Yarns and Fabrics 101
In the outdoor and industrial fabrics business, it is important to know industry terms. Just because you know what a word means, does not mean your customers do. In our industry, many terms are used interchangeably, ie. waterproof and water resistant. However, the difference between the two can often spell the difference between a satisfied customer and an unhappy one. Whether you are a seasoned industry veteran, just starting out, or somewhere in between, we think you will find these terms helpful and, at the minimum, a good refresher.
Woven or non-woven are terms referencing how a fabric is made.
Warp, weft, fill, pick and loom are weaving terms.
Denier is a unit of weight which measures the fineness of yarn. One denier is the weight in grams of 9,000 meters of yarn. Higher deniers are heavier yarns.
Ply refers to the number of individual strands spun together to make the final yarn. A 2-ply means two strands have been twisted together, a 3-ply means three strands, and so on.
Yarns are classified as either filament or staple (spun).
The narrow edge of woven fabric that runs parallel to the warp is called the selvedge. Selvedges are typically made with stronger yarns in a tighter construction than the body of the fabric to prevent unraveling.
Hand refers to how the fabric feels, or the tactile qualities of a fabric. Hand is hard to quantify, as everyone’s “feel” is different. Touch attributes include:
Color fastness, or simply fastness, is the resistance of a fabric to change its coloring as a result of exposure to the elements. ie. resistance to fading. These elements include sunlight, humidity, atmospheric gases, washing, etc.
Breathability is the ability of a fabric to allow moisture vapor to be transmitted through the material. The higher the breathability number, the more water vapor escapes, meaning the more permeable (or porous) the fabric is.
Abrasion is the wearing away of any part of the material by rubbing against another surface. Coated fabrics will usually have a higher abrasion resistance, because rubbing surfaces have to wear through the coating before affecting the underlying fabric. Abrasion resistance indicates how a fabric will react when it rubs against something else. ie. travel covers, awnings, bimini tops, etc.
Dimensional stability is how much a fabric stretches and shrinks. Some applications call for high dimensional stability and others call for low dimensional stability. For example, an awning or top, requires high dimensional stability to prevent the fabric from sagging and collecting water.
Waterproof, water repellent, and water resistant refer to the ability of the fabric to resist water.
Crazing appears as thin, white lines on fabric, and is often the result of folding or creasing. Exposure to heat or sun will accelerate the disappearance of these lines.
Crock or rub off refers to the transfer of colorant from the fabric to another surface. These terms are used interchangeably and mean the same thing.