Our Fabric Guide
Fabrics have come long way in the past decade and we know it's hard to maneuver what's right for you. To help you out, here's our guide to understanding the most prevalent fibres in clothing.
Cotton - One of the most commonly used types of fabrics in the world and the most coveted fabric for hot and cold weather. It is derived from the seeds of cotton plants, therefore it is chemically organic. Cotton is highly breathable, absorbent, and long-lasting. It's the perfect fibre for those with sensitive skin. Cotton is known to maintain its shape without any pilling. The texture and weight of cotton varies dramatically. Although it is now pricier to work with, it continues to be one of the most sought after materials when it comes to clothing. Cotton is an easy to care for fabric that's often machine and dryer friendly, but keep in mind that some lighter weight cottons do best when hung to dry. Anything with over 60% cotton on the label is considered "cotton heavy." Cotton clothing may wrinkle, but it can be ironed or steamed easily.
Linen - A widely used fabric made from the flax plant. It's strong, durable, and absorbent (dries a bit faster than cotton), in addition to being breathable. The weight of the fabric itself can vary from lightweight to heavy. Linen naturally keeps your warm during the colder months and its moisture-wicking properties help to keep you dry and cool in the warmer months. The biggest benefit to linen is that it's antibacterial: germs have a difficult time surviving within its fine, closely woven fibres. Linen can often start out more crisp, but tends to soften with time and use. Linen can often be washed in the machine -some linens require line drying (a number of lines that we carry produce linen that is machine and dryer friendly). It does wrinkle, but linen is known for that, so many women forego ironing and just hang their linen items to dry and let the wrinkles be. It can be easily ironed or steamed without fear of burning the fabric. It's good to note that linen is more costly than cotton (and much more so than viscose), which is often reflected in the price of it as a raw material.
Wool - A natural hair-like fibre produced year-round by various animals, including alpacas, llamas and goats, with the most prevalent wool being produced by sheep. Due to its natural origin, it’s recyclable and biodegradable. It can decompose in soil within a year, and at the same time it gradually releases the natural fertilizing nitrogen nutrients back into the ground. It is also considered a fully renewable fibre because sheep produce new fleece yearly. Wool is durable, breathable, fire-resistant, odour-resistant, insulating and moisture-absorbing. In our store, we specialize in merino wool shawls. Merino wool is thinner and softer than regular wool, and its super-fine and soft handle are great for people with sensitive skin. A single Merino wool fibre is 1/3 the diameter of a human hair, because it's so fine, it bends out of the way when it brushes up against the skin and isn't prickly like other wool fibres.
Hemp - Made from the Cannabis sativa plant, once it is processed into fabric, has a similar texture to cotton but also feels a bit like canvas. It's not susceptible to shrinking and is resistant to pilling. It is washable, durable, and a great alternative to cotton -though not as readily available and therefore, a bit pricier.
Silk - Produced by insects (silkworms, beetles, honey bees, weaver ants, and more) as a material for their nests and cocoons, made primarily of a protein called fibroin. Silk is known for its sheen and softness as a material. Silk is also known for its durability, but is often blended with cotton for added strength. It's absorbent and flexible, drapes beautifully, but can shrink if laundered incorrectly. Silk should generally be dry-cleaned in order to preserve its sheen and prevent shrinking. We adore silk for jackets, scarves, and shawls.
Leather - Leather is any fabric that is made from animal hides or skins. Different leathers result from different types of animals and different treatment techniques. While cowhide is the most popular type of animal skin used for leather, comprising about 65 percent of all leather produced, almost any animal can be made into leather. Leather is a durable, wrinkle-resistant fabric, and it can take on many different looks and feels based on the type of animal, grade, and treatment. There are eight different types of leathers, but full-grain is the highest quality. Split leather is made from the leftover leather, it includes: suede, bi-cast leather, and patent leather -which is not nearly as durable or strong. If you have low quality leather or fake leather, it will smell like chemicals and plastic, and it will look perfectly uniform because it’s been manufactured. Please note: we don't carry any leather clothing, only a select number of locally made bags and wallets.
Rayon - A versatile fabric that is often misunderstood as it is so good at imitating other fabrics (such as silk). Rayon is made from purified cellulose fibres, typically created from wood pulp. Although it is derived from natural materials, it requires certain chemicals and is therefore considered semi-synthetic. "Traditional" rayon will simply be listed as "rayon" on clothing labels. It's soft, comfortable, breathable, and moisture-absorbent, but it requires a bit more care when it comes to washing. Hand washing rayons is often recommended as they can stretch, shrink, or bleed colour (depending on how they're dyed). Check the label or ask us about caring for your rayon clothing. When choosing rayon items, we tend to opt for rayon blends in our clothing as they're easy to care for and still drape beautifully. Rayon may wrinkle, but it can be ironed (at a low heat) or steamed.
Viscose - A type of rayon, originally known as artificial silk. It's another fibre that has exceptional longevity when blended with other fibres. It's breathable, absorbent, smooth, relatively light, and inexpensive (in comparison to cotton and linen). You should take care when laundering 100% viscose as it can shrink. It is best to hand wash and hang to dry. Viscose can wrinkle and should be ironed at a low heat so it doesn't burn.
Modal - Originally developed in Japan, it is a type of rayon made from beech trees that's lightweight, stretchy, and breathable. It's particularly popular in activewear as it's considered more durable and flexible than traditional rayon. Modal is often blended with fibres like cotton and spandex. It's considered a more luxurious and eco-friendly textile due to its soft handle and high cost (in comparison to both cotton and viscose). It is also biodegradable, resistant to pilling, colour fast, doesn't shrink or crease, and has a smooth finish. Most modal can be machine washed in cold water and dried on medium heat.
Lyocell - A type of rayon, often referred to under the brand name Tencel. It's an eco-friendly fabric that's incredibly comfortable and a key player in the sustainable fashion world. It's breathable, moisture-wicking, biodegradable, strong and yet gentle on the skin thanks to its soft, silky texture. Unlike viscose, lyocell is made using a "closed loop" process, this means that the chemicals used in production do not get released into the environment. The best care for lyocell is a cold water wash and no dryer. However, when it is blended with other fibres, it is often made even more durable and can easily be laundered in the machine and dryer.
Bamboo - The super slinky and soft bamboo that's become so popular lately is made using similar methods as viscose. Therefore, it is known as "rayon made from bamboo." The resulting bamboo viscose fabric is highly breathable and much stretchier than cotton, making it perfect for anything that sits close to the skin. The jury is still out on whether or not this material is actually antibacterial or UV resistant, but that is a claim we have heard. It definitely feels good, packs up nicely for travel, and is low maintenance -although, we will say that it can sometimes pill if put in the dryer, so we recommend washing in the machine on cold and then hanging to dry.
Polyester - One of the most commonly used and constantly evolving fabrics in the world. It's durable, comes in varying weights and textures, quick-drying, wrinkle-resistant, stain-resistant, and retains its shape well. It's also one of the world's most economically-priced materials. Polyester is a synthetic polymer commonly called PET, short for polyethylene terephthalate, it is essentially made from plastic. We are proud to have a number of items in our store that are made from recycled polyester (such as recycled water bottles and discarded PET fabric). The biggest downside to polyester is that it retains odour and isn't nearly as breathable as natural fibres. However, it blends well with natural fibres and makes materials more durable, easy care, and travel-friendly.
Nylon - The world's first fabric made in a lab, also referred to on clothing labels as Polyamide. Nylon is a type of plastic derived from crude oil, which is then put through an intensive process that results in strong, stretchy, and durable fibres. It's lightweight, packs up well (very wrinkle-resistant), softer than polyester, and maintains its crisp appearance. Nylon can also be derived from recycled materials. Like polyester, Nylon isn't as breathable as natural fibres. However, when blended with other fibres, it increases the longevity and durability of the overall garment (so a very small percentage of nylon is actually plus).
Elastane - Also referred to as Lycra or Spandex. It is a type of synthetic fibre that is extremely elastic. Its elasticity is such that it can stretch up to 7 times its original size. Elastane isn't used alone, it's always combined with other fabrics (like cotton, polyester, and nylon). It is resistant to deterioration when it comes in contact with body oils, lotions, perspiration, or detergents. A lot of fabrics will contain 5-10% of elastane in order to produce enough stretch, a nice comfort fit, prevent bagging, and give you all the benefits of this fibre. Anything with elastane should never be put in the dryer as it burns the fibres and your clothing will eventually lose its shape. We always recommend machine washing (on cold) and then hanging to dry. This means that none of your leggings should ever be put in the dryer.
We hope the above helps you make more informed decisions when it comes to what you put next to your skin. If you ever have any questions or concerns about how a piece of clothing fits, feels, or washes, please feel free to reach out to us. We're always here to help!
Sources: masterclass.com, whattowear.com, revolutionfabrics.com, smartwool.com, sewport.com, thefabricofourlives.com, sustainablejungle.com