From A Sewer’s Handbook by Bettie G. Roth and Chris Schulz
Fibers and Fabrics
Fabric Descriptions and Fabric Care Suggestions
We recommend that you pre-treat all fabrics using the same cleaning method that you plan to use for the completed garment. Even dry cleaning can produce shrinkage!
If you are uncertain about whether or not your fabric is washable or dry cleanable, test a small piece. Remember, each fabric is unique!
If your cleaning method is washing, then your zippers, trims and interfacings should also be pretreated. Non-fusible interfacings may be pretreated with the fabric. Fusible interfacings should be pretreated by soaking them in hot tap water for 20 to 30 minutes. Roll in a towel to remove excess water, then hang or lay flat to dry.
Natural Fibers and Fabric
Cotton Fibers and Fabric
Strong, absorbent, fabric that wrinkles easily. Dyes well. Shrinks unless specially treated. Deteriorated by mildew and weakened in sunlight.
May be laundered in hot water for whites, warm or cold water for colors. May be dried in the dryer. Chlorine may be used with care. Iron while damp.
Linen Fibers and Fabric
Strong, absorbent, wrinkles unless specially treated. Poor affinity for dyes. Has tendency to shrink and stretch. Deteriorated by mildew.
Weaves vary from very light to heavy. Has a natural luster. To retain a crisp finish, it is best dry-cleaned. For a softer finish it can be washed but may shrink in the process.
Wool Fibers and Fabric
Relatively weak, exceptionally absorbent, wrinkles fall out. Good affinity to dye. Needs to be mothproofed. Shrinks unless treated.
Various weights, textures and construction. Used for sweaters, dresses, suits and coats. Dry-clean. May be washed in tepid water and mild soap, do not wring and dry flat. Do not bleach. Some pretreated wools may be dried in the dryer.
Silk Fibers and Fabric
Stong, absorbent and wrinkle-resistant. Good affinity for dyes but may bleed. Resists mildew and moths. Weakened by sunlight and perspiration. Luxurious, lustrous fabric in various weights. Usually used for blouses, dresses, suites and linings. Dry-cleaning recommended. May be washed by hand in mild suds. Iron on low temperature and slightly damp. Avoid bleach.
Alpaca Fibers and Fabric
Member of the South American Camel family. Fine, very lustrous, stronger than wool. Usually blended with other fibers to add softness and wrinkle resistance. Wide range of natural colors. May be dyed. Dry clean or hand wash depending on construction and use of garment. Treat as fine wool.
Vicuna Fibers and Fabric
From the smallest member of the South American Camel family. It is the softest and finest fiber used in the manufacture of wool-type textiles. Very rare and costly. Natural colors of fibers vary from fawn to chestnut brown. Dry clean.
Mohair Fibers and Fabric
Hair from the Angora goat. Mohair is strong and lustrous. Dyes easily. Usually blended with other fibers to add strength, luster and crispness. Adds loft and a soft nap to knitting yarns or coat fabrics. Same as for wool.
Cashmere Fibers and Fabric
Hair from the Cashmere goat. Native to the Tibetan region of the Himalayas. Very fine, soft, silky and resilient. Similar to vicuna. Used in fine suitings, coatings and knits. Frequently combined with wool. Costly. According to manufacturer's instructions.
Ramie Fibers and Fabric
A bast fiber used in China and Southeast Asia since prehistoric times. Strong, white, lustrous and silky. Bast fibers are strong woody fibers obtained especially from the phloem of from various plants. Qualities similar to linen. The strongest of all vegetable fibers. Highly resistant to heat and bacteria, dyes well. Wide possibilities for fabric from fine lace to heavy canvas, to dress goods and table furnishings or upholstery. Same as cotton or linen. Remove from dryer while still slightly damp. Usually requires pressing with a hot iron.
Angora Fibers and Fabric
The hair from the Angora rabbit. Very soft and fluffy. Used in sweaters, scarves and other fine knits. May be combined with silk or wool. Hand wash angora items very gently. Do not wring or agitate. Spin out moisture on spin-only cycle of washing machine.
Synthetic Fibers and Fabric
Acetate Fibers and Fabric
Relatively weak. Moderately absorbent and holds body heat. Tends to wrinkle, resists stretching, shrinking and moths. Dyes well but has a tendency to fade. Accumulates static electricity. Usually dry cleaned. Wash by hand or on gentle cycle in washing machine. If tumbled use a very low setting. Use synthetic setting on iron because acetate melts at high heat. (df hint: Be sure to test wash a swatch; acetate can be unpredictable.)
Acrylic Fibers and Fabric
Strong, low absorbency and holds body heat. Resist wrinkles, mildew, and moths. Dyes easily. Tends to pill and is heat sensitive. Usually machine washed on warm setting and tumbled dried. Use fabric softener to reduce static electricity. No need for ironing if removed from dryer slightly damp.
Metallic Fibers and Fabric
A weak, nonabsorbent heat resistant fiber. Tarnishes unless coated. Usually made into yarns which are coated with plastic, polyester or acetate film. Makes glittery fabrics. Launder or dry clean according to care instructions. Use low temperatures for both washing and ironing.
Modacrylic Fibers and Fabric
Low absorbency and holds in body heat. Resists wrinkles, moths, mildew. Non-allergenic. Sensitive to heat. Dries quickly and is flame resistant. Usually deep pile structure and used primarily for such items as coats, plush toys, carpets, and wigs. Should be dry-cleaned. Avoid ironing. Modacrylic melts at low temperatures.
Nylon Fibers and Fabric
Strong, has low absorbency and holds in body heat. Resists mildew, moths, soil and wrinkling. Wide range of textures. Can be washed by hand or machine in warm water. Use a gentle machine cycle. Fabric softener in the last rinse will reduce static electricity. Iron at low temperatures.
Olefin Fibers and Fabric
Nonabsorbent and holds in body heat. Difficult to dye and heat sensitive. Non-allergenic. Machine wash in lukewarm water and rinse with fabric softener in the final rinse. Tumble dry on the lowest setting. Ironing is optional, l but if you choose to iron, use a low setting.
Polyester Fibers and Fabric
Strong, low absorbency. Holds in body heat. Resists moths, mildew, stretching, shrinking and wrinkling. Retains heat set pleats. Accumulates static electricity. Wash in warm water by hand or machine. Drip or tumble dry. Use fabric softener to reduce static electricity.
Rayon Fibers and Fabric
Relatively weak. Absorbent and holds in body heat. Takes dyes well. Wrinkles, shrinks or stretches if not specially treated. Needs to be dry-cleaned. Some rayons can be hand washed or machine washed if handled carefully. Do not use chlorine bleach with rayon. Drip or tumble dry and iron at low temperatures. (df hint: Be sure to test wash a swatch, Rayon can be unpredictable.)
Spandex Fibers and Fabric
Strong, nonabsorbent. Great elasticity, lightweight. May yellow in light. Hand wash or machine wash in warm water. Avoid chlorine bleach. Drip dry or tumble dry. Use low temperature when ironing.
Triacetate Fibers and Fabric
Relatively weak. Resists shrinking and wrinkling. Takes dyes easily and retains heat-set pleats. Hand wash or machine wash in warm water. Pleated garments should be drip dried. Iron with a low temperature setting.