Fabrics: Finshes

PREV: Other Fabric Construction Next: Color and Fabric Pattern

Fabrics that come straight off the loom bear little resemblance to those that reach your sewing machine. Before they are sold they may be washed in chemical solutions, brushed, pressed, beaten, and polished. Substances and treatments may alter their texture and appearance and improve their resistance to moths, static electricity, spotting, staining, shrinking, sagging, wrinkling, and burning. All the processes undergone by the fabrics after its initial transformation from yarn to cloth is called finishing.


Texture Finishes

CALENDARING is a process in which the fabric is passed between hot rollers under pressure. Like a large iron, a calendar may press the fabric flat, but there can also be several variations. Smooth, high-speed metal rollers and a resin application produce a finish called glazing. When two layers of a ribbed fabric are calendared slightly off grain, it creates a moire effect. Embossing with rollers with a raised design can, permanently texture thermoplastic fibers, or those fibers that melt with sufficient heat. A super-glossy finish, called ciré, is obtained by applying a wax or other sheen producing substance to the fabric before it is rolled.

NAPPING is a common finish by which short fiber ends of spun yarns are raised to the surface by a series of revolving brushes, creating flannel or fleece. Napping can be on the right side or wrong side of the fabric. Inside, it can create a nice, cozy feeling like in sweatshirt fabric.

BRUSHING is similar to napping except that long fiber ends are mechanically pulled out of the fabric.

PLISSÉ is a process of printing untreated cotton fabric with a caustic soda solution to shrink the fabric in certain areas, creating a puckering effect.

FULLING takes advantage of the natural shrinkage capacity of wool. Subjecting the cloth to moisture, heat, and pressure compacts the yarns, strengthens the weave and imparts warmth, body and stability. It is similar to the felting of the non-woven fibers.

BEETLING applied to linen or cotton, involves prolonged pounding with wooden blocks to flatten the yarns, fill out the weave, and impart an elegant luster to the cloth.

TENTERING straightens the fabric, setting the width and grain, and dries it in the set position. A conveyer-like frame is lined with pins that hold the fabric’s selvages and stretch it into shape. An electronic mechanism controls the two belts or pins, keeping filling yarns at right angles to the warp. Off-grain fabric is the result of improper tentering. If it has been heat set off grain during tentering, it cannot be straightened.

(article continues below...)

Recommended Reading


Recommended Products

Learn more about sewing, knitting and related arts and crafts: Browse our reading list.

Temporary Finishes

Several finishes may be added to improve the fabric’s hand and appearance. These finishes will be quickly removed with normal wear and care. Some substances may temporarily alter the character of a fabric in such a way that poor quality is disguised.

SIZING or dressing, provides body, weight, and luster. Fabrics can be stiffened with glue, clay or wax. These finishes, that are not permanent, will be removed by laundering. Starch may restore the finish, but generally these fabrics are of poor quality and will wear out quickly.

SOFTENERS give a lighter, fluffier, softer hand to fabrics and can be re-applied during the laundering process.

WEIGHTING is a process most often applied to silk to restore the weight that is lost when the natural gum is removed. Metallic salts are absorbed, which allows heavier fabrics to be produced but weakens the fiber. Weighted silk water-spots easily. Cottons and wools can also be weighed.

Performance Finishes

Manufacturers have been increasingly conscious of the consumer demand for fabrics with improved and specialized characteristics. Finishes can counteract the inherent disadvantages of certain untreated fibers, and give them texture and aesthetic appeal as well as safety, durability, and adaptability to special purposes.

Keep in mind the fact that “permanent,” as used in the textile industry, is only a relative term. So-called “permanent” finishes would more accurately be called durable, since they are only designed to withstand normal wear, and must be treated and laundered as the Manufacturer recommends. Here is a list of terms that you will find on hangtags, bolt ends, and labels.

ANTI-BACTERIAL -- Finish that checks growth or effect of bacteria and perspiration.

ANTI-STATIC or CLING FREE -- A finish to help dissipate static electricity and thus reduce clinging.

COLORFAST -- Color in fabrics so labeled will not fade with normal use if laundered as recommended.

FLAME-RESISTANT -- Fabrics that have been treated to prevent the spread of flame once its source has been removed.

MERCERIZED -- A term for cotton and linen fabrics that have been immersed under tension in a solution of caustic soda to swell the fibers for increased strength, luster, and affinity for dyes.

MILDEW-RESISTANT -- Fabrics that have been treated to resist the growth of mildew and other molds.

MOTH REPELLANT -- Fabrics that have been treated to repel moths.

PERMANENT PRESS or DURABLE PRESS -- Indicates fabric will wash and dry by machine, shed wrinkles, and retain shape without ironing.

PRESHRUNK -- Fabrics that have undergone a preliminary shrinking process. Residual shrinkage, or the percentage of possible shrinkage remaining in a fabric, must be declared.

SANFORIZED® -- Ensures that fabric will not shrink more than one percent despite repeated washing. It is applied to mostly cotton and blends.

SHRINKAGE CONTROLLED -- Fabrics that have undergone compressive shrinkage in manufacturing; increases durability by compacting the weave.

SOIL RELEASE -- Treatment that makes possible the removal of stains from fabrics faster. Color brightness and soil release properties are maintained after laundering.

STAIN- AND SPOT-RESISTANT -- Fabric finished to repel water- and oil-based stains, WASH-AND-WEAR: Fabrics that can be washed and re-worn with little or no ironing. This property may be produced by heat-setting or resin treatment and varies in permanence. Also termed easy care and minimum care.

WICKING -- Fabrics that are treated with a finish that lets body moisture absorb through to the outside of the fabric, keeping moisture away from the body.

PREV: Other Fabric Construction Next: Color and Fabric Pattern HOME

This page was last modified on: Wednesday, 2020-03-04 8:48 PST