Know your fabric: manmade fibre

In my previous post - natural fibre, I listed a fabric chart which showed the types and characteristics of fabric.

Today, I will focus on man-made fabric, which some call synthetic fabric. The process of creating man-made fibre is rather complicated, and I do my best to explain simply the process, for my reader friends to understand. In general, there are 2 types of synthetic fabrics, a semi-synthetic blend consisting of natural fibre and chemical, and fully synthetic fabric.

1. First, let's discuss the original idea behind the creation of synthetic fibre. There have been many versions from my research, but I will only share what I feel is most likely. In the 18th century, due to the high demand for silk and its sky-high price in the market, a Swiss scientist decided to invent a silk-like fibre with chemicals. He blended cellulose with chemicals, and after the countless experiments, cellulose dissolved into a liquid as thick as honey. With a single needle pull from the liquid, a strand could be formed. That was how the first Rayon was invented back then.

To make it simple for you to understand, the scientist actually mimicked how a cocoon uses its spinneret to produce silk to protect its own body, with a similar method used into making synthetic fabric.

Process for Rayon (semi-synthetic fibre):
Wood pulp > Sodium Hydroxide solution > Carbon disulphide > Viscose > Spinneret > Diluted Sulphuric acid > Silk thread formed as Rayon

2. In the year 1935, Nylon was the first 100% synthetic fibre invented to create a solution for a lightweight, elastic and highly durable fabric for parachutes, umbrellas, toothbrushes, stockings, etc. The chemical word, polymer, added during the process to create Nylon, was derived from the Greek word: poly = many, mer = unit, polymer = many repeating units.

The polymer is made from petroleum-based chemicals and is also the source material for many synthetic fibres. The type of synthetic fibre created is dependent on the type of chemical used during the manufacturing process, to create nylon, acrylic or polyester.

Process of creating Nylon:
Coal + air + water > polymide +lots of other chemicals > Spinneret > Nylon filament formed

When man-made fibre was first created, it began with the good intention of creating various solutions, such as wrinkle-free, moth resistance, easy maintenance and affordable price, to replace the flaws of natural fibres. Although with these advantages of man-made fibre, the process of creating them does create a huge impact on our Mother Earth.

Synthetic fabrics are highly flammable, so please don't wear them in places where an open flame is likely to exist, for example, a kitchen or a laboratory.

As someone who wants to simplify the fabric jargons used to the complex fashion industry,  I have listed the characteristics of common synthetic fabrics for you as a reference, to allow you to easily select the right fabric for the right temperature and for the right occasion. Although I am eager to do my part for our Mother Nature, there is way too many synthetic fabric available out there, for me to break down and simplify in one night. Ironically, the disposal by the burning of synthetic fabrics will create toxic fumes which in turn pollutes our air.

So, my personal solution to prevent the creation of additional waste is to understand the characteristics of these fabrics and know-how and when to use them. These man-made fabrics have a long life, so use them well and make them last.

I hope this post will provide you with some clarity on some of the commonly used fabrics used in making our daily clothes. And with this knowledge, you'll be able to make better, wiser and more well-informed choices for yourself and your loved ones.

•Visit my previous post on natural fibres to learn more about your fabric

Reference video for synthetic fibres :

• 1949 black white clip on How Nylon and Rayon is made
Steps to make Nylon 6.6 by Nile Red

"When you can't change the direction of the wind, adjust your sail."
- H.Jackson Brown

"Waste is only waste if we waste it."- Will.I.Am

Use it well, make it last,