Textile Info - some stuff you probably don't know or are confused about!

Posted on 27 March 2016

Do you know the difference between Lycra and spandex?  How about digital versus shattered glass? Or are you looking for nylon or supplex?  Then there is polyester, viscose or you want matte or bright ? cotton or poly/cotton......confused ? on for a short easy-to-read explanation of most of the weird names used in textiles and dance clothing.

Firstly the fabrics used in dancewear (and almost anywhere else for that matter) are either woven or knitted.

A woven fabric is stable – doesn’t stretch much at all – and these fabrics are generally only used in skirts and the floaty overlays (skirts) on performance leotards used in ballet/contemporary. 

Examples of woven fabrics used in dancewear:  chiffon (quite see through), double georgette (semi-see-through) and crepe (opaque or not see-through).  These three are all a crepe weave fabric and are used in dance skirts.  We use a cotton poplin fabric to manufacture character skirts (the circular black ones with the colourful ribbons)

Knitted fabrics – think of a knitted jumper your grandma might have made – are stretchy and usually fit firmly to the body – think leotards.

Examples of knitted fabrics:  Lycra in all its forms, stretchy track suit fabric, t-shirt fabrics.

As almost all dancewear is made from Lycra based knitted fabric, let’s explainLycra.

 Lycra is a brand name and is owned by Dupont.  It is NOT the fabric itself although we often refer to it as such.  This is the same as knowing that Hoover is a brand name for a vacuum cleaner.  There are many vacuum cleaners and not all of them are Hoovers. Lycra is considered to be the best quality and is distributed by Eclipse Textiles.  Ditto Dancewear are retailers of Eclipse fabrics.

 Elastane and Spandex are also descriptions for this synthetic fibre made from polymers containing polyurethane....and basically this is plastic and made from petrochemicals.....made from oil!

 So Lycra/elastane/spandex is generally about 2-10% of the make up of the end cloth/fabric. It is knitted up with the main fibre to make the fabric stretchy, fit firmly on the body  and for it to return to its original shape when removed from the body.

 Nylon Lycra                can be either matte (dull) or bright (shiny), feels slippery....and nylon is another petrochemical based fibre

Cotton Lycra               a ‘natural’ fibre however HUGE quantities of the earth’s pesticides are used to grow the cotton....cotton needs to be labelled ‘organic’ for it to be environmentally friendly. 

Supplex Lycra             feels very soft – this is just brushed nylon

Polyester cotton Lycra .......polyester (petrochemical again) knitted with cotton and Lycra.

Now we move on to the fancy Lycras:  terms like:  holographic, digital or shattered glass refer to fabrics which have been created using a process which bonds sparkly or reflective particles to the surface of nylon Lycra.  Brand names for some of these fabrics include:  Activator, Digital, Shattered Glass, Fog Finish.  These fabrics need to be laundered carefully to maintain their specialised finish.  For example, soaking these fabrics may remove the sparkle. Really all Lycra fabrics should be hand washed in mild detergent and dried in the shade.  Heating the fabric eventually 'kills' the stretch and the garment goes baggy.

 Another interesting fibre is viscose (also known as rayon).  This is a man-made fibre made from cellulose from wood pulp.  Interestingly though it is man-made it is NOT synthetic as it is made from a natural product.  It is very soft to touch and can be compared to cotton or linen.  It can be used  to make velvet.

Acetate is another fibre made from wood is related to Acetone (nail polish remover) and apparently if you poor acetone on acetate melts it!....weird.... 

Linen               a natural fibre from the flax plant

Hemp              a natural fibre from the hemp plant (no you can’t smoke it!.....different variety)

If you have any questions about fibre, yarns, fabrics or fabric care just drop us an email.  

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