How fabric is made? Textile manufacturing is an amazing process. From the plants and fossil oil feedstocks we can make the fabric and turn it into beautiful colors or gorgeous prints with various kinds of texture.
I launched a post series called “Fabric Knowledge 101” on our official Instagram account @parisstextile since end of last year. I shared special ideas in textile manufacturing with interesting machines relate to textile production. My friends like it a lot. (I love to call my followers friends, because we share interesting posts to each other and we all learn new ideas. Normally we communicate a lot, not only double tap for likes.)
Many friends show big interests in textile manufacturing no matter they are fashion designers, garment sales, fashion institute students or common clothing consumers. They have less access to these real textile manufacturing process in daily life, so they DM me asking if I can arrange a guide about the full textile production.
After that, it became the top issue on my schedule. I did a lot of research and went to factory for more than one month to arrange this report. Finally, here comes the textile production guide.
This guide shows a full textile manufacturing process from raw material to bulk. Some special tips and interesting machines also added in the guide. Hope it will bring you a clear picture about how fabric is made.
Here below is the textile production guide map. So you can re-read the paragraph you like easily.
Textile Production Guide Map
Ok, let’s start from the very beginning.
Fabric is composed of fibers arranged in different ways to produce the desired strength, durability, appearance and texture. The fiber can come from a variety of sources. But usually according to the fiber origin, it can be classified into two main categories, natural fiber and chemical fiber.
Typically, natural fiber comes from cellulosic plants such as cotton, linen, hemp, and bamboo, although any plant with cellulose can be used.
With the gradual awareness of environmental protection, the demand for fabric containing natural fibers increases a lot. At the same time, the focus on sustainable fabric has also risen to a new level. A sustainable fashion trend is sweeping all of the world.
By the way, if you want to know where the sustainable fashion comes from and who created it. Click here and let me lead you to my previous blog about the fairytale of sustainable fabric. Moreover, you may also interest in the sustainability terms in your daily purchasing.
There’re two small categories in chemical fiber. One is man-made fiber and the other is synthetic fiber.
Unlike natural fiber, man-made fiber such as viscose (rayon) or lyocell (tencel) are derived from cellulosic raw material, typically wood pulp. They are chemically processed before they are spun into new fibers.
VIOCE OVER: Viscose and rayon are technically the same. But lyocell and tencel are different. I had one detailed report about the difference between lyocell and tencel. Wish it could clear the puzzle for you.
The monomers used to make synthetic fibers come from fossil oil feedstocks, which are subsequently polymerized into various fibers. Since there are so many monomers that can come from a synthetic feedstock. There are virtually tons of combinations.
As soon as the fiber is produced, it is going to spun into a yarn. Chemical liquid will be added to improve fiber strength and cohesion as well as reduce friction during spinning. This is the main reason why we need to desizing the fabric in later process. We will discuss it specifically in the later sections.
Yarn can be classified into different kinds according to the fiber content, yarn density, twist direction, and etc. In this section, I’m going to list all the 6 kinds of yarn classification in textile industry.
Classified According to Yarn Density
a). Extra Thick Yarn
Extra thick yarn is the yarn density over 32 tex.
b). Medium Yarn
The yarn density between 21-31 tex.
c). Thin Yarn
The yarn density between 11-20 tex.
d). Extra Thin Yarn
The yarn density below 10 tex.
Classified According to Fiber Length
a). Filament Yarn
Construct by one or more Filament fiber.
b). Staple Fiber Yarn
Construct by staple fiber through certain twist.
c). Blend Yarn
Made by filament and staple fiber through certain special weaving technique.
Classified According to Fiber Types
a). Mono Fiber Yarn
It means the yarn spun from only one kind of fiber.
b). Blend Yarn
The yarn blend with two or more types of fiber.
c). Interwoven Yarn
The yarn made by two or more kinds of fibers in different content or colors. As we know some fibers naturally has colors.
Classified According to Yarn Construction
a). Mono Filament Yarn
b). Compound Yarn
c). Twist Yarn
d). Compound Twist Yarn
e). Textured Yarn
f). Single Yarn
g). Plied Yarn
h). Fancy Yarn
i). Core Spun Yarn
Classified According to Yarn Color/Dyeing Method
a). Original Color Yarn
b). Bleach Yarn
c). Dyed Yarn
d). Color Spinning Yarn
e). Gassed Yarn
In this process, the yarn is exposed very quickly to a hot gas flame, which removes any fuzz on the thread and makes it look brighter and smoother.
f). Mercerized Yarn
Classified According to Yarn Weaving Process
a). Combed Yarn
Combed yarn refers to the yarn spun by the worsted spinning system, with good quality, high strength, good evenness and smooth surface, which is used for high-grade fabrics.
b). Carded Yarn
Carded yarn refers to yarn spun through a carded spinning system.
c). Semi-combed Yarn
It’s easy to understand semi-combed yarn from its name. For semi-combed yarn, the quality is between combed yarn and carded yarn.
Regular Yarn Production Process
Most of the raw materials used for spinning when arrived the spinning mill is in the form of compacted bales. In order to ensure the quality of the yarn and the smooth progress of the spinning, these raw materials must first be opened, that means, the compressed large fiber blocks will be loosened into small fiber bundles by bale opener/beater.
Carding process is by using the carding needles in the carding machine to decompose the small fiber bundles into single fiber. And continues to remove the remaining impurities and defects in the fiber bundles.
Through the combing process, the difference of the cross section of each fiber in fiber bundles or we may call it sliver is effectively improved, and the uniformity of the sliver is also improved after the combing process.
In the spinning process, the process to elongate the sliver called drafting. By drafting, the weight per unit length of the fiber can be reduced, and the fibers can be straightened, paralleled and separated.
One chopstick is easy to break but 10 chopsticks seem not that easy to break. So does yarn. The strengthen for one single yarn is weak but if we twist two or more yarns together, it will be strong enough for weaving and daily use.
There’re “Z” and “S” twist. There is a limitation for the twist yarn quantity. What’s the difference between “Z” and “S” twist and what is the limitation for the twist yarn quantity? All the answers are in my previous blog (report one & report two). Click to find it out.
Before we start the textile production section, let’s talk about the fabric first. Fabric can be divided into four types according to the production procedure. In the below you may find the details.
a). Woven Fabric
b). Knit Fabric
c). Non-woven Fabric
d). Crocheted Fabric
You can find more detailed explanations in one of my blog which talked about the definition of the fabric classification.
Ok. Now I think it’s time to let me show you the core part of how fabric is made.
The greige fabric is the real face of the fabric and it can not be used directly. Some greige fabric is in roll packing and some is in bale packing. Dyeing factory will keep them in a holder which you can see from the below image. One holder for one item/one company. There’re numbers on the holder which is easy to find.
Some of you may ask “I saw a lot of greige put outside but not inside of the warehouse.” That’s right. According to the content of the greige, dyeing factrory will keep part of them outside. For example, polyester chiffon, polyester georgette, and some other polyester kind greige. Because there is a special process in the pretreatment to remove the oil and the dirt or stain from the outside dust and water. For cotton and rayon kind fabric, as the fiber is fragile, it should be well kept inside.
For the greige, we need to do some pre-treatment to make it ready for dyeing. Let’s take dyeing as an example because there is one different fabric making method called yarn dye. We will talk about it later.
The pretreatment is not the same for every fabric. But it has a main schedule. However, some special processes will be added between the main schedule.
Here below are the two main schedules for natural fabric and polyester fabric.
Pre-treatment for Natural Fabric
Greige Fabric Hair Burning
Natural fabric has more hair on the fiber. It’s not that smooth like chemical fiber. If there’re too much hair roll together during the dyeing process, it will prevent the fiber to absorb the color. That’s why we need to burn the hair. By the way, too much hair will also block the dyeing tank.
You may notice that during section 2 we’ve talked about chemical liquid will be added in yarn production to improve the yarn strength and cohesion. The desizing process is to remove the chemical liquid from the yarn. Because the chemical liquid will pollute the dyeing liquids.
After desizing, although most of the pulp and a small part of natural impurities have been removed, there are still a small amount of pulp and most of the impurities left. The existence of these impurities not only makes the fabric yellowish, but also affects the fabric appearance, reduces the hygroscopicity of the fabric, affecting the continuation of the next procedure.
Therefore, most of the desizing natural fabric like cotton needs to be boiled and bleached. Boiling is the process to remove the natural impurities from fabrics and refining and purifying cellulose by chemical method. After boiling, the hygroscopicity and whiteness are improved.
Although most of the natural impurities are removed and the water absorption is improved after boil process, there are still a small amount of impurities, and the fabric is yellowish not white enough, which will affect the color of dyeing and printing.
The purpose of bleaching is mainly to remove natural pigments, improve the whiteness of the fabric. And at the same time remove other impurities remaining on the fabric, such as cotton seed husks, waxes, nitrogen-containing substances, etc., to further improve the wettability of the fabric.
The so-called mercerizing usually means that the fabric is treated with a chemical agent (such as caustic soda or liquefied ammonia) under a certain tension to maintain the required size. So that the fabric obtains a silky luster. After mercerization, its physical and mechanical properties such as strength, elongation and dimensional stability change to varying degrees, and the chemical properties of the fiber are also improved a lot, such as the ability to absorb dyes.
Pre-treatment for Chemical Fabric
It’s a similar process like boiling.
The purpose of fabric pre-shrinking finishing is to make the fabric shrink in advance by a certain amount in the warp and weft direction to reduce the shrinkage rate of the final product and meet the quality requirements of garment processing.
To make the width wider previously, because it’s impossible to open the fabric width only in heat setting.
To make the polyester fabric with soft touch and smooth sheen.
Dyeing and Printing
After all the previous preparation, now we are at the main section of the fabric production, dyeing and printing. This is the most important part of the fabric manufacturing. Most the defects come from this process if we are not well control it.
Fabric making is not a boring job. I always find interesting things. In this section, I add some interesting pictures of machines and tips for you. Hope you will feel the same after reading it.
For every fabric production procedure, it has a main schedule. Let’s first talk about the main schedule for regular dyeing process.
Regular Dyeing Process
There will be a receipt from dyeing technique department for each color about how many kinds and weight of the dyeing material should be used in the dyeing process. Worker will do the following process after receiving the receipt and the greige fabric after pre-treatment.
a). Get the dyeing materials according to the receipt.
b). Inject the greige fabric into the dyeing tank.
c). Inject the water
d). Mix the dyeing materials
e). Add auxiliary (to make the color stable)
f). Inject the mixed dyeing materials with auxiliary
g). Adjust the tank temperature
h). Wash the fabric by hot water
i). Compare the dyed fabric color with confirmed lab dip
Dyeing Machine 101
In the fabric dyeing process, the most important machine is the dyeing tank. I’m sure you may have heard about it but let me bring you a clear picture of them. Them? Yes, them. There’re many kinds of dyeing tanks and today I’m going to show you the most common two.
a). Airflow Dyeing Tank
b). J Type Dyeing Tank
Regular Printing Process
a). Make printing screen based on the design CAD
b). Prepare printing liquids
c). Test print a small roll to check the design and colors
d). Start printing
Printing Machine 101
Same like the dyeing machine, there’re 2 main kinds of printing machine using in the printing process.
a). Rotary Screen Printing Machine
b). Flat Screen Printing Machine
From the name and the picture, you can find out the difference. Ok, so here you may ask “How to decide which machine to use?” It depends on the printing design size. The length size of Rotary screen printing is fixed. It can not be more than 64cm for one length side repeat. And the flat screen printing is without limitation.
If you are still here reading at this moment, I think you really interested in to find out how fabric is made. Take a rest, have a cup of coffee and let’s finish our last section about fabric finishing treatment.
Regular Finishing Treatment Process
The main finishing treatment process for either dyeing fabric or printing fabric is fabric width setting. But some process will be added before the fabric width setting.
The Added Process for Dyeing Fabric before Fabric Width Setting
The fabric dehydrator is very similar as a rice cooker. The fabric we know is flat. But actually it twists together like a big rope after dyeing. And it’s wet with a lot of water. So we need to use this machine to make it bit dry. Normally dyeing factory will have 2 dehydrators. One for light color fabric and the other for medium and dark color fabric.
Time for dehydration is 10-15 minutes normally. You may find the fabric after dehydration is still twisted. Yes. That’s right. But the fabric for heat steaming or cylinder steaming need to be flat, means the fabric width should be opened. So here comes the fabric width opener.
Fabric Width Opening
Cylinder Steaming (Some fabric will have this process to make the fabric dry)
I think you’re not familiar with this machine. But you may know Tencel. And I think you will also have some clothing with Tencel content in your wardrobe.
This is the machine we should use in Tencel fabric dyeing process. The wet Tencel fabric can not do width setting directly. Cylinder steaming machine is required to dry the fabric and make the stable weight. Meanwhile, Tencel fabric after cylinder steaming will have more beautiful surface with less crush defect.
The Added Process for Printing Fabric before Fabric Width Setting
When fabric finished the above process, they will wait to finish the final production process that is fabric width setting.
Fabric Width Setting
The fabric width setting is the last chance to control the fabric shrinkage, touch feel and fabric width. Some chemical liquids will be added to achieve the request touch feel. Moreover, if customer has special technical properties desired, some special liquids will be used to reach the test standard. For example, anti-wrinkling, antistatic, anti-pilling, flame retardant, and water resistance.
Finishing Treatment Machine 101
Here are the pictures of heat setting machine where we do the fabric width setting. The length of the heating machine is about 12-15 meters. Regularly it has 7 heating rooms. One room 2 fans each side. But in our cooperated dyeing factory, the heat setting machine is much longer and has 10 heating rooms. So there’re 10 heating fans each side. Totally 20 fans for one machine.
There’re a computer with LCD display on the heat setting machine where you can set the heating fan temperature, machine speed, fabric width, fabric shrinkage percentage, and the softener liquid usage. But it also has the other small digital panel on the machine. As the machine manager will busy operating the machine and this small panel is the best choice for workers to check the temp.
You may find 2 numbers on one small panel. The orange one is setting temp and the green one shows the current temp.
There’re totally 4-5 people to control this big machine. One machine manager and 2 workers at both side of the machine to check the fabric in and out.
Pariss Textile is a fabric supplier. We are a company with R&D team. Some of our clients always ask me, “You are a fabric company and the website seems to be the best place to show your new development. Why cost so much time and energy to do the research and write the blog? Even on your official Instagram account you’re also sharing fabric knowledge and ideas but less fabric collection.”
I believe most companies will not share the full schedule about how fabric is made with clients and they will also not even tell clients why we need to make fabric like this and how. They will treat it as the business secret.
I’m a business man but I don’t want to keep everything only in my head. The knowledge is without boundary. I want to share it with everyone, to designers, clients, students or even the people not in textile industry. To bring you a full clear map of how fabric is made. What need to be avoid in the real production. So we will be on the same level to talk about the development and orders.
Profit means something but sharing make everyone run more further! This is the meaning why this blog exists. Hope you had a clear picture of the fabric manufacturing from the raw material to the fabric. Now you’re also a professional.
Save and share with your friends if they are also looking for this fabric production guide. See you in the next blog. And have a nice day!