Modern, smart and combination fabrics

Modern and smart fabrics are designed to maximise characteristics such as lightness, breathability, waterproofing etc, or to react to heat or light. They are usually manufactured using microfibres.

Combination fabrics

Fabrics can be layered and combined to improve their handle, appearance or performance. For example:

  • An interfacing fabric such as Vilene can be stitched or laminated to other fabrics. This reinforces, stiffens and gives strength to collars and cuffs to prevent the fabric from stretching or sagging.
  • A quilted fabric has two or more layers sewn together to give an attractive appearance and added warmth.
  • Gore-Tex can be laminated to another fabric using adhesive or heat. Gore-Tex is used for all-weather clothing and shoes because it is breathable and waterproof.
  • Kevlar is a high-strength, lightweight and flexible fibre. It is used in bicycle tyres, racing sails and police bullet-proof vests because of its high strength-to-weight ratio.
  • Thinsulate is a highly insulating but thin fabric. The microfibres in Thinsulate are fine and capture more air in less space, making it a better insulator. It traps air between the wearer and the outside. It can be machine washed and dry cleaned, and is breathable as well as moisture resistant. Scuba divers wear a Thinsulate suit under a dry suit when diving in cold water.

Choosing materials

It is important to choose materials that are fit for purpose. Choosing a fabric with the appropriate quality and cost will ensure that a product will suit the target market. When making fabric choices, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Fibre content: should you use natural or synthetic fibres?
  • Fabric construction: should you use woven, knitted or non-woven?
  • Manufacturing processes: should you use dyeing, printing, mechanical finishing or chemical finishing?
  • End use of the fabric: what are you making, eg jeans, sportswear or a seatbelt?
  • Maintenance: what are the aftercare requirements of the product?

The fibre content, fabric construction and finishing processes determine the fabric's aesthetic, functional and comfort properties.

It is important to match fabric properties to the requirements of the product. For example:

  • Cycling jackets need to be made from fabric that is warm, breathable, elastic, windproof and water resistant.
  • Children's jumpers need to be made from fabric that is soft, colourful, stretchy, warm and easy care.
  • Seat belts need to be made from strong, durable, flame-resistant materials.
  • Fire-protective clothing needs to be strong, durable, flame resistant and water resistant. It may also need to be breathable and elastic.
  • Geotextiles need to be strong and durable so they stop embankments from slipping.