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Fabric Guide

MICROFIBER
The first microfibers were developed in Japan over 20 years ago. One of the best-known of the early microfibers is Ultrasuede®, which is made of polyester microfibers. It became economically possible to use microfibers in the 1980s, with DuPont introducing their first, also made of polyester, in 1989.

For as long as microfiber technology has been around, ultra-microfiber technology has been, too. These are fibers that are less than 0.1 denier (a unit of weight by which the fineness of silk, rayon, or nylon yarn is measured). Several different processes can be used to make these fibers, all involving the splitting of a larger fiber into many smaller ones.

DuPont’s microfiber, which was introduced in 1989, is a variety of polyester that has extremely thin filaments. It is tough and resilient, and can be manufactured to extremely fine tolerances, many times thinner than other synthetics. It is this strength, precision, and absolute sheerness, as well as its phenomenal absorbency, that give rise to so many applications, including an amazing ability to clean and dry surfaces. Microfiber (specifically polyester) as the sole constituent of a cloth will wear and shed fiber with use, so it is best utilized in combination with nylon. Many uses; used in bras, dockers, pillowcases.

Microfiber may be dry cleaned.

MACHINE EMBROIDERY [SEE EMBROIDERY & MACHINE EMBROIDERY]
MOHAIR
The angora goat is one of the oldest surviving animals known to man, and is said to have originated in the mountains of Tibet, homeland of the pious Tibetan monks. Mohair, the fleece of this delicate creature, is famous for its softness, brilliance, and receptiveness to rich dyes, facts that make its history traceable to ancient times.

The angora goat is named after Angora in Turkey, better known today as Ankara, the capital city. The word mohair is derived from the ancient Arabic word mukhaya meaning “cloth of bright goats”. The Angoran people attributed the beauty of the fleece not to climatic conditions, but to the power of the Hadji Bayram Veli, a holy man, and weaved the fleece into silk-like cloth to be worn by sultans.

Dry cleaning for mohair is always recommended – especially if the garment has interlinings or shoulder pads.

MUSLIN
From the French Mousseline, from Mussolo, Mosul, a city in Iraq (Mesopotamia). A smooth, delicately woven cotton fabric, used for dresses and curtains. Coarser cotton fabrics used for shirts and sheeting are sometimes also called muslins.

Muslin garments, quilts, and household items may be dry cleaned. Heirlooming and preservation of antique muslin is also recommended for museums as well as individuals.

NEEDLEPOINT
The roots of needlepoint go back thousands of years to the ancient Egyptians, who used small slanted stitches (similar to the common “tent” stitch now used in needlepoint) to sew up their canvas tents. There are also many references in the Bible to elaborate needlework on religious articles, including the tent used for worship in ancient Israel.

In the Middle Ages, there were two types of needlework that were forerunners of modern needlepoint. In 13th-century Europe, one kind of embroidery was done on coarsely woven linen fabric similar to canvas mesh. Tapestries, another important art form of that era, were actually woven on vertical (up and down) threads on a loom.

One of the most famous of all needlepointers lived in the 16th century – Mary, Queen of Scots. As a rival of Queen Elizabeth I, she was imprisoned for many years of her life. To pass the time, she stitched an enormous number of canvases, a living legacy of the Elizabethan era.

Most needlework should be dry cleaned. Heirlooming and preservation of antique needlepoint and tapestries is also recommended for museums as well as individuals.

NEEDLEWORK [SEE NEEDLEPOINT]
NYLON
This manufactured fiber is very strong and is resistant to both abrasion and damage from many chemicals. It is elastic, easy to wash, and quite lustrous. It returns easily to its original shape and is non-absorbent. It is fast-drying, resistant to some dyes, and resistant to moths and other insects, water, perspiration, and standard dry-cleaning agents. Uses include hosiery, knitted or woven lingerie, socks and sweaters, rugs and carpets, tents, sleeping bags, duffle bags, racquet strings, fishing lines, sails, tire cord, machine belting, filter netting, fish nets, laminates, and ropes.

Nylon may be dry cleaned.

PERCALE
First made in New Bedford’s Wamsutta Mills in 1876, a closely woven, smooth-finished, plain or printed cotton cloth used primarily for bed sheets.

Percale garments may be dry cleaned.

POLYESTER
Polyester began as a group of polymers in W.H. Carothers’ laboratory. Carothers was working for duPont at the time when he discovered that alcohols and carboxyl acids could be successfully combined to form fibers. Polyester was put on the back burner, however, once Carothers discovered nylon.

A group of Brittish scientists–J.R. Whinfield, J.T. Dickson, W.K. Birtwhistle, and C.G. Ritchie–took up Carothers’ work in 1939. In 1941, they created the first polyester fiber, called Terylene. In 1946 duPont bought all legal rights from the Brits and came up with another polyester fiber, which they named dacron.

Polyester was first introduced to the American public in 1951. It was advertised as a miracle fiber that could be worn for 68 days straight without ironing and still look presentable.

In 1958, another polyester fiber, called Kodel, was developed by Eastman Chemical Products, Inc. The polyester market kept expanding. Since it was such an inexpensive and durable fiber, many small textile mills emerged all over the country–many located in old gas stations–to produce cheap polyester items.

Polyester experienced a constant growth until the 1970s, when sales drastically declined due to the negative public image that emerged in the late 60s as a result of the infamous polyester double-knit fabric!

Today, polyester is still widely regarded as a cheap, uncomfortable fiber, but even now this image is slowly beginning to change with the emergence of polyester luxury fibers such as polyester microfiber.

Polyester is sometimes referred to it as plastic because of its tendency to melt under the iron, and also because of the stiff, warm hand that garments made of polyester tend to have.

Polyester may be dry cleaned.

POPLIN
A plain-woven fabric usually of cotton, with a corded surface. Has a more pronounced filling effect than broadcloth. It is mercerized and has quite a high luster. It may be bleached, dyed (usually vat dyes are used), or printed. Heavy poplin is given a water-repellent finish for outdoor use. Originally made with silk warp and a heavier wool filling. Some poplins are mildew-proof, fire-retardant, and some given a suede finish. Used in sportswear, shirts, boys’ suits, uniforms, draperies, blouses and dresses.

Most poplin garments and hosuehold items should be dry cleaned.

QUILTS
Averil Colby’s Quilting (London, Batsford, 1978) cites one of the earliest examples of quilting as a “carved ivory figure of a Pharoah of the Egyptian First Dynasty, wearing a supposedly quilted mantle, c. 3400 B.C.”

More history of quilting can be found in the popular literature of the Middle Ages, where references to quilts abound, usually in the form of bed quilts. Certainly some of the most colorful examples of quilting and needlework are found in the paintings of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, a time when quilting became a decorative art form as well as a means of keeping warm.

In colonial America, families settled in remote regions where supplies were often scarce. Women were expected to make clothing for the family, and very often they wove and spun the fabric themselves. Every scrap became valuable, and every fabric scrap was used. Many young girls made quilt tops in preparation for their eventual marriage, using fabrics imported from England, a rare and precious commodity.

The Industrial Revolution changed quilting dramatically. Printed fabrics were more readily available, and houses were better heated, diminishing the need for heavy quilts. Victorian ladies turned patchwork into a new form, the crazy quilt. Irregular pieces of silk and velvet were heavily embroidered to turn into lap covers.

Today, quilting has reached the level of art. In addition to beautifully hand-sewn traditional patterns, many quilters use their quilts as political or personal statements. Pictorial quilts, abstract quilts, and watercolor quilts have reached a level of sophistication never seen before. Many quilters also combine different fabrics or dye their own fabrics to create truly original works of art.

Quilts may be dry cleaned. Heirlooming and preservation of antique quilts is also recommended for museums as well as individuals.

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