Textile Fundamentals course hosted by NC State University

Textile Exchange Attending
December 10 – 14, 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. 

Daily thoughts from TE Staff / Course Participants: Ashley Gill and Donna Worley

Day Five - December 14, 2012: By Ashley Gill

On the last day of class, we visited the lab to see the machinery used for mechanical finishing. There are several types of process that treat the surface of a fabric to make it softer. Napping sends fabric through a mechanism equipped with thousands of tiny hooks. When the fabric is run over the surface of the hooks, a layer of fabric is lifted or raised to form a raised pile, providing warmth and a soft hand. Sueding runs sandpaper over the surface of a fabric to produce fuzz, a suede-like surface on the fabric.

Calendaring flattens fabric like an iron, and compaction pushes the structure of woven fabric closer together to prevent shrinking later on. Relaxation drying achieves the same effect as compaction, but is designed to be used on knit fabric.

By noon on Friday, we were finished with the course. In five days and 36 hours of instruction, the class provided all the basics to understanding the process fiber will undergo to become a finished fabric. The participants in the class ranged from material developers, upholstery salesmen, finishing experts, chemists, lawyers, and a forensic scientist. Such a broad topic has a wide range of appeal, and NC State has perfected the art of presenting such a wide range of information in a format digestible for a wide audience. From fiber, to yarn, to the soft final product, textiles touch us all.

From IKEA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYnMKCEjEmk

Day Four - December 13, 2012: By Donna Worley

Today the day began with a tour of NC State’s color lab. We were introduced to the various aspects that contribute to the look of color, from lighting, surrounding colors, emotions, and other aspects. In this image we were being shown how the geometric shapes and surrounding colors made the circles appear to be spinning.

In addition to the fundamentals of color and the importance of color selection, we also discussed various forms of dying that are used throughout the industry, such as screen-printing as seen in the image below, to batch dyeing and garment dyeing. Tomorrow we will get to see the dyeing processes in the lab.

We completed the day talking about finishing. There is a vast array of finishing treatments that can be applied to fabric that will make it flame retardant, wrinkle resistant, and so much more. The possibilities are endless!

This is my last opportunity to add to this blog as my colleague, Ashley Gill, will be writing tomorrow’s, so I want to take this time to tell NC State “Thank You” for making this opportunity available to professionals. I have learned more than I ever imagined possible in a week’s time! Also, to anyone reading this blog, Textile Fundaments is one of many professional short courses that NC State’s College of Textiles offers – be sure to check out the possibilities: www.texed.ncsu.edu!

Day Three - December 12, 2012: By Donna Worley

In today’s Textile Fundamental course at NC State’s College of Textiles, we were able to go on a tour of the knitting lab to see what we had learned about yesterday in the classroom setting.

On this tour, we were also taken through the area of the college where they test for heat resilience of various fabrics. In this image, a mannequin in a sealed room is hit with about three seconds of flash fire.

The mannequin has over 200 heat sensors on its body that report 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree burn potentials while wearing the garment being tested. NC State is involved in many innovative research projects like this to improve the performance of materials – it was a fascinating aspect to see what all is possible with textiles.

Today we were also introduced to the fundamentals of color and color properties, fabric preparation, and non-woven fabrics including their various manufacturing methods. Again, there are so many products out there that involve textiles and are often mistaken for paper or other materials, such as: tea bags, specialty paper, and some envelopes but are actually non-woven materials. I encourage you to look closely at the items you use in your home or office to see how many things actually have visible fibers in them and are a non-woven material.

TE's, Ashley Gill, looking at samples of non-woven material.

Day Two - December 11, 2012: By Ashley Gill

Today’s class started out with a brief overview of filament yarns before jumping into the two types of making fabric: weaving and knitting.

In weaving, the warp yarn runs the length of the fabric and the weft yarn runs the width. The pattern of overlap between the warp and weft yarns creates different fabric designs, both in texture and pattern. The warp yarns are run through the machine, then some are lifted away from the rest and the weft yarn is run underneath to create the weave. In the lab, we were able to watch the looms in action and see fabric actually being made. In the video below, you can see how the yarns go up and down to create the pattern towards the bottom of the screen. The weft yarn is fed under each time the warp yarns are lifted, and then the weft yarn is pushed back into the fabric to keep everything tight.


At the end of the day, we learned about how fabrics are knitted. This process is a bit more complex. The yarns create loops which are fed into one another. The result is fabric that stretches more easily, and is often softer than woven. Dozens of needles are lined up next to one another with the yarn running through; the needles rise and fall with the eye opening and closing to catch loops of yarn and feed them through the previous loop. The pattern of rising and falling needles can change the pattern of knitting for specific fabric types.

Up to this point, there has already been an immense amount of work put into the elements of a fabric. Seeing packages of yarn turn into fabric was an incredible thing to watch. Everyone at the farm, the gin, and the yarn spinner has created something together. During lunch, one of the other participants talked about the first time she saw someone wearing a shoe she had helped create. She took pictures of a little girl she didn’t know, wearing silver sparkly tennis shoes she had poured hours of work into. “To her it’s just a shoe!”

Day One - December 10, 2012: By Ashley Gill

Donna Worley and I are fortunate enough to be in Raleigh, North Carolina for the Textile Fundamentals Course, hosted by the NC State College of Textiles. We’ll be writing out what we learn each day to provide a little traveling blog of our week.

The topic for the first day was fibers and spinning. Dr. Jan Ballard started off the day by explaining the different categories of textile fibers: natural and man-made. She explained that the properties of a fiber depend on the chemical composition of the polymer (all fiber is composed of polymers) and the arrangement of the polymer molecules. The chemical composition and arrangement of the polymers create distinctions between types of fibers, such as absorbency, wickability, strength, and weight. She gave an adequate explanation of the chemical makeup of fibers, without causing too much pain for those of us without a scientific background. For natural fibers the polymer makeup is naturally found in nature and for the man-made fibers, much of the polymer composition and arrangement is manipulated to produce precise characteristics. Man-made fibers can be made of either natural or synthetic polymers, and are extruded through one of several types of processes: wet spinning, dry spinning, melt spinning, etc.

Later in the morning, Wade Carter took over to begin explaining spinning, which is the process from fiber to yarn. There are five types of yarn spinning; ring spun, combed ring spun, open end spun, air jet spun, and vortex spun. Mr. Carter used members of the class to represent the different steps of each of the spinning processes. Fiber is fed from bales into a top feeder that separates the fibers out of big clumps. The fiber can be blended at this point, or fed straight into the carding machine. Carding orients the fibers all in the same direction and creates long thick, fragile lines of fiber called slivers (pronounced like ‘divers’). Drawing pulls the carded slivers together into another sliver with the fibers even more aligned. Eventually the slivers are pulled into one of the four different types of spinners: ring, open end, air jet, or vortex.

After learning about the machines on paper, we stepped out of the classroom and into the lab, where we were able to see the machines functioning. We also visited the testing labs and saw how fibers are graded and tested.

All day, I kept thinking that there were so many tiny elements at the fiber and spinning level that have big implications further down the chain. The distance between rollers in the spinning machine, their speed or amount of tension, the level of humidity in a facility, and so many other factors can change the quality and application of a final product. Over dinner, Donna and I talked about the implications of so many areas of potential risk. There is so much expertise involved in successfully managing the processes involved in production. Effective partnerships between suppliers and their buyers leverage that expertise.


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

June 2012 Recap
Click Here for a complete log of our June 2012 trip to the course.
Click Here for a quick view of the pictures from our June 2012 visit.





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

Click Here for more information.