This guide aims to help you get to grips with the basics of fabric, looking the different types of material you could incorporate into your stitch projects, all the way through to what specialist precuts are manufactured and how they could benefit you.
Fabric is an essential part of life – but has it always been? Without a doubt, we can answer that question with a definitive yes. Ever since ancient times, fabric has been used for survival – although fabric back then wasn’t quite the same as it is now. The first natural textile was created using flax - the cellulose fibres grown in flax plant stalks. Without the great fortune of being able to walk over to the nearest shopping centre, people at the time would separate each fibre into individual strands, and then weave or plait them together to form basic fabric pieces. Afterwards, if desired, they'd dye them different colours using natural dyes from plants.
Flax, or linen, isn't the only natural fabric that's been commonly used for thousands of years, however. Before the introduction of manmade materials, the fabric industry would have to source organic and renewable fibres that could be available in their plenty - so linen, cotton, wool and silk were composed in abundance. Although these fibres fulfilled their purpose, each seemed to have its restrictions, such as creasing and shrinking, so synthetic fibres were developed to combat these flaws.
The invention and development of manmade fabrics was only put into practice just over a hundred years ago, so these fibres have a miniscule history in comparison to the classics. Rayon was the first synthetic fibre produced and distributed in 1910, originally designed to mimic the appearance of silk. Nylon followed suit 29 years later, notably composed using petrochemicals - thus forever changing the methodology behind the production of synthetic materials for the clothing and thread industries. This great success proved high in demand, so quickly replaced silk and rayon fibres due to its more favoured properties.
As the years passed, the demand for natural fibres decreased to make way for a greater production of synthetic fibres such as acrylic, polyester and spandex - providing more comfort, strength, breathability, cost efficiency, greater fabric manipulation, and a vast amount of dying portunities, amongst many other advantageous traits. Today, natural fibres are still very much apparent across many industries - especially in crafting! Wools and yarns are crucial for knitting and crochet, while cotton is a particularly easy fabric to work with in sewing projects. Each type of fabric fibre, whether it's natural or synthetic, has its own unique composition and individual properties that makes it ideal for specific applications.