Fabric and Fiber Facts

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Natural Fibers






Extremely versatile in weight, texture, and construction. Found in fabric such as organdy, broadcloth, poplin, terry, corduroy, seersucker denim, tweed. Used widely for summer wear work clothes, and in heavier weights, for warm transitional garments.

Quite strong, even stronger when wet. Not susceptible to pilling or seam slippage, Comfortable and absorbent; carries heat from body. Free from static electricity, with good affinity for dyes. Will deteriorate from mildew; weakened by sunlight. Tendency to wrinkle,

Wash 10 minutes in hot water at regular speed with any good detergent. Can use chlorine bleach on white cottons; however, some finishes react to chlorine bleach and turn yellow (see care label). Color safe bleach can be used on dyed cottons. Fabric softener will reduce wrinkling. Check the label for any wrinkle-resistant finish. Tumble dry on regular heat setting but don’t over-dry. Press with hot iron while damp until completely dry or use a steam iron with a slightly dampened press cloth.


One of the oldest textiles known. Beautiful, durable, and elegant; has a luster. Can be made naturally into sheer, medium, or even heavyweight fabrics. Used commonly for dresses, blouses, and suiting.

Tendency to wrinkle unless treated. Exceptionally strong, but stiff; may show wear at the edges and along folds. Comfortable; excellent absorbency; carries heat away from the body. Poor affinity for dyes; bright colors may bleed when laundered. Fabric will shrink unless treated. Will deteriorate from mildew but not from moths. Does not lint,

Usually dry cleaned, but launders well if preshrunk. Wash 5-8 minutes in hot water at regular speed with any good detergent (see label). Can use chlorine bleach but over bleaching may weaken fiber. Tumble dry on regular heat setting, but remove and iron while still very damp. Iron at high setting (unless treated with special finishes; see label). For maximum durability, creases should be finger pressed, not ironed into the garment.


Beautiful, luxurious to touch; has a deep luster. Available in a variety of weaves and weights from sheer drapable chiffon to stiff rich brocades in brilliant colors and beautiful prints for dresses, suits, blouses, linings, lingerie. Found in fabrics such as crepe, brocade, satin, jersey, tweed.

Good wrinkle resistance. Builds up static electricity, may cling. Exceptionally strong for its fineness. Is very absorbent; will hold in body heat. Excellent affinity for dyes, but may bleed.

Usually dry cleaned. If marked washable, use mild suds in lukewarm water; can also machine wash for 3 minutes on gentle cycle. Chlorine bleach should never be used. Tumble dry at low setting for short time or hang up to dry, but avoid prolonged exposure to light. Iron on wrong side while damp with a low heat set ting or use a steam iron; however, silk is easily water spotted so you may need to protect the fabric with a thin cloth.


Versatile in weight, texture, weave, and color. Unique properties of wool permit constructions not possible in any other fiber. Tailors well because of ability to be molded into shape. Used for coatings, suitings, crepe, tweeds, knits, gabardine, flannel, jersey.

Excellent wrinkle resistance and elasticity. Limited abrasion resistance. Weakens and stretches when wet. Exceptional absorbency, holds a large amount of moisture before it feels damp. Traps air in fibers, providing great natural warmth. Has good affinity for dye. Weakened by sunlight. Requires moth proofing; may be attacked by mildew if damp or soiled. Susceptible to shrinking and pilling if not treated.

Should be brushed between cleanings. Use a damp sponge on knits and finer fabrics. Usually dry cleaned. For hand washables, use mild suds in cool water; can also machine wash for 2 minutes at gentle speed, interrupting the agitation time for 10 minutes to let the fabric soak, and then completing the cycle. Do not tumble dry; block to shape on a flat surface away from heat. If labeled “machine wash and dry,” wash 3-8 minutes in warm water at gentle speed with mild suds. Tumble dry at regular heat setting but remove while slightly damp. Do not use chlorine bleach; it will weaken and yellow the fibers. To ayoid stretching, press gently at low heat setting on the wrong side using a damp press cloth or steam iron.


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Synthetic Fibers






Silk-like appearance, luxurious soft feel, deep luster, excellent draping qualities. Found in fabrics such as satin, jersey, taffeta, lace, faille, brocade, tricot, and crepe, and often in blends with other man-made fibers. Used for dresses, foundation garments, lingerie, linings, and blouses.

Tendency to wrinkle. Accumulates static electricity. Takes colors well, but some dyes are subject to atmospheric fading. Relatively low in strength. Resistant to mildew and moths. Weakened by light. Moderately absorbent; holds in body heat. Resistant to stretch and shrinkage,

Usually dry cleaned. To hand wash, gently squeeze suds through fabric and rinse in lukewarm water. Do not twist or wring. Do not soak colored items. Iron while damp with light pressure on wrong side at lowest temperature; a hot iron may melt the fabric. Place strip of brown paper between garment and seam allowances or darts. Do not use acetone (as in nail polish remover) or other organic solvents.


Commonly soft, light, fluffy fabric construction. Available in sheer fabrics, knits, fleece, fur-like and pile fabrics, and blends with natural and man-made fibers. Used for sweaters, dresses, suits, sports and work clothes,

Good wrinkle resistance and wash-and-wear performance. Lightweight. May accumulate static electricity. Low absorbency; quick drying. Good affinity for dyes; colorfast. Quite strong. Excellent resistance to mildew, moths, chemicals, and sunlight. Heat sensitive. May pill. Holds shape well, good pleat retention.

Remove oily stains before cleaning. May be dry- cleaned or hand washed. Wash on warm water setting with any good detergent. Add fabric sot- tener to the final rinse cycle to reduce static electricity. Dries quickly, may be tumble dried at low heat setting or hung up to dry. (Sweaters, however, must be dried flat.) Seldom requires ironing if removed from dryer as soon as cycle is completed; otherwise, use moderately warm iron, never hot, on wrong side.


Fabrics have a soft hand and excellent drape. Extremely strong fiber both wet and dry. Absorbs dyes readily. Can be found in both woven fabrics and knits with a luxurious peach skin surface. Often combined with other fibers such as cotton, wool or polyester producing a variety of fabrics from crepes to corduroy.

Commonly used for dresses, suits, sportswear, upholstery fabrics, and home furnishings, 100% natural in origin. Produced from the cellulose of wood pulp in an environmentally friendly process. Shrink and wrinkle resistant. It breathes and has the absorbency of a natural fiber. Is washable and dries quickly.

Can be laundered or dry cleaned. If blended with other fibers, check care of those fibers (e.g. silk or cotton) for cleaning. Machine wash at low temperature. Remove from cool dryer as soon as garment is dry. Use moderately warm iron.


Fibers glitter in gold, silver, and other colors; used in blended fabrics and trims,

Non-tarnishing if plastic coated. Not affected by salt water chlorinated water, or climatic conditions.

Can be laundered or dry cleaned if plastic coated. Iron at low setting. Mylar polyester covering withstands heat better than acetate covering


Available in deep-pile, fleece, and fur-like fabrics; used chiefly in blends and no-iron fabrics for deep-pile coats, trims, and linings.

Good wrinkle resistance. May accumulate static electricity Non-allergenic. Quick drying. Retains shape well, has an excellent elasticity. Resistant to moths, mildew, chemicals, and sunlight. Very heat sensitive; softens at low temperatures. Flame resistant.

Fur-like deep-pile garments are most safely cleaned by a furrier; other fabrics may be dry-cleaned or laundered If washable, follow same care directions as for acrylic. If ironing is absolutely necessary, iron at lowest temperature to prevent any stiffening or glazing. Finger press fur-like deep pile fabrics. Do not use acetone, as in nail polish remover.


Available in acrylic, nylon, polyester, and rayon. Defined as a fiber that has less than 1 denier per filament. Finer than the most delicate silk and very drapeable. Luxurious hand, often silken or suede-like touch.

Shrink resistant with excellent pleat retention. Great insulation from wind, rain and cold. Very strong fiber, with the exception of rayon. Found often in hosiery, blouses, dresses, sportswear, ties, scarves, swimwear, intimate wear and outerwear as well as curtains, upholstery, sheets, towels, and blankets.

Clean according to the instructions given for washing or dry cleaning fabrics made from these particular fibers (acrylic, nylon, polyester and rayon).


Several types of nylon produce a wide variety of fabric textures, from smooth and crisp to soft and bulky. Available in wide range of fabrics, both woven and knitted. Nylon 6 and 6.6 often found in blends. Used for dresses, blouses, shirts, skirts, sweaters, lingerie, ties, sock, swimwear, and rainwear,

Very good wrinkle resistance. Exceptional strength. Washes easily. Low absorbency; holds in body heat. Good affinity for dyes; may fade in sunlight. Can be heat-set to hold shape, pleats, and embossed effects, High resistance to moths, mildew. Very elastic. Does not soil easily; may pill, Melts under high heat. Resistant to non-oily stains,

Remove oily stains before cleaning. Machine wash for 3-5 minutes on regular for sturdy fabrics, using warm water. Use gentle cycle or hand wash delicate fabrics. For bright colors use cool water. Fabrics may yellow; bleach frequently with sodium perborate bleaches. A fabric softener in the rinse water will reduce static electricity. Tumble dry on wash-and- wear setting or drip dry; dries quickly. If removed from dryer immediately, may not require ironing; otherwise use low temperature on the wrong side. Never use a hot iron.


Available in many weights, textures, and weaves; often used in blends and minimum care fabrics. Used for durable press (permanent press), fiber fill, fleece, and knit fabrics found in suits, shirts, slacks, dresses, blouses, lingerie, and thread,

Excellent wrinkle and abrasion resistance. Accumulates electricity. Wash and wear, quick drying. High strength. Resistant to stretching and shrinking Low absorbency; may hold in body heat, May yellow, but is otherwise colorfast. Retains heat set pleats and creases. Exceptional resistance to mildew and moths, Occasional seam slippage. May pill and pick up lint.

Remove oily stains before cleaning. Machine wash for 3-5 minutes with regular agitation for sturdy fabrics, and gentle agitation for delicate fabrics, using warm water. For bright colors use cool water, A fabric softener in the rinse water will reduce static electricity; rinse well. Chlorine bleach can be used for whites before the spin cycle; others can be tumble dried at wash-and-wear or low setting. If removed from dryer immediately, may not require Ironing; otherwise use a medium warm setting or steam iron,

Polyolefin or Olefin

Wool-like hand and slightly waxy feel. Its light weight makes it especially good for deep pile and fake fur constructions. Adaptable for activewear, (with other fibers, it has excellent wicking properties) sportswear, jeans, socks, lining fabrics, carpets, upholstery and wall coverings.

Excellent elasticity and resiliency. Lightest of textile fibers, will float on water. Virtually nonabsorbent; quick drying. Will not shrink unless overheated. Very sensitive to heat; melts easily. Non-allergenic. Resists pilling, staining, and insects. Difficult to dye.

Machine wash in lukewarm water; add a fabric softener to final rinse. Machine dry only on very low setting, and remove immediately after cycle has stopped. Preferably drip dry. Iron on lowest possible temperature setting, or not at all. Stains may often be blotted away with absorbent tissue. Olefins should not be dry-cleaned if perchlorethylene is the solvent used.


Comes in a wide range of qualities; can be made to resemble natural fibers, can be lightweight or heavy constructions. May have smooth surfaces or bulky napped textures. Soft hand drapes well. Used for dresses, suits, blouses, coats, lingerie, slacks, linings, non-woven fabrics, and blends

Soft and comfortable. Absorbent; holds in body heat. Good affinity for dyes; generally colorfast. Low resistance to mildew. Relatively low in strength; weaker when wet. Wrinkles unless specially finished. May shrink or stretch if not treated. Weakens in prolonged exposure to light.

Usually dry-cleaned; if wet may weaken, ravel, or shrink. If washable, use mild detergent in warm water at gentle speed for 3-5 minutes When hand washing use mild lukewarm suds, gently squeeze them through fabric, rinse in lukewarm water. Do not wring or twist. Do not soak colored fabrics. Chlorine bleaches or the peroxygen type can be used; some finishes may be sensitive to chlorine bleach. Tumble dry; if hung to dry, avoid direct sunlight. Iron while damp at a moderate setting, on wrong side to prevent shine.


Found in stretchable, flexible, supple fabrics as used for foundation garments, swimwear, ski pants, other athletic apparel and elastic banding.

Lightweight; great elasticity. High in strength and durability. Non-absorbent so it repels body oils. May yellow with exposure to light,

Hand or machine wash in lukewarm water for 3 minutes with gentle agitation. Do not use chlorine bleach, which will cause permanent yellowing. Use oxygen or sodium perborate bleach. Rinse well. Drip dry or tumble dry at cool setting, being careful not to over-dry. Can be ironed at a low temperature.


Often found in blends, fabrics such as tricot, sharkskin, flannel, and taffeta. Used for garments that require pleat retention, sportswear.

Good resistance to wrinkling and shrinking. Antistatic finish can be built in. Low strength Good affinity for dyes, colorfast. Can be permanently pleated; holds heat-set shape and texture. Easily washed.

Machine wash; tumble dry, except permanently pleated garments, which should be hand washed and hung to dry. Usually requires ironing; can with stand higher temperature than acetate. Do not use acetone, as in nail polish remover, or any other organic solvent.


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This page was last modified on: Sunday, 2007-08-05 15:58 PST