Fabrics - The History of Fabrics and Different Fibers

Fabrics: Over the Years

Fabric creation began in ancient times when primitive peoples used flax fibers, separated into strands and woven into simple fabrics colored with dyes extracted from plants. 

Innovators developed synthetic fabrics to overcome some of the inherent limitations of natural fibers: cotton and linens wrinkle; silk requires delicate handling; and wool shrinks and can be irritating to the touch. Synthetics delivered greater comfort, soil release, broader aesthetic range, dyeing capabilities, abrasion resistance and colorfastness as well as lower costs.

The man-made fibers, and a steadily growing palette of synthetic additives, made it possible to add flame-retardancy, wrinkle and stain resistance, antimicrobial properties and a host of other performance improvements. 

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Blue Jeans & Denim Fabric

Levi Strauss invented the fabric called denim, and blue jeans.

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FoxFibre ®

Sally Fox re-invented the naturally colored cotton used in cotton fabrics.

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GORE-TEX® is a registered trademark and the best-known product of W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc. The trademarked product was introduced in 1989. The fabric, based on a Gore-held patent for a membrane technology, is specifically engineered to be a breathable water and wind-proof material. The phrase "Guaranteed to Keep you Dry®" is also a Gore-owned registered trademark, part of the GORE-TEX® warranty.

Wilbert L. and Genevieve Gore founded the company on January 1, 1958, in Newark, Delaware. The Gores set out to explore opportunities for fluorocarbon polymers, especially polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). The current CEO is their son Bob. Wilbert Gore was posthumously inducted into The Plastics Hall of Fame in 1990.

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Stephanie Louise Kwolek invented a material five times stronger than steel. 

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Waterproof Fabric - Mackintosh Raincoat

Charles Macintosh was a Scottish chemist who invented (1823) a method for making waterproof garments. Macintosh discovered that coal-tar naphtha dissolved india rubber. He took wool cloth and painted one side with the dissolved rubber preparation and placed another layer of wool cloth on top. The mackintosh raincoat created from the new fabric was named after Charles Macintosh. 

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Whinfield and Dickson along with inventors W.K. Birtwhistle and C.G. Ritchiethey also created the first polyester fiber called Terylene in 1941. 

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Rayon was the first manufactured fiber developed, it made from wood or cotton pulp and was first known as artificial silk. The Swiss chemist, Georges Audemars invented the first crude artificial silk around 1855, by dipping a needle into liquid mulberry bark pulp and gummy rubber to make threads. The method was too slow to be practical.

In 1884, a French chemist, Hilaire de Charbonnet, Comte de Chardonnay, patented an artificial silk that was a cellulose-based fabric known as Chardonnay silk." Pretty but very flammable, it was removed from the market.

In 1894, British inventors, Charles Cross, Edward Bevan, and Clayton Beadle, patented a safe a practical method of making artificial silk that came to be known as viscose rayon. Avtex Fibers Incorporated first commercially produced artificial silk or rayon in 1910 in the United States. The term "rayon" was first used in 1924.

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Nylon And Neoprene

A brilliant and tragic mind, Carothers was the brains behind Dupont and the birth of synthetic fibers.

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In 1942, William Hanford and Donald Holmes invented polyurethane together. Polyurethaneis the basis of a novel type of elastomeric fiber known generically as spandex. It is a man-made fiber (segmented polyurethane) able to stretch at least 100% and snap back like natural rubber. It replaced the rubber used in women's underwear. Spandex was created in the late 1950s, developed by E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Inc. The first commercial production of spandex fiber in the United States began in 1959.

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Mother Nature could not have made a better fabric herself.

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Waldo L. Semon invented a way to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) useful. He created vinyl.

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In 1970, Toray Industries scientist Dr. Miyoshi Okamoto invented the world's first microfiber. A few months later, his colleague Dr. Toyohiko Hikota succeeded in developing a process that would transform these microfibers into an amazing new fabric - Ultrasuede.