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Introducing FashionCapital’s Knowledge Bank – Fabric Types


To find out more and to become a member contact: memberships@fashioncapital.co.uk


 Fabric Types Part 1 focuses on the properties of wool, cotton, linen, silk, mohair and flax:


Source: the fleece or hair of sheep and goats, also camels, rabbits, llama and vicuna goat. The length and quality of the fibre varies according to the animal and breed. Usually associated with a particular geographical area.

Region of growth: Australia, New Zeland , South Africa and Argentina.

Production and processing: Great Britain imports quantities of wool to supplement her own supplies in order to produce a wide variety of woollen fabrics. In the production of raw wool into yarn there are two main processes one being for worsted yarn and the other for woollen yarn or cloth. Worsted yarn I made from the long strong fibres. The long fibres are straightened ,laid parallel and spun in a similar manner to cotton.  Woollen yarn is formed from all the short fibres combed out, from the worsted yarn.

Wool fibres under a microscope are seen to be constructed of overlapping scales.

Main varieties; Cashmere, made from wool of the Kashmir goat. Mohair, from the angora goat, to be called mohair they must contain at least 50% alpaca and camel hair.




  • Wool is warm to wear
  • Its is a non conductor of heat
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Contains natural oils and water repellent
  • Natural resilience and elasticity makes the fabric crease resistant
  • Its non-flammable but inclines to smoulder.
  • Weak when wet
  • Wool requires careful laundering
  • Its is prone to damage by moths.   



The source of cotton is the fibre that surrounds the seed on the cotton plant. These are gathered after the cotton boll or seed pod has burst. The length and fineness of the fibres vary according to the area in which the cotton plant is grown.

The fabric of cotton is originates from the fibre surrounding the seed on the cotton plant. These fibres are then gathered after the cotton boll or seed pod has burst. The length and density of the fibres vary according to the location of the cotton plant as below.

Main region of growth:

India Africa and China are the main areas of growth. Egypt and West Indies produce the longest and finest cotton fibres. United States and Russia produces the rougher, tougher fibre.

Production and Processing

Great Britain imports large quantities of cotton in its primary state to manufacture into the finished cotton fabric we are acclimatised to seeing in the fashion industry.


The fibres are combed together to lie parallel with each other. The parallel fibres are then drawn out in stages until the thread is formed. This thread is then twisted or spun to make a continuous thread or yarn.


The spun thread is transferred to the weaving mill where the yarns are coated with a starch like substance to help the weaving process.


The woven cloth is inspected for faults and then sent to be bleached, dyed or printed to give the final appearance. Chemical finishes such as flame proofing are then added at this stage.




  • Hard wearing
  • Hard weaving even when the fibre is fine
  • Washes well
  • Strong when wet
  • Cool to the wearer
  • Good conductor of heat
  • Absorbs water readily
  • Takes dyes well
  • Takes chemical finishes well
  • Creases easily
  • Its flammable
  • May shrink in wash
  • Weakened by strong sunlight


Source: long fibres that form the interior of the stem of the flax plant.

Region of growth: Belgium, Northern Ireland and the Baltic states.

Production and processing: The flax plants are pulled up by the root without breaking the stem. The seed and leaves are removed , the fibres of the stems are encased in a casting containing gum to remove the fibres. The fibres are dried and then taken to a mill where they are combed, spun and made into cloth in a similar way to cotton yarns.

Linen fibres under a microscope are seen to be smooth, rounded and lustrous but notched at intervals.




  • Hard wearing
  • Launders well
  • Is stronger wet than when dry
  • Can be boiled in necessary
  • Absorbs moisture well
  • Naturally smooth surface of linen makes it dirt resistant
  • Creases due to its lack of natural resistance
  • Its in flammable
  • Inclined to fray
  • Mildew can develop if stored damp
  • Expensive


Source: the cocoon of the silk moth.

Region of growth: Japan, China, India and Italy.

Production and processing: After hatching from the egg the silk worm live for 4-5 weeks. When its ready to spin into a cocoon it attaches its self to a twig and turns into two filaments. The chrysalis is then killed by heat before it emerges as a moth so the cocoon remains undamaged. The cocoons are then placed into tanks of warm water to soften the gum and then lightly brushed to find the ends of the continuous filaments. Several ends are then taken together through a guide an lightly spun and wound onto a reel. The diluted gum then hardens around the thread.

Silk fibres show their smoothness and lustre under a microscope.




  • Strong even though it is fine
  • Natural smoothness and lustre
  • Warm to wear
  • Non-conductor of heat
  • Absorbs moisture well
  • Non-inflammable
  • Its moth proof
  • Difficult or impossible to launder
  • Stains and watermarks easily
  • Its expensive



Mohair yarn is taken from Angora goats, which are raised worldwide, the major producers are South Africa and the American state, Texas.

Production and processing

Goat shearing is done twice a year, in spring and autumn, on a clean swept floor. The hair is then processes to remove natural grease, dirt and vegetable matter. Mohair is often used in fibre blends to add a luxury quality.




  • Insulating
  • Durable
  • Shrink resistant
  • Luster
  • Lightweight
  • Flame resistant
  • Crease resistant
  • Dyes well
  •  Expensive



USA, Canada, Europe and Far East

Production and processing

Flax is an annual plant that blooms in the early summer. The fibres used to produce linen are found inside of the flax stalk. To separate the fibres from the stalk the flax must be retted, a process where the flax is wet to dissolve the natural glue binding the fibres to the stalk is separated from the fibres for spinning.




  • Dyes well
  • Heat resistant
  • Retains shape
  • Quick drying
  • Insulating
  • Contains natural antibacterial properties.


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