6 Questions we often get about different fabrics

According to our customers, two things make online shopping for clothing tricky: Firstly, not knowing how a garment is going to fit. Secondly, not knowing what the fabric is going to feel like. In this post, tackle the second issue, we share some insights about the different fabrics.

Ever wonder if Rayon is a synthetic or natural fabric? Or what “twill” is? You’re not alone. We get many questions on fabrics via email and social media. Shoppers want to know what the garment is going to feel like against their skin. Here are a few of the top questions we get asked.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RAYON, NYLON & TENCEL?

Rayon

Although Rayon and Nylon sound the same, the fabrics are quite different.

Rayon is a textile made out of natural, purified cellulose fibres like wood pulp from beech trees, pine trees, and bamboo. It is essentially a natural fabric that is biodegradable but it does require certain harsh chemicals to manufacture. As a result, it’s considered to be a semi-synthetic fabric. Rayon is soft, breathable, generally non-stretchy and very versatile. It is however prone to shrinkage when washed at higher temperatures and can easily crease.

Nylon on the other hand is an entirely synthetic textile similar to Polyester. It is often used in sportswear, swimwear, hosiery, and lingerie since it has great stretching capabilities. Nylon can also be used for rain jackets and parachutes because it is water and wind-resistant, and can be shaped for various other uses. It is generally a light fabric and not very breathable.

Tencel® is made from sustainably harvested eucalyptus trees and is entirely biodegradable. Eucalyptus grows quickly and without a lot of irrigation, pesticides or fertilizer. It can also be planted in low-quality soil that cannot be used for food crops. The production of Tencel® fabric is an extremely environmentally friendly process and does not need excessive chemicals like that of Rayon. Similar to Rayon, Tencel® is a soft and breathable fabric but smoother to the touch and as a result more luxurious.

Items on Equilibrio made from Rayon

Items on Equilibrio made from Nylon

Items on Equilibrio made from Tencel

IS SATIN A SYNTHETIC FABRIC?

Silk satin

Satin refers to the weave in the fabric rather than the fibre used. For example, if you see a silk satin scarf, silk refers to the fibre and satin refers to the way the silk was woven. In other words, you can get silk satin (natural), polyester satin (synthetic) etc.

Satins are generally woven from long fibres, when short fibres, like cotton, are woven in a satin weave it is called sateen e.g. cotton sateen.

Satin fabrics are characterized by a soft, shiny finish that can be used for dresses, evening bags, upholstery etc. It drapes very well, is crease-resistant and is luxurious to the touch. Sateen is less shiny but still has a smooth feel and a bit of sheen.

Items on Equilibrio made from satin

WHAT IS TWILL FABRIC?

Cotton twill

Like satin, twill is a type of weave rather than a fibre. Twill is characterised by its pattern of diagonal parallel ribs. It is one of three fundamental types of textile weaves along with plain weave and satin weave.

The most common example of a twill fabric is denim. Denim is a specific kind of cotton twill fabric. Chinos, too, are typically constructed from cotton or cotton-blend twill. Cotton twills, depending on their weight (or “thickness”), can be slightly stiff, robust fabrics that soften when washed. We typically also see Rayon twill and Silk twill used in clothing and scarves.

Items on Equilibrio made from twill

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LINEN, COTTON AND HEMP FABRIC?

Organic sateen cotton (top), Organic natural linen (middle), Organic natural hemp (bottom)

All three are natural fibres, they are however derived from different plants and processed in different ways.

Linen and Hemp are “bast fibres”, that are extracted from stalks of flax and hemp plants respectively. They are combed and spun into long strands and woven or knitted into fabrics. Cotton is different, yarn is spun from the cleaned fluff of cotton plant pods which is then woven into a fabric.

Hemp and Linen have a very similar, textured look and feel which can sometimes start off a little scratchy but soften beautifully with every wash. Cotton looks less textured and feels smoother to the touch.

Thanks to the hollow cores of bast fibres, Hemp and Linen insulate very well and are also moisture-wicking. They are more breathable than cotton.

Linen and Hemp fabrics are considered to be more sustainable than cotton because they use minimal water, pesticides and labour during production. They are also generally more durable than Cotton.

Items on Equilibrio made from Linen, Hemp and Cotton

WHAT IS LAWN FABRIC?

Cotton lawn

Lawn is a fine plain textile weave. These days it is mostly made from cotton i.e. Cotton lawn. Lawn is a tight weave fabric from fine, high-thread-count yarns that results in a silky, untextured feel. It is a light-weight fabric that can feel slightly stiff or crisp to the touch and has a dull sheen. Garments made from lawn fabrics generally have beautiful structure and feel fantastic on the skin.

Poplin is similar to lawn in that it also has a plain “under-over weave”, however lawn is made from finer threads.

Items on Equilibrio made from lawn

WHAT IS A KNIT FABRIC? IS IT DIFFERENT TO A WOVEN FABRIC?

Knit fabric

There are essentially two different manufacturing processes of textiles – woven and knitted.

All of the fabrics mentioned above are woven textiles. One can identify woven textiles by their crisscross pattern. Weaving textiles involves the interlacing of two or more yarns to create fabric.

Woven fabrics can be created in a variety of ways:

  • A common woven fabric type is plain weave. Plain weaves are most used in clothing and home textiles due to their durability. 
  • Another woven fabric type is the twill weave (see above). This woven textile is created by weaving in a diagonal pattern. This technique is known to add more durability to the textile.
  • The final woven fabric type is the satin weave (see above)Satin is woven in a way to create shiny and reflective effects. This type of weave is most commonly used in higher-end garments.

Knitted fabrics are different from woven fabrics in that they are made from one continuous thread. The easiest way to tell the difference between woven and knitted fabrics is that knits create loops in a braided pattern while woven fabrics create an interlaced criss-cross weave.

Knitted fabrics are often preferred in clothing due to their natural stretchiness and the temperature control they provide. Knitted fabrics do however tend to unravel quite easily. Many T-shirt fabrics are knitted fabrics.

So, when a garment is made from a “knitted fabric” it doesn’t necessarily mean it is knitted from wool like a jersey. It could be that the fabric is made from one continuous looped thread whether wool, cotton or otherwise.

Items on Equilibrio made from knit fabric

We hope this was insightful! If you have any further questions please add them to the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them.

(RELATED POST: How to care for your hemp and linen clothing)

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  1. Pingback: How to style your luxe-joggers for a date | Equilibrio

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