top of page
  • Rachel Gallagher

How Fabric Is Made: The Journey from Fibre to Fabric

Have you ever wondered about what it takes to make the fabrics that clothe us, comfort us, and express our individuality through fashion? Creating fabrics, from raw materials to finished products, is a fascinating journey that most of us don’t really think about - especially when we’re busy buying our clothes online and the process feels a whole other world away. 


Let’s peel back the layers of how the fabrics that create our clothes are made and get a deeper look into the process that turns fibres into threads, fabrics and the clothing that we wear every day. 



Raw Materials for Fabrics


The fabric production process starts with extracting raw materials or fibre harvesting as the very beginning of creating fabrics. There are two realms of raw materials: natural and synthetic. Natural fibres include things like cotton, wool, and silk, while synthetic or man-made fibres consist of chemical compounds. 


Natural Fibres 


For natural fibres, each material - whether they’re fluffy bolls of cotton, fleece of wool, or threads of silk - undergo distinct and intricate harvesting procedures. 


Cotton grows in large fields, and are plucked from the cotton plant. The harvested cotton then undergoes cleaning to remove impurities, and is carded (which separates and untagles fibres) to prepare the fibres for spinning into thread. 

A cotton plant, where cotton fibres are gathered from.

Wool involves the shearing of sheep. The wool fibres then go through a cleaning process to remove dirt and natural oils, and is also prepared for spinning into thread. 


Silk is produced from silkworm cocoons. The cocoons house delicate threads that are carefully unravelled to create long strands to be used for thread. 


Synthetic and Man-Made Fibres 


These fibres originate from petrochemicals, which a lot of people are surprised to hear! Synthetic and man-made fibres such as polyester and nylon are synthesised through a process called polymerisation. This means that chemical compounds are transformed into long chains of polymers to create threads (science!) 


Spinning 

Once the natural or synthetic fibres are prepared, the next step is for them to be spun into yarns. This process involves twisting fibres and threads together to form a continuous yarn. The thickness and the twist of the yarn can be adjusted to make a desired characteristic of the final fabric. For example, higher twist yarns can become more water repellent, where lower twist yarns can create softer fabrics. (See, I told you this was fascinating stuff!) 


Yarns that have been spun to create threads for fabrics.
Weaving or Knitting 

This is where the fabric production process gets even more interesting. After spinning, the yarns move to the weaving or knitting stage. Weaving involves interlacing yarns at right angles to create fabric. Looms are usually used to do this. Where knitting involves interconnecting loops of yarn to form flexible fabrics - whether that’s through hand knitting or machine knitting. Maybe your grandma’s knitting was more interesting than you thought. 


Dyeing or Printing 

Now that we’ve got a basic fabric structure, the next step is to make our fabric look pretty. Dyeing is pretty common (if you’ve done tie-dyeing, this will make sense to you). Dyeing involves immersing the fabric in coloured solutions - whether chemical or bio-based - to apply colour in different patterns. Printing techniques are also popular - whether through screen printing or digital printing) that allows for intricate designs and colours to be added to the fabric. 



Finishing 

After all of these steps, we finally get to the finishing stage. This includes treatments to enhance the properties of the fabrics. Mercerisation is one finishing technique that improves lustre and strength of the fabric. Another technique is calendering which smooths the surface of the fabric. Chemicals can also be applied to give certain properties like water or flame resistance. 


Final Inspection

Once the journey of the fabric has come to an end, there’s a final inspection of the finished products. Throughout the entire process of fabric production from beginning to end, there are quality control measures and checks to make sure everything goes to plan. 


Personally, I love to learn about where the fabrics that make our clothes come from. It gives us so much more knowledge about the origins of what we’re wearing, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each type of fibre and fabric. It’s an intricate and detailed process that weaves together craftsmanship, technology, and gives us connection to what we wear. 



Make sure to check out more bite-sized information about your clothes over on Instagram

Commentaires


bottom of page