Fibre to Yarn

All natural fabrics begin life as fibres. These natural fibres whether animal or plant in origin are spun into yarn, which in turn is constructed int fabric.

Fibre: The term fibre can be applied to animal, vegetable or mineral substances, and describes a long, thin, flexible structure. Fibres exist in a natural or synthetic form and can be processed into yarns.

Yarns: Yarns, or threads are fibres that have been spun together to create a continuous length of interlocked fibres. They are usually knitted or woven together to make fabric, and may be dyed before and after this process.

Carding: Carding is the process of brushing raw or washed fibres to prepare them for spinning. A large variety of fibres can be carded, including all animal hairs, wool and cotton. Flax is not carded, but is threshed, a process of beating cereal plants in order to separate the grain from the straw. Carding can also be used to create mixes of different fibres or of different colours. Hand carding uses two brushes that look like a little like dog brushes. The fibres are brushed between them until they all align, more or less, in the same direction. The fibres are then rolled off the brushes and evenly distributed into a rolag, a loose roll of fibres, ready for spinning. The machine-carding device is called a drum carder and can vary in size from tabletop to room size. The fibres are fed into a series of rollers that straighten and align them. When the fibres are removed from the roller drums they form a flat orderly mass known as a bat.

Combing: combing is usually an additional operation after carding, and gives a better, smoother finish to the fibres and to the eventual fabric. Combs are used to remove the short fibres, known as noils, and arrange the remaining fibres in a flat bundle, all facing in the same direction.

Spinning: Twisting fibres together by spinning binds them into a stronger, longer yarn. Originally fibres were twisted by hand, then a hand-held ‘stick’, or spindle, made the process a little more comfortable. The invention of the spinning wheel allowed continuous, faster spinning. Used in a domestic environment, spinning wheels were hand or foot operated. Water-driven spinning machines were followed by steam-driven machinery, which took domestic spinning out of the home and into the factory. The invention of electricity made the spinning process much more sophisticated and, with the exception of handicraft spinning made it a full-time commercial enterprise.

All this wonderful knowledge is thanks to Clive Hallett and Amanda Johnson in their book titled: ‘Fabric for Fashion’