The list of fabric available on the market is endless. What are the most popular fabrics and why? Versatility, durability, and ease of care are some of the reasons. Read on for a list of the worlds most popular textiles, their uses and care, and what makes them so sought after.
1. Cotton leads the pack as the most popular fabric in the world. It is a natural fiber from the cotton plant and is versatile and easy to care for. Cotton has been cultivated for over 7,000 years and only increases in popularity as time goes on. It is often blended with other fibers to create garments that last longer and wash better. Common cotton fabrics include denim, gingham, canvas and broadcloth. Cotton can absorb up to 27 times its own weight in water; is machine washable and can withstand high heat; takes and retains dye color easily; and is strong and durable. Cotton can be used to make shirts, dresses, skirts, pants, jackets, children’s clothes, curtains and other window treatments.
2. Linen, made from the fibers of the flax plant, has been coveted for many thousands of years. Linen has always been a symbol of purity and wealth. Produced in small quantities, this luxurious fabric is valued for its coolness and freshness in hot weather and its remarkable ease of care. Linen is a strong, cool fabric that doesn’t cling to skin and is two to three times stronger than cotton. Linen can absorb moisture without feeling damp. If a warm breeze blows a skirt or dress made from linen fabric it will return to your skin cool to the touch. High-quality linens are free from slubs (those small knots along the fabric) and present a uniformly smooth texture that is beautiful to the touch. Linen can be used in home dÃ©cor, and in mens’ and womens’ apparel including skirts, dresses, blouses, and shirts. Linen can be dry cleaned, machine washed or steamed. It may be hung to dry and left with a slightly wrinkled look which is part of the charm of the fabric.
3. Polyester is a popular synthetic fabric that has many advantages over its natural counterparts. While synthetic clothing in general is perceived by many as having a less natural feel, polyester offers superior wrinkle resistance, durability and machine washability. Polyester is often blended with other yarns to create wonderful fabrics that mix the benefits of both textiles, like dressy uniform fabrics and professional wear. Synthetic fibers also can create materials with superior water, wind and environmental resistance compared to plant-derived fibers.
4. Wool fiber comes from sheep and other animals like cashmere and mohair from goats, and angora from rabbits. Wool is bulkier than other fabrics and retains heat well making it perfect for cold weather. Wool is usually specified for garments for fire-fighters, soldiers, and others in occupations where they are exposed to the likelihood of fire because it ignites at a higher temperature than cotton or other fabrics. Wool is resistant to static electricity which is why wool garments are much less likely to spark or cling to the body. Australia is the leading producer of wool, especially high quality Merino from the sheep of the same name. Wool can be used in high-quality suits and several types of men’s and women’s apparel and outerwear.
5. Leather is a flexible and durable material created when animal hide is transformed by a process called tanning. The majority of leather today is tanned via chrome tanning, a process discovered in 1858. Chrome tanning is more supple and pliable than vegetable-tanned leather, and does not discolor or lose shape as drastically in water as vegetable-tanned leather. Most leather is made from cow hide but there are many other types of leathers available including suede, aniline, Corinthian and patent. Leather is a versatile material that can be used in upholstery and apparel including automobile interiors, furniture coverings, skirts, pants, jackets, shoes, handbags, and other accessories.