In this background piece, we tell you all about the 'technical construction' of your garment. From fibre to garment. We start with the final product, your garment, and go back one step at a time. To the fabrics, the yarns and the fibres/raw materials. We also cover finishing processes.
Click on the arrows in the text for more information.
1.1. Constructions of the canvas
There are different ways in which fabrics are produced. The way a fabric is made from a yarn is also called the construction.
You have woven fabrics, knitted fabrics and so-called non-wovens.
Weaving is the braiding of yarns over and under each other. There are different weaves, ways in which the warp and weft yarns cross. In a plain weave, the simplest weave, the yarns always cross one up and one down. Garments that are generally woven include shirts, jackets and trousers. While jeans are almost always woven in a twill weave: that is a weave in which the warp and weft yarns cross at least one up, two down or vice versa. You can recognise the binding by the oblique lines that run through the fabric, just look at your jeans.
The text continues below the photos
Knitting is often done with one long yarn. Loops are made in a yarn and those loops are interconnected. Those loops are stretchable. Just as there are different ways of weaving, there are also different ways of knitting. What kind of garments are knitted? Many. Sweaters and cardigans are well-known knitwear, but many T-shirts, underwear ('tricot') and socks and tights are also knitted. A knitted fabric can usually be recognised by the rows of v's on the front of the fabric.
The text continues below the photos
Non-woven is the name for a fabric that is not made of yarn but of fibres. An example is felt, where loose fibres are firmly joined together under the influence of heat and pressure. A non-woven can also be made by using glue and loose fibres. By heating the glue, it melts together.
The way the fabric is made also affects the properties and appearance of a garment. "To make a garment more elastic, you don't necessarily need elastane (the textile fibre to give a garment 'stretch', ed.). You can also turn it into a knit, as each loop gives room for movement," fashion professional Monique Wertheym explained to FashionUnited.
Wertheym has 30 years of experience in the apparel industry and is a lecturer at TMO Fashion Business School, teaching Fashion Products and Production and International Business Communication and Senior Trainer for Detex. Wertheym has been nominated by Detex Training as a textile goods knowledge specialist. Detex is a training agency for fashion and retail.
"That way, you can give stiffer raw materials, such as linen, the property of elasticity." And the reverse works the same way. "Take viscose, a very supple raw material. If I then make a woven fabric out of that, it's less supple than knit linen. Because, a woven fabric is always tighter than a knit."
Finishing processes also have an impact.
1.2 Finishing processes
Fabrics are often ‘processed’ or ‘treated’. The technical term is finishing processes. The purpose of finishing processes is to improve the garment's properties and/or make it more beautiful. Which finishing processes are used depends on the raw material and the desired use.
You can make fabrics for instance shiny, iron-proof or water-repellent. But note that finishing processes can be done at different stages of production, Wertheym emphasises. "Processing can be done at four levels: at fibre, yarn, fabric or garment level.”
Dyeing is the most common finishing process. And so [dyeing] also happens at different stages in production. But, most of the time, according to the expert, fabrics are pre-treated, then dyed and then post-treated.
Dyeing is the most common finishing.
Garments are almost always coloured. Colouring can be done by dyeing and printing. "Garments will be dyed with dyestuff in 95% of all cases," Wertheym estimates when asked
Pre- and post-finishing
"There are many pre-finishing processes that allow the colour (read: dye) to be better absorbed by fabrics," Wertheym explains. "Cheap clothing brands often skip pre-finishing processes. This is why a cheap T-shirt often remains black for only a short time. If pre-finishing processes are skipped, the fabric is actually not suitable to absorb dyes properly."
"Post-finishing processes are also often skipped by cheaper brands," she continues. "An example of a post-finishing process is rinsing. This removes the loose pigments from the dyes, so it does not happen in the consumer's washing machine." A second example is pre-shrinking the fabric. Pre-shrinking causes the garment to shrink less when washed after purchase.
Pre- and post-finishing processes can cause price differences of garments. "That is why one black T-shirt has a price tag of 9 euros, another 19 euros and the third T-shirt costs 29 euros in the shop." Wertheym: "And I'm not talking about branding (paying for a brand name, ed.) but really just what pre- and post-finishing processes have been done."
The more finishing processes, the more expensive a garment, but therefore the better the final product remains. "Better in colour and better in fit, for example," she says. So what is expensive, Wertheym wonders aloud. "The cheapest black T-shirt from a discounter probably has to be replaced after three months because it has shrunk and is no longer black, and the one from a slightly more expensive fashion brand probably lasts for three years."
Fabrics of clothing are made of yarns (the threads).
Yarns are numbered by thickness in the fashion industry. If you weave or knit with a thin yarn, you get a thin garment, if you do it with a thick yarn, you get a thicker garment as a result.
Usually, one weaves or knits with a single yarn. But it's also done with a multi-yarn. "Twisting yarns around each other (twisting as that process is called)," Wertheym explains, "creates a thicker yarn, and therefore a thicker fabric."
In other words, how the garment ultimately looks depends also on the yarn used.