Textiles - Three Main Fabric Structures from the Textile Science Side
Welcome, due to the massive mis-information regarding textiles recently in regards to Covid-19, I have decided to start a series of textile posts to help those who are really interested to understand and hopefully distinguish between fact and fiction.
The piece most people don't realize is that unless someone has an actual background in textiles through education, or deliberate studying and experience - mainly textile science, they are "guessing" at what they are looking at. This doesn't require a degree, it requires disseminating fact from..."kinda true but not really". Thank you for joining me.
This first post is about the three basic fabric structures that are very different from each other. There are endless variations among the three, but the structures boil down to: Woven, Knit or Felted (common terms).
The general term for all three is Fabric. Not material, not cloth, Fabric. When you read an article referencing "material" that is a clue it was not peer reviewed, and consider the information as such.
Fabric has a structure that will be put into use by manipulating it through cutting, shaping, sewing, sealing, melting and multiple other methods. When someone uses the term "material" loosely in textiles, my instant thought is: I didn't realize we were working with cement. I have found a standard dictionary is inaccurate regarding textiles 75% of the time.
Woven Fabric: the basic structure from a weaving loom is horizontal threads/yarns interlaced with vertical threads/yarns, in an under/over pattern with multiple variations on that theme. Woven fabrics unless treated can be unwoven, in either direction.
Knit Fabric: the basic structure from a knitting loom (yes the machinery can be referenced as a loom) has the thread/yarn forming interlocking loops, depending on the type of knitting loom depends on the knit structure. Some knits are easily identifiable like pantyhose when they are snagged and a "run" occurs or actually it is an "un-knitting" of a loop or series of loops, another common identifier is it's ability to stretch (not all but the majority) however with newer thread/yarn structures and properties, many yarns used in woven fabric have specific elastic qualities requiring careful examination of the actual fabric structure.
Felted Fabric (a common term): means fibers are deliberately (key term) inter-meshed or inter-locked through a series of various methods. The most common among fiber artists is using wool from a sheep that has scales as part of the fabric structure, that can "interlock" fibers among themselves through the most common method: heat/moisture/pressure; creating a fabric. Felting and Fulling are two very different with similar end results that causes a lot of confusion. Fulling is a method to finish a previous fabric structure, felting creates a fabric structure. Many deliberately "over-full" a previous knit or woven fabric to create what appears to be a felted piece, but in reality it is a fulled piece. Over-fulling a piece by improper care is also mis-labeled felted. It is damaged by over-fulling causing unwanted shrinkage or change in a usable size (accidentally) since that was not the end purpose and resulted in an over-fulled piece by not following proper care instructions, the piece was not felted, the original structure was knit or woven and it was damaged.
A pick glass or magnifying glass will easily identify wovens and knits, however true felted versus fulled can be a little trickier due to the final finish of the fabric.
Pictured is a woven piece on one of my looms.
Next post will be understanding thread counts.