also can be a blend.
PILLING: an appearance problem created when fibers
gather into small balls on the surface of the fabric. The
stronger the fiber, the more difficult it is to get rid of
the pill once it has formed. The weaker the fiber, the easier
it is to brush off the pills. Anti-pilling has long been
the goal of fabric and fiber makers.
PINSTRIPES: Very thin, light or dark, lengthwise stripes.
PLAIN WEAVE: The simplest weave, also called "one-up
and one-down weave," in which filling yarn passes
over and under each warp yarn, forming a checkerboard pattern.
POLYESTER: hit the scene in 1953 when it was considered
the true miracle fiber. It didn’t shrink, resisted
wrinkling, wore very well, and was made from a petrochemical
that wasn’t used for much else at the time. DuPont’s
Dacron washand- wear- suits were very popular for a while.
Polyester is still the most used fiber in the world, with
industrial as well as apparel uses. A number of specially
engineered polyesters now offer fine esthetics as well as
performance. And the fiber seems to be making a comeback,
in better designs, beginning with microfiber. Specially engineered
polyesters continue to be developed, often playing down the
fact that they are polyester.
POLYPROPYLENE: see Olefin.
POPLIN: a woven fabric with a fairly heavy crosswise
rib effect, made by using heavier filling yarns than warp,
which has more threads. Got its name from the Pope, because
it was used originally for ecclesiastical garments.
PRODUCER COLORED FIBERS:
fibers that are pre-colored in the fiber-making process, also called
solution dyed. The color is inherent all through the fiber, not just
on the surface, as in dyeing. It reduces fading. However, this process
limits the range of colors available, and requires large inventories.
and polypropylene are frequently colored in this way.
RASCHEL: fabric produced on a warp knitting machine using
RAYON: the oldest man-made fiber, manufactured from regenerated
cellulose (wood pulp). Produced in the U.S. for over 100
years, it is often referred to as viscose. Produced in staple
or filament form. See cupro.
SATEEN: a woven fabric with a smooth surface and a
lustrous finish. Warp-faced sateens are strongest, but filling-faced
versions are softer.
SEERSUCKER: a truly American fabric, although it didn’t
originate here. It’s a light, woven cotton or cotton
blend fabric with parallel flat
and puckered stripes. The crinkled surface helped create its
role as a major summer suit fabric, particularly in New Orleans,
because it kept
the wearer cool and didn’t show wrinkles as much as plain
fabrics. Popular since the Thirties, it has always been in
classic summer lines,
to varying degrees. Elegant seersucker suits are done in silk
SENSURA: a proprietary fiber developed by Wellman Fibers.
It is actually a polyester co-polymer, aimed at having “cotton-like
synthetic performance,” like wrinkle resistance. Has
done very well in men’s pants, khakis in particular.
SERGE: Smooth, durable suiting fabric made with a 45-degree
twill weave and tightly twisted yarns. Has a flat twill line
on both sides, running from the lower left to the upper right.
Worsted serge is the workhorse of the serge family, but it
is also made from most other fibers and blends in a wide
variety of weights and qualities.
SHARKSKIN: woven fabric with a smooth lustrous surface
and a firm hand, now made in a number of patterns and colors.
It wears very well.
SILK:Arguably the world’s oldest fiber. It is created
from cocoons spun by the silk worm. The best silk is from
the worms that eat mulberry leaves. The super luxe fiber
is used in most men’s applications from ties, shirts,
suits and jackets, to underwear. Dupioni silk comes from
cocoon spun by two silk worms, instead of one. This Siamese
twin silk is prized for its strong, rough, uneven fabric, and
the unusual patterns made from it.
SLUB: imperfections in a yarn producing knobby balls
or uneven strands. Often done deliberately to create a decorative
SPANDEX: the original super stretch fiber developed in
1958 by DuPont. Its advent reduced elastic fiber to minor
uses. It stretches 500 percent and recovers, which is key
in fabric appearance and performance. It has long been big
in men’s activewear, but is now prevalent in most bottom
weights, jackets, suits and even in shirts in small percentages.
The second U. S. producer of spandex in history, Globe Industries
is now Radici Spandex, owned by the Italian Radici Group.
SPINNING: using one of several processes, spinning shorter
staple fibers together to form a spun yarn. One of the oldest
means of making yarn. Colonial women who were unmarried were
often consigned to operate a spinning wheel to produce home-spun
yarns and that’s where the term spinster came from.
(Not used anymore, neither the term nor the wheel.)
THE SUPER WORSTEDS: with selective merino sheep breeding and
advances in spinning, weaving and finishing, a whole line of very fine
worsted fabrics have been developed. They are determined by the delicacy
of the fiber used, measured in microns, equal to one millionth of a
meter. The first were super 80’s, which were just under 20 microns
in diameter. This was followed by finer, super 100’s at 18.5
microns. There has been a movement to get finer and finer worsteds
(with reports of some cheating) and there are now super 110’s
(18.0 microns), super 120’s, 140’s and 150’s (16
microns). In recent years this escalated to super 180’s (14.5
microns), 190’s (14), and then 200’s (13.5) and
even super 210’s at 13 microns. Size alone does not do
the job, as Madonna said. Spinning of the yarns is very important,
the weaving and
the finish are also key. It takes a long time to do this right.
Very few mills, nearly all in Yorkshire,U.K and Biella, Italy
are successful. (Loro Piana has a mill in the U.S. producing
supers.) There are complaints that some fabric sales organizations
have made false claims. And the reputation of the supplier
is very important. The finest worsteds, super 150’s and
up, are usually reserved for custom tailoring and made-to-measure
SUPIMA: the trade name and association relating to U.S. pima
cotton, a luxury fiber. Supima is the “microfiber of cotton,” the
finest grown in the U.S., or perhaps anywhere. It is costly and until
recently, Japan was a major customer, willing to pay the price for
premium cotton. The fiber is used in home furnishings and in apparel.
SYNTHETIC FIBERS: manufactured fibers from a petrochemical base— polyester,
nylon, acrylic, spandex and olefin are the best known.
TACTEL: a proprietary nylon developed by DuPont, sold
now by Invista. Very silky, it has been more accepted in
women’s apparel, but is
showing up in men’s shirts and other garments.
TEFLON: originally known for nonstick frying pans, this fluorocarbon,
developed by DuPont, now has a career in apparel as a stain resistant
topical treatment for fabric. A new generation Teflon Fabric
Protector, has a repel and release property. When stains get
through stain esistant fabrics, it is sometime very hard to
wash them out. This new product claims to keep the stain out.
TENCEL: the first and the largest of the lyocell fibers family.
It was originated by Courtaulds, and is now produced by Acordis through
its Tencel, Inc. subsidiary. See lyocell.
THREAD COUNT: a measure of how closely woven a fabric is, determined
by the number of warp yarns and filling yarns in a square inch of
the fabric. The finest and most expensive fabric has the highest
thread count. The consumer has picked up this term, especially
women buying expensive bed sheets. Now men also are asking
about thread counts in shirting fabrics. A small magnifying
glass, called a pick glass, has been used by mills and buyers
for more than a century to obtain thread count.
TROPICAL WORSTED: Lightweight worsted cloth woven from
especially fine yarns, usually with a plain weave. Has a
smooth, clear finish, making it ideal for warm weather suits.
TWEED: originally a rough-surfaced wool fabric, in plain, twill
or herringbone weaves. Named for the River Tweed in the U.K.Now it
is woven in various fibers, and patterns. Harris Tweed is a heavy,
handwoven fabric done by cottage weavers in the Outer Hebrides Islands,
from wool from Harris sheep from those islands. It is known
for wearing forever. Donegal tweed, originally hand woven in
Ireland, is now commercially produced and noted for interesting
TWILL: a basic weave with diagonal lines, used for men’s
pants. Originally wool, it is now woven of several different fibers.
Denim is a twill.
ULTRA-VIOLET INHIBITORS: refers to various additives put
into fiber or on fabrics to reduce harmful effects of the sun
on the wearer. Often used for outdoor active apparel including
golf shirts and tennis outfits.
VICUNA: rarest and most expensive fiber and fabric available.
From the the llama-like vicuna native to South America. See llama.
VISA: a proprietary fabric, trademarked by Milliken & Co.
Noted for stain resistance, it is high-performance polyester.
WARP AND WEFT: warp yarns are the lengthwise yarns
in a woven fabric. Important blends are often based on a
warp yarn of one fiber and a weft yarn of another fiber,
such as rayon/acetate or cotton/polyester.Weft yarns are
the crosswise yarns in a woven fabric and often called the
WEIGHT: In the U.S., fabric weight is expressed in terms
of ounces per yard, no matter how narrow or wide the cloth.
Woolen and worsted fabrics are usually 58 to 60 inches wide.
In other parts of the world, fabric weight is expressed in
terms of grams per linear meter. For scientific purposes,
fabric weight is recorded in ounces per square yard or grams
per square meter.
WINDOWPANE: Simple, boxy check or plaid pattern using
a minimum of colors and thin lines to form large squares
or rectangles with clear centers, like a windowpane.
WOOLEN AND WORSTED FABRICS: Worsted wool is most popular for
men’s suits (see supers) because it is made from the long straight
fibers and is stronger and weaves into a tight smooth fabric. Woolen
yarns are shorter and curlier and are woven into softer fabrics.
WORSTED YARNS: Yarns are made from longer fibers of 3
to 6 inches, which are combined to lie parallel to each other,
producing a smooth, clean look. They are usually 2 ply yarns,
and are finer and more tightly twisted than woolen yarns.
Fabrics made from worsted yarns are smooth and cool to wear,
such as gabardines, crepes, tropicals and suitings, and can
be worn comfortably in moderately warm weather and climates.
WRINKLE FREE: nothing really is. Wrinkles can form in
any fabric, but treatments and special weaving techniques
can greatly minimize this. The right term should be wrinkle