A textile is a cloth, which is either woven by hand or machine. "Textile" has traditionally meant, "a woven fabric". The term comes from the Latin word texere, meaning to weave.
Fibers are the raw materials for all fabrics. Some fibers occur in nature as fine strands that can be twisted into yarns. These natural fibers come from plants, animals, and minerals. For most of history, people had only natural fibers to use in making cloth. But modern science has learned how to produce fibers by chemical and technical means. Today, these manufactured fibers account for more than two-thirds of the fibers processed by U.S. textile mills.
Plants provide more textile fibers than do animals or
minerals. Cotton fibers produce soft, absorbent fabrics that are
widely used for clothing, sheets, and towels. Fibers of the flax plant are made into
linen. The strength and beauty of linen have made it a popular fabric for fine
tablecloths, napkins, and handkerchiefs.
Most manufactured fibers are made from wood pulp, cotton linters, or petrochemicals. Petrochemicals are chemicals made from crude oil and natural gas.The chief fibers manufactured from petrochemicals include nylon, polyester, acrylic, and olefin. Nylon has exceptional strength, wears well, and is easy to launder. It is popular for hosiery and other clothing and for carpeting and upholstery. Such products as conveyor belts and fire hoses are also made of nylon.
Most textiles are produced by twisting fibers into yarns and then knitting or weaving the yarns into a fabric. This method of making cloth has been used for thousands of years. But throughout most of that time, workers did the twisting, knitting, or weaving largely by hand. With today's modern machinery, textile mills can manufacture as much fabric in a few seconds as it once took workers weeks to produce by hand.
Woven fabrics are made of two sets of yarns - a lengthwise set called the warp and a crosswise set called the filling or weft. The warp yarns are threaded into a loom through a series of frames called harnesses. During the cloth-making process, the harnesses raise some warp yarns and lower others. This action creates a space, or shed, between the yarns. A device called a shuttle carries the filling through the shed and so forms the crosswise yarns of the fabric. The pattern in which the harnesses are raised and lowered for each pass of the shuttle determines the kind of weave.
Knitted fabrics are made from a single
yarn or a set of yarns. In making cloth, a knitting machine forms loops in the yarn and
links them to one another by means of needles. The finished fabric consists of crosswise
rows of loops, called
courses, and lengthwise rows of loops, called wales. This looped
structure makes knitted fabrics more elastic than woven cloth. Garment
manufacturers use knitted fabrics in producing comfortable, lightweight clothing that