Textile Fundamentals course hosted by NC State University

Textile Exchange Attending
June 4 – 8, 2012
Raleigh, North Carolina, College of Textiles Campus

As part of Textile Exchange’s ongoing collaboration with textile educational institutions, two Textile Exchange staff members are attending North Carolina State’s Textile Fundamentals course now.  The Textile Fundamentals course is a comprehensive study of the entire textile process from fiber formation through finishing. 

For a complete agenda, registration fees, North Carolina State University Contact Information, and more please visit: http://go.ncsu.edu/textile-fundamentals.

Pictures are online at: http://pinterest.com/ncsutexed/textile-fundamentals/ 

Full Week Recap / Day 5 - Friday, June 8, 2012

Our final half day “finished” with finishing of chemical and mechanical means.  The Textile Fundamentals Course is now complete – a full four & a half days in the College of Textiles on the North Carolina State University campus.  The thorough topics covered fiber to finishing and everything in between.  We are grateful to have experienced this detailed training, enabling us to have a more holistic view of the textile supply chain and all of the work that goes into creating textiles.  The University offers this class 4 times a year, for an intense week to anyone that is interested to learn more for their company or personal experience.

For us, the most valuable part of this week was the interactive aspects of classroom time, combined with detailed lab tours.  It is rare for people to have access to such an array of machines and experts, all in one location.  Obviously, this is why the class has been so popular since the 1960’s.

We have publically shared what we have learned with the Textile Exchange community, because it is important that those involved with the textile industry understand the “fundamentals”.  Understanding the science and processes behind what goes into the products you buy or what happens to them after you sell them creates better understanding and communication between all supply-chain partners.  Many industry partners know the fundamentals intimately, but this is an opportunity for anyone at their company to quickly be exposed to textiles and how they created in a concise course that lays the foundation for their continuing education on the job.  TE has the specific focus of “sustainability” and this course has allowed Daren and Lee to fully appreciate not only the very real obstacles to becoming more sustainable, but also the very real opportunities that lie in the “exchange” of ideas.

       Dye Test           Fabric Napping                 Pressurized Dyeing                Wench Beck                College of Textiles

Day 4 - Thursday, June 7, 2012

This was the final full day of class, and it was all about Dyeing and Finishing.  It was very complex and not an area of the supply chain that Textile Exchange is usually as deeply involved in, like fiber.  So it was certainly some much needed exposure to hear about the differences between actual dyeing and staining, screen printing and finishes.  What is really helpful is the detailed animations of dyeing machines while the professors are explaining the machines, like Jet Dyeing, Dye Jig and Dye Beck.  So touring the labs and seeing the machines made more sense after we saw the deconstructed animations in class.

In order to understand the importance of dyeing & finishing, we spent a few hours on color.  The science of color is quite complex, but if the color & shade of a fabric isn’t just right, then all of the preparation of fibers into yarn into fabric means nothing.  It’s obvious that certain factors will affect the color of a fabric like surrounding light and the material of fabric, but I thought it was really interesting that colors passing a matching test can be affected by the person’s mood.  Tomorrow morning we wrap up a week of learning – thanks for reading and we’ll post more next week.

The number one cause of a fabric or garment being rejected is the “wrong color”.  Today we covered how color is bonded to fiber through dyes and pigments.  Huge lawsuits occur over problems with color.  Labs like those at NC State are consulted to prove where the problem went wrong in the supply chain.  This is because there are so many factors that could contribute to dyes not bonding to the fibers correctly in a fabric or garment.  The properties of the raw material fiber, spinning technique, “sizing” substances used to prepare for weaving, or weaving method are just some of the factors that have to be considered when choosing the appropriate dye method and chemical.  Fibers could be incorrectly used in fabrics or garments causing off-quality like barré, which is streaking in a woven or knitted garment.  This is often blamed on the dye house improperly dyeing when it could go all the way back to spinning of the fiber. This is why communication among the entire supply chain is so important. The chain of custody of fiber is not just a sustainability textile issue, but extremely important with non-conventional fiber processing as well.  Proper handling of fibers and recording it through the many processes it undergoes can prevent millions of dollars in mistakes that are not detectable until the dyeing is complete..

   Munsell 100 Color Test       Shade Compare   Color Wheel          Color Eye Test                 Lab Screen Prints

Day 3 - Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Today was all about nonwoven fundamentals, fabric preparations with dyeing and finishing, and color. As the class carries on into other topics beyond fiber, I am certainly learning a lot more.

Nonwoven material is defined as a sheet or web structures made by bonding and/or interlocking fibers or filaments using mechanical, thermal, chemical or solvent means.  We’ve learned all about processing for creating a variety of materials – but I found the inputs to be most interesting.  Like the coconut fiber and hog hair combine to make a pad like material.

Building on the entire week and putting it all together like a puzzle, it makes perfect sense that fabric dyeing is much faster than the yarn dyeing process.  Then dyed waste is always more expensive than un-dyed; something I had never considered before putting all of the technical details of textiles together.  The dyeing and finishing is another area where I’m learning how efficiencies will have a big impact on the sustainability related issues like water and energy use. More about the science of color tomorrow!

The wealth of knowledge in the room is more diverse than I was expecting.  It turns out that many of our fellow students come from U.S. based manufacturers that have industrial or commercial textile applications like construction site webbing, medical or safety apparel.  At Textile Exchange we mostly deal with apparel, so to hear what other companies are producing is very diverse.  Several are keen to find more U.S. sources of material from a turnaround time and quality assurance standpoint, as opposed to a nationalist who wants to create more jobs.

Learning about all the industrial applications of nonwovens was the highlight of the day for me.  Nonwovens are basically individual fibers bonded together to form a fabric, bypassing the yarn stage altogether.  The reduction in processes compared to knitted or woven fabrics makes them very efficient in both resources and labor.  The costs of the machines are of course much higher and more complex, but the speed at which they can produce yardage of fabrics is astounding as well as the variety that can be produced. 

From a sustainability standpoint, if a recycled fiber can’t be broken down to be respun or if it is just not economically feasible, it likely can be made into a nonwoven.  That is why a lot of recycled fibers from cutting rooms or end uses are found in commercial nonwovens.  Some surprising examples of nonwoven textiles are all the disposable wipes used for cleaning or medical purposes, insulations, disposable diapers, shoe components, and even those Fedex or USPS mailing envelopes that I thought were made of paper.  They can even make nonwovens to be more durable than woven fabrics, like in tank armor!

          Weaving Lab Tour                  Giant Needle                Jacquard Weaving             Lee Reviewing Denim in Loom 

Coconut Fiber & Hog Hair    Yarn into Weaving    Natural Materials in Nonwoven      Recycled Denim Insulation

Day 2 - Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Today was another headlong dive into yarns, filament as opposed to spun yarns.  We learned the structures of yarn produced as well as their uses.  Then we delved into yarn preparation, which I had never heard of, before weaving and knitting.  Yarn has to further be prepped for tension, static or coated with a film to improve weaving performance.  All of this reinforces that there are many different processes to original fiber in preparation for running through machines at high speeds.  During the class lectures, I am always looking for the opportunity for sustainable practices to be implemented.  For example, when a polyvinyl alcohol film is applied during the “slashing” process, that chemical can be recycled and reused many times instead of being released into the environment.  It is an extra expense, but it pays for itself over time.

I knew nothing of knitting, other than that my hands were never nimble enough to do it.  Many patterns in a knitted fabric can be programmed into a computer, and the operator can then prep the machine with the colored yarns and other inputs. It surprised me to find out that expert knitters can do all this in their heads.  They teach students here at NC State how use a hand knitting loom first before using the big automated machines.  Apparently hand-knit does not mean an old lady sat there with knitting needles and made my sweater.  It is referring to the loom that is manually operated by hand.

We got a sneak peak at the non-woven lab, which I am also unfamiliar with and am looking forward to learning about the applications tomorrow!

This morning we learned more about filament yarn types and texturing – I must say I was surprised to understand how many options there are for something as seemingly simple as yarn.  Then weaving fundamentals and design – a much easier topic to grasp, but watching actual cam shedding in slow motion totally changed my understanding of weaving.  The Jacquard shedding machine in the NCSU labs creates the most elaborate designs in such a short time.

In the afternoon we focused on knitting fundamentals – seeing the multiple latch needle in action was really neat.  I’m still trying to understand how the needles adjust for so many knitting loop options.  Luckily NCSU has some great demos to help identify tuck knit vs. float knit vs. regular knit etc.  My head is still spinning!

After seeing in detail how the varieties of fabrics are manufactured, it reiterates to me that an “easy win” for sustainability lies in the fiber selection.

        Circular Knitting                  Repairing Threads     Classroom Weaving Exercise            Examples of Knits   

Day 1 - Monday, June 4, 2012

Lee Tyler:
Today was my first day of “Textile Fundamentals” at North Carolina State University that I have been looking forward to for weeks.  Today focused on fiber quality as a raw material and spinning of all types.  The attendees formed a very diverse group, mostly made up of new employees gaining base level exposure to textiles.  They come from retail companies, brands, textile mills and others you would not expect, like appliance manufacturers.

It was surprising to learn how much planning goes into producing a textile garment.  Producing the yarn alone has many contributing factors that must be considered.  With cotton for example, there can be a lot of variation with input bales, so spinners must blend the different grades of cotton together before further processing.  There are even several different ways just to do this!  Blending produces a clean and uniform long staple sliver (pronounced sly-ver) which is further processed into yarn.  The diversity of the spinning processes themselves produce different yarn properties.  Beyond this, if a yarn is not produced correctly it affects just about everything. If a yarn has too much “twist”, it can affect softness, absorbency, pilling, and strength just to name a few. All of this must be factored in when designing the look and performance of the end product.

This was just the first day of an information-intense class that has put so many pieces of the puzzle together for me already.  I am really looking forward to tomorrow’s weaving focus!

Daren Abney:
I love being “in college” again.  This week long Textile Fundamentals Course is just what I need for a deeper understanding of fiber and processing knowledge.  I’m joined by 41 other attendees here in beautiful Raleigh. The course was so functional today because everything we learned in lectures this morning - we saw applied in the extensive textile labs this afternoon.  North Carolina State University’s lab is chock full of textile manufacturing equipment!

It’s particularly interesting to review the basics outside of my usual lens of sustainability.  Understanding the differences between ring spun, open end spun, and air jet spun yarn can obviously make a huge difference in a final garment; but working in a world concerned with costs I can see why a company might choose a lower quality fiber to reduce their costs, since 60 to 70 percent of the cost is in the fiber.  The issue then becomes yarn continually breaking on the production line, taking time to repair - we all know time is money… but how many of us pay attention to the environmental impacts of all of the extra processing time?

Cotton Classing in Labs       Thread under Microscope     Carding Machine               Cotton Sliver                     Ringspun Yarn

For a complete agenda, registration fees, North Carolina State University Contact Information, and more please visit: http://go.ncsu.edu/textile-fundamentals.


North Carolina State University
College of Textiles
1000 Main Campus Dr.
Raleigh, North Carolina 27606

Click Here for more information.