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Fabric Guide

LACE
The origin of lace is difficult to locate in both time and place. Some authors assume that the manufacturing of lace started during ancient Rome, based on the discovery of small bone cylinders in the shape of bobbins. For firm evidence, we have to look back to the 15th century when Charles the Fifth decreed that lace making was to be taught in the schools and convents of the Belgian provinces. During this period of renaissance and enlightenment, the making of lace was firmly based within the domain of fashion. To be precise, it was designed to replace embroidery in a manner that could easily transform dresses to follow different styles of fashion. Unlike embroidery, lace could be unsewn from one material to be replaced on another.

Lace garments may be dry cleaned. Heirlooming and preservation of antique lace is also recommended for museums as well as individuals.

LAMÉ
Silk or any textile fiber in which metallic threads are used in the warp or the filling. Lamé is also a trade mark for metallic yarns. Often has patterns all over the surface. The shine and glitter of this fabric make it suitable for dressy wear. The term comes from the French for “worked with gold and silver wire.” Uses: Principally for evening wear.

Derivation: French for “trimmed with leaves of gold or silver,” from the Latin lamina.

Most lamé garments should be dry cleaned.

LEATHER
Leather is one of nature’s most luxurious yet practical materials. One of the first things people do after looking at a leather jacket is touch it. The way leather feels to the touch is called the “hand feel” or simply “the hand.” As a general rule, the softer the hand, the better the leather quality.

There are many influencing factors that affect the quality of leather. Every hide has textural variations related to the animal’s genetic makeup, environment, and food supply. The resulting markings and wrinkles on a given hide should be considered part of the hide’s natural beauty and uniqueness. There are numerous types of leathers and leather treatment processes for tanning and finishing leather. The leather used in the garment industry is a byproduct of farming and food production. In the production of leather, each tannery has its own techniques and recipes for creating texture and color variations.

After the hides are tanned, dyed, and finished as desired, skilled craftsmen carefully select hides that match in color and texture. Each hide is cut by hand from patterns that represent the sleeves, collar, body, and other portions of the garment. These pieces are then sewn into a garment.

Professional leather cleaning is recommended when needed for leather garments. Unlike fabric, leather has natural oils that protect and preserve the appearance and life of a garment. Removing these oils reduces the hide’s suppleness. The chemicals used to clean leather frequently remove the natural oils as well as the undesired dirt. These oils must be restored by a professional leather cleaner.

The better the quality of a hide of skin, the less it has to be treated. In a premium quality hide or skin, the full natural grain is retained and exposed. One should see the “fat wrinkles,” the natural markings, and the feel or hand should be supple and natural to the touch. Transforming hides and skins into leather is done in three basic phases: pretanning, tanning, and finishing. Whatever is done to a piece of leather after it is tanned is part of the finishing process. This may include dyeing, rolling, pressing, spraying, plasticizing, lacquering, antiquing, waxing, buffing, snuffing, embossing, glazing, waterproofing, stain-proofing, flame-proofing, or any other post-tanning treatment. Full-grain leathers are color-treated only by transparent aniline vegetable dyes, which shade or color the skins without concealing or obscuring natural markings or grain character. Most furniture leathers have been treated with a coating of pigmentation to help even out the color.

Genuine, natural, unpigmented, and unplasticized leather will breathe and ventilate, thus wicking away body heat. If the surface of the leather has been plasticized, as is the case for most automobile upholstery, the leather cannot breathe and may become stiff and boardy.

Types of Leathers:
BUCKSKIN
Deer and elk skins, having the outer grain removed.
CALFSKIN
Skin from a young bovine, male or female.
CATTLEHIDE
General term for hides before tanning from a bovine of any breed or sex, but usually mature; includes bullhide, steerhide, cowhide, and sometimes kipskins.
COWHIDE
Hide from a mature female bovine, thick, very grainy, but durable.
DEERSKIN/ELKSKIN
Deer and elk skins having the grain intact.
GOATSKIN
Skin from a mature goat.
HORSEHIDE
Hide from a horse or colt.
LAMBSKIN
Skin from a lamb or young sheep. One of the softest leathers and therefore more expensive. Smooth, lightweight, and uniform, tight grain.
NEW ZEALAND LAMBSKIN
Very soft lambskin, from a lamb or sheep grown in New Zealand. See Lambskin.
PELT
An untanned hide or skin with the hair on.
PIGSKIN
Skin from pigs and hogs.
SHEARLING
Woolen sheep and lambskin tanned with the wool intact. Very warm and durable.
SHEEPSKIN
Skin from a mature sheep. See Shearling.
SHRUNKEN LAMB
A tanning process that actually shrinks the hide, creating a more pebbly or puckered, grainy appearance.
Leather Glossary:
ANILINE
The type of dye used to give the initial color to a skin. Aniline dying is the process of putting skins into a drum and allowing the dye to soak completely through.
BUFFED
Leather that has been abrased or sueded. This can also be referred to as snuffed, nubuck leather, or grain-sueded leather.
BUFFING
Process used to minimize surface imperfections; creates a more uniform skin appearance.
EMBOSSED LEATHER
Usually corrected grain, in which a pattern is applied by extreme pressure in a press to give a unique design or imitation of full grain characteristics. Sometimes leathers are embossed to make them appear to be another leather, such as embossing an alligator pattern into cowhide.
FAT WRINKLE
Wrinkles in the grain of leather caused by fat deposits in the animal that creates beauty in the leather. Fat wrinkles are not visible in imitation grain leather.
FINISH
A surface application on the leather to color, protect, or mask imperfections. More specifically, all processes administered to leather after it has been tanned.
FULL GRAIN
The term used for the outside original skin or hide that has had the hair removed, but otherwise has not been corrected or altered. Full-grain leather possesses the genuine original grain of the animal.
GLAZED FINISH
Similar to an aniline finish except that the leather surface is polished to a high luster by the action of glass on steel rollers under tremendous pressure.
GLOVE LEATHER
A term used to describe soft leather used for gloves, which is normally lambskin. The term is also used by some to define soft leather.
IMITATION
A variety of materials that have been made to resemble genuine leather. The great bulk of these are rubber or plastic-coated fabrics. It is unlawful to use terms connoting leather to describe imitations.
NAKED LEATHER
A leather with no surface, impregnated treatment of finish other than dye matter that might mask or alter the natural state of the leather. Usually reserved for the finest-quality skins.
NATURAL GRAIN
A leather that retains the full original grain.
NUBUCK
Leather that has been abrased to create a slight sueded-type nap, resulting in a soft feel that appears smoother than suede.
OIL TANNED
Leather tanned with certain fish oils. Produces a very soft, pliable leather such as chamois.
PATENT LEATHER
Leather with a glossy-impermeable finish produced by successive coats of drying oils, varnish, or synthetic resins.
SADDLE LEATHER
Vegetable-tanned cattlehide leather for harnesses and saddles, usually of a natural tan shade and rather flexible.
SHRUNKEN GRAIN LEATHER
A full, natural-grain leather that is shrunken to enlarge and enhance the grain of the leather.
SUEDE
Leathers that are finished by buffing the flesh side (opposite the grain side) to produce a nap. Term refers to the napping process, and is unrelated to the type of skin used. Professional leather cleaning is recommended for all leathers and fabric garments trimmed with leather. Normal dry cleaning methods will not yield proper results. Since leather cleaning is a specialty, not found in every city, most neighborhood dry cleaners send their customers’ garments to professional leather cleaners who work on behalf of hundreds of dry cleaners across several states. Call one or more leather cleaners to determine which of your neighborhood dry cleaners they work with. Tell the leather cleaner you were referred by the Leather Apparel Association. The garment may then be dropped off at a local dry cleaner who will send it to a reputable leather cleaner.

Specialized care is recommended to retain the supple beauty and luster of leather.


LINEN
Just as silk comes from the fiber to the silkworm’s cocoon, and wool from the fleece of animals, linen comes from the fibers of the stalk of the flax plant line usitatissimum, or “most useful linen.”

To produce linen, textile flax is not cut, but pulled from the ground to preserve the long, full length of the fibers. Today, the lengthy process that yields our beautiful modern linen yarn is still described in quaintly archaic terns. Retting and turning is a soaking process wherein natural enzymes break down the pectins that bind the fiber bundles and release the individual fibers. Scutching in a mechanical turbine is the overall process that extracts the fibers. Rippling removes and retrieves the seeds. Drafting and breaking involves passing layers of parallel flax stalks through increasingly finer and faster toothed rollers to separate the textile fibers form the short fibers of “tow” and the woody waste matter or “shives.” Hackling describes the “combing” of “hands” of line flax. Drafting and doubling, or carding, draw out the long or short fibers respectively for spinning into yarn that is ready for weaving, bleaching, dyeing, and finishing into cloth or twisting, polishing, and finishing as thread.

Today, most manufacturers of linen items especially interior furnishings, recommend dry cleaning. Why dry clean a natural-fiber fabric? The underlying reason is not the linen, its self, but the dyes, finishes, interfacing, lining, buttons, trim and thread used in construction. The latter is especially a concern with garments.

Draperies
Dry cleaning is recommended for cleaning linen draperies. Selecting a reputable dry cleaner, especially one who does the work on-site, provides the best opportunity for your draperies to receive a thorough, professional cleaning.
Wallcoverings
Keeping linen wallcoverings looking clean and fresh can be as simple as an occasional vacuum, using the brushless attachment on your vacuum cleaner. Because linen is anti-static, wallcoverings of linen do not attract dust. When staining occasionally occurs, use a good waterless stain remover or waterless shampoo. Choose cleaning products especially developed for fine fabrics.
Upholstery and Carpets
Dry cleaning is the recommended method for cleaning upholstery and carpets. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find a reputable, professional dry cleaner in your area.

For proper care of all linens, professional dry cleaning is recommended.


LYCRA (SPANDEX)
The family of lightweight, rugged, stretchy fibers containing at least 85% polyurethane. Polyurethane is atype of “plastic” material that is very similar to rubber in many respects but has many superior characteristics and none of rubber’s “bad” habits.

First patented in 1954 by DuPont (U.S.), spandex fibers were improved significantly during the mid and late ’50s until they began to displace elastic (rubber) in corsets, girdles, bras, and such around 1960.

Spandex is three to six times more powerful than elastic on a weight-to-weight basis, and unlike elastic, spandex is highly resistant to abrasion, ozone, oils (including skin oils and applied lotions), and detergents. And also unlike elastic, the fibers of which must be relatively thick to be strong enough to be used in modern high-speed knitting machines and must be covered with another material such as cotton or nylon (an expensive process) to be suitable for use in clothing, spandex fibers are thin, strong, and light, and can be knitted directly into fabrics in their raw state.

Most lycra garments should be dry cleaned.

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