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Natural Fabrics

Natural fabrics are created from fibers of animal coats, silkworm cocoons, and plants' seeds, leaves, and stems.

Corduroy

Characteristics:
  • "Corduroy" does not refer to the fabric, but to a certain structure of fabric. It can therefore be made of natural or synthetic fibers, but most often it is made from cotton.
  • Corduroy comes in different weights, but it is usually thick and somewhat stiff.
  • Absorbs and releases moisture quickly, thus allowing the fabric to "breathe".
  • It is very warm and durable.
Care Instructions:
  • Corduroy can be made from different fabrics; care instructions vary depending on the fabric. Most corduroy is made from cotton, which is machine washable and can be ironed at high temperatures.
  • When removing stains from corduroy, blot with a wet cloth and avoid harsh brushing.

Cotton

Characteristics:
  • Cool, soft and comfortable.
  • Absorbs and releases perspiration quickly, thus allowing the fabric to breathe. This makes cotton cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
  • Durable.
  • Can wrinkle easily.
  • There are many varieties of cotton. Each has a distinct structure in how the cotton is woven which gives the fabric unique qualities. Varieties listed in this guide are: Corduroy, Denim, Flannel, Seersucker, Terrycloth, and Velvet.
Care Instructions:
  • Machine washable.
  • Chlorine bleach can be used to restore white garments to a clear white but bleach may yellow chemically finished cottons or remove color in dyed cottons.
  • Cotton can be ironed at relatively high temperatures.

Denim

Characteristics:
  • Denim is made from tightly woven cotton.
  • Breathable.
  • Very absorbent like cotton, but heavier and more durable.
Care Instructions:
  • Machine washable. Can be ironed at relatively high temperatures.
  • Denim is dyed is such a way that the color sits on the surface of the fabric, causing it to fade more easily. Turn the garment inside out before washing to preserve color.

Flannel

Characteristics:
  • "Flannel" does not refer to the fabric, but to a certain structure of fabric.
  • It is usually made from cotton, but can also be made from wool.
  • Flannel feels soft and fuzzy.
  • The structure makes the fabric thicker and more insulated so it provides more warmth.
  • Absorbs and releases perspiration quickly, thus allowing the fabric to "breathe".
  • It is very durable.
Care Instructions:
  • Flannel can be made from cotton or wool. Follow the care instructions for these fabrics as is appropriate to your specific garment.

Hemp

Characteristics:
  • Woven of fibers from the stems of the Cannabis Sativa plant.
  • Similar to linen in both feel and appearance.
  • Three times stronger than cotton.
  • Not as soft as other fibers.
  • Naturally resistant to mold, mildew, rot.
  • Readily takes dyes.
  • Absorbs and releases perspiration quickly, thus allowing the fabric to "breathe".
  • UV resistant.
  • Wrinkles easily/poor resiliency.
  • Does not drape well.
Care Instructions:
  • Softens with each washing, without fiber degradation.
  • Wash in cold water.
  • Hemp will shrink in the dryer or in hot water if the garment has not been pre-shrunk.

Leather

Characteristics:
  • Most commonly made of pig, lamb or cowhide.
  • Requires a lot of chemicals to cure it.
  • Absorbs and releases perspiration quickly, thus allowing the fabric to "breathe". This makes it warm in the winter.
  • Is very durable — it is difficult to tear or puncture.
  • Flexible.
  • Many different finishes include: smooth; buffed or nubuck, appearing somewhat like a matte suede; and rough, appearing wrinkled.
  • A natural tendency to repel liquids and resist staining.
  • Fire resistant.
Care Instructions:
  • Leather needs to breathe —do not store in a plastic bag or overly heated area.
  • If garment becomes wet, let it dry naturally. Avoid excessive heat or humidity.
  • Wrinkles usually work themselves out by hanging it on a non-wire hanger, but if ironing is necessary, cover the garment with heavy paper, set the iron to the lowest setting without steam.
  • Most leather garments require special care in cleaning.

Linen

Characteristics:
  • Woven from the stems of flax, a vegetable fiber.
  • Has twice the strength of cotton.
  • Absorbs and releases perspiration quickly, thus allowing the fabric to "breathe". Linen is one of the most breathable fabrics, making it especially cool and comfortable to wear in the heat.
  • Lightweight and absorbent.
  • Not stretchy.
  • Wrinkles easily.
Care Instructions:
  • Hand wash or dry-clean.

Seersucker

Characteristics:
  • Seersucker does not refer to the fabric, but to a certain structure of fabric.
  • It is usually made of cotton, but can be made from rayon or other synthetics.
  • It has a puckered style so that it lifts off your skin and lets air circulate.
  • Cotton seersucker is very breathable and cool in the summer.
Care Instructions:
  • Follow the appropriate care instructions depending on the fabric content of your seersucker garment.
  • Seersucker does not need to be ironed.

Silk

Characteristics:
  • Known for its versatility, softness, and comfort.
  • Is the strongest natural fiber.
  • Absorbs moisture, which makes it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Silk garments can be worn for all seasons.
  • Because of its high absorbency, it is easily dyed in many deep colors.
  • Retains shape, drapes well, and shimmers with a luster.
  • Made of a natural protein fiber, like human hair, taken from the cocoon of the silkworm.
  • Weakened by sunlight and perspiration.
Care Instructions:
  • Depending on how silk has been treated it may need to be dry cleaned, hand washed, or may be machine washable. It's important to read the care instructions tag of your garment, because silk garments can shrink if the fabric has not been washed prior to garment construction.
  • May yellow and fade with the use of a high iron setting. A press cloth (a cloth used between an iron and a garment) and a steam iron are recommended.

Velvet

Characteristics:
  • "Velvet" does not refer to the fabric, but to a certain structure of fabric.
  • It is usually made from cotton, silk, or rayon.
  • Velvet is durable, thick, plush, and warm.
  • It has a short fuzzy surface and drapes well.
Care Instructions:
  • Velvet must be handled carefully and stored properly because folds and creases can permanently flatten the surface. To get creases out of velvet, use a steamer or a velvet board (a flat board that has hundreds of fine wires sticking out perpendicularly). The velvet board helps to protect the surface while it is being ironed.
  • Velvet can be made from many different fabrics; review the care instructions that correspond to each velvet garment. Some velvet is machine washable, but many require dry cleaning.

Wool

Characteristics:
  • Can be scratchy — which gives some people the impression that they are "allergic" to wool. Because wool fiber comes from a variety of animal coats, not all wool is scratchy. In fact, some can be extremely soft, such as Angora Wool.
  • Will absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp.
  • Absorbs and releases moisture quickly, thus allowing the fabric to "breathe".
  • Dirt resistant, flame resistant, and, in many weaves, resists wear and tear.
  • Stronger when dry.
  • Acts as an insulator so it is very warm.
Care Instructions:
  • Fibers will cling together tightly when wool is improperly washed, causing the garment to shrink.
  • Because wool garments do not soil easily, they do not need to be cleaned after every use.
  • Recommended care for most wool garments is dry cleaning, however washable wools do exist.

Specific Types of Wool: Alpaca Fleece, Angora, Cashmere, Mohair and Camel Hair

Characteristics:
  • Rich, soft, and silky with considerable luster.
  • Insulates well and is lightweight.
  • Resilient and has good elasticity.
  • Naturally water-resistant.
  • Drapes well.
Care Instructions:
  • These fabrics need to be dry-cleaned or hand washed. Follow instructions on each garment's tag.
  • Hand wash the garment in warm water with a touch of dishwashing soap. Rinse thoroughly in warm water. Soak the garment for ten minutes in cool water with a little hair conditioner. Rinse in cool water thoroughly. Do not use a dryer or heater of any kind to dry the garment. Lay it out flat to air dry. When completely dry, use a cool steam iron to take out any wrinkles if necessary.

Synthetic Fabrics

Synthetic fabrics contain fibers that are made from inorganic materials or that are made from organic materials that have been combined with chemicals from gases. Fibers can be created from inorganic materials such as glass, metal, carbon, or ceramic.

Acetate

Characteristics:
  • Crisp or soft touch.
  • Wide range of colors; dyes and prints well.
  • Drapes well.
  • Shrink, moth, and mildew resistant.
  • Low moisture absorbency, relatively fast drying.
  • Little static problem.
Care Instructions:
  • Acetate is usually a "dry clean only" fiber, but in recent years hand washable acetate has developed.

Acrylic

Characteristics:
  • Light-weight, soft, and warm.
  • Dyes to bright colors with excellent fastness.
  • Absorbs and releases moisture quickly, thus allowing the fabric to "breathe".
  • Acrylic is resilient, retains its shape, and resists shrinkage and wrinkles.
  • Flexible aesthetics for wool-like, cotton-like or blended appearance.
  • Excellent pleat retention.
  • Resistant to moths, oil and chemicals, and sunlight degradation.
  • Static can be a problem.
  • Sometimes acrylic does not wear well.
Care Instructions:
  • Machine washable and dryable. Quick drying.

Nylon

Characteristics:
  • Strong.
  • Weighs less than any other commonly used fiber.
  • Stretchable and durable.
  • Nylon fibers are smooth and dry quickly.
  • Dirt doesn't cling making it easy to clean.
  • Nylon is resistant to abrasion and chemicals.
  • Does not absorb moisture well — can be hot and clammy in the heat.
Care Instructions:
  • Most items made from nylon can be machine-washed on a warm temperature and tumble dried at low temperatures.
  • Remove articles from dryer as soon as tumbling cycle is completed. Nylon dries quickly and will become wrinkled.
  • If ironing is required, use warm iron on the lowest setting to keep from melting.

Polar Fleece

Characteristics:
  • Polar Fleece is a fabric structure made from polyester or acrylic.
  • Insulates in extreme cold as an outer layer or as a thermal mid layer.
  • Resists mildew and is very durable.
  • Highly breathable and quick-drying.
  • Very soft, fuzzy, and thick.
Care Instructions:
  • Machine or hand-wash cool; hang dry or dry on cool for a few minutes; finish drying on a hanger or clothesline.

Polyester

Characteristics:
  • Strong, stretchable, and durable.
  • Does not wrinkle.
  • Dries quickly.
  • Usually polyester does not absorb moisture making it hot and clammy when worn in hot temperatures.
  • Polyester microfiber, such as fleece, can absorb moisture.
Care Instructions:
  • Most items made from polyester can be machine washed on a warm temperature and dried at a low temperature.
  • Melts at medium to high temperatures.
  • If ironing is desired, use a moderately warm iron.

Rayon

Characteristics:
  • Strong and extremely absorbent.
  • Soft and comfortable.
  • Drapes well and does not have a problem with static.
  • Made in a variety of qualities and weights and can be made to resemble natural fabrics.
  • Can wrinkle easily.
Care Instructions:
  • Rayon does not melt but burns at high temperatures.
  • Some rayon is washable and some must be dry cleaned.
  • Most of the washable rayon garments today are labeled "hand wash, cool water, drip dry or dry flat". This is important to follow because when rayon is wet, it loses 30% to 50% of its strength.
  • Hand washing is best for washable rayon garments.

Spandex

Characteristics:
  • Elastic-type fiber that can be stretched many times its size and then spring back to its original shape.
  • Lightweight and strong.
  • Allows freedom of movement.
  • Resistant to abrasion and deterioration by body oils, perspiration, and detergents.
Care Instructions:
  • The first time the garment is washed, use cold water with ½ cup of salt (the salt sets the color). Hang to dry. Do not use bleach, vinegar, or Woolite. Do not iron.
  • Regularly wash in cold water and hang to dry. Rinse as soon after wearing as possible, then dry.
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