Are you lost at which type of fabric is in front of you? With the wide range of materials available in the market, identifying fabrics can be challenging. Whether you’re looking for the best material for your next project or are just curious, knowing how to identify fabrics is a valuable skill that can save you time, money, and disappointment.

In this blog, we’ll guide you through identifying fabrics, from understanding the characteristics of different materials to using simple tests to determine their properties.

Let us equip you with the knowledge you need to identify fabrics with confidence!

Understanding Fabrics

Fabrics are materials made from fibres that are woven, knitted, or bonded together to create a flexible, strong, and durable sheet of material.

Their unique properties and characteristics make them suitable for a variety of applications, from clothing and home decor to industrial and commercial uses.

Our team deals with fabric swatches almost every single day, where a small piece of fabric is cut from a larger piece of fabric.

It is often used for sampling or testing purposes, such as to see how a certain fabric looks, feels, or drapes before making a larger purchase.

Fabric swatches can also be used to experiment with different colour combinations or textures and can be a helpful tool for communicating design ideas to clients or manufacturers.

What Are the Types of Fabrics?

Category Description
Natural Fibres Natural fabrics are textiles derived from natural sources, such as plants, animals, or minerals.

These fabrics are often preferred because of their softness, breathability, and comfort.

Synthetic Fibres Synthetic fabrics are textiles manufactured from chemical compounds rather than derived from natural sources like plants, animals or minerals.

These fabrics are often designed to mimic the properties of natural fabrics or to provide specific benefits such as durability, water resistance, or stretchiness.

Blended Fibres Blended fabrics are textiles that combine two or more different types of fibres, typically natural and synthetic. By blending fibres, manufacturers can create fabrics with unique properties that combine the best features of both natural and synthetic fibres.

Blending can help to improve the durability, stretch, and moisture-wicking abilities of fabrics, as well as to reduce costs.

Fabric Identification Methods

Burn Test

The burn test is a simple method used to identify the type of fabric by burning a small sample of it. When a fabric is burned, it will produce different characteristics, such as the odour, the colour of the flame, and the ash residue. These characteristics can help identify the type of fabric being tested.

Materials You Will Need:

To perform a burn test on fabric, you will need the following materials:

  1. Fabric sample: You will need a small sample of the fabric you want to test. A sample size of 2-3 inches is usually sufficient.
  2. Scissors: You will need a pair of scissors to cut the fabric sample to the appropriate size.
  3. Tweezers or pliers: You will need a pair of tweezers or pliers to hold the fabric sample during the test. This will help to prevent burns and protect your fingers.
  4. Lighter or match: You will need a lighter or a match to ignite the fabric sample. A small lighter or wooden matchstick is ideal for this test.
  5. Ceramic or metal dish: You will need a ceramic or metal dish to collect the ash from the burned fabric sample.

When conducting a burn test, it is imperative to have a bowl of water or a fire extinguisher nearby for safety precautions.

The Process:

To perform a burn fabric test, follow these steps:

  1. Cut a small sample of fabric from an inconspicuous area of the garment, such as the seam or hemline.
  2. Hold the fabric sample with a pair of tweezers or pliers.
  3. Use a lighter or match to ignite the fabric sample at the edge.
  4. Observe the behaviour of the flame and the smoke produced by the burning fabric. Note the colour, shape, and size of the flame, as well as the characteristics of the smoke.
  5. After the fabric has stopped burning, examine the ash and note its colour and texture.

It’s important to note that the burn test is not foolproof and should be used in conjunction with other tests to confirm the fabric type.

Additionally, the burn test may damage or ruin the fabric sample, so it should only be performed on an inconspicuous area of the garment.

What to Observe?

During a burn fabric test, several observations should be made to identify the type of fabric. Here are some things to look for:

  1. Flame colour and behaviour: Observe the flame’s colour, shape, and size. Some fabrics will burn with a steady flame, while others will have a sputtering or flickering flame.
  2. Smoke colour and odour: Note the colour of the smoke produced by the burning fabric and any odour it emits. Some fabrics will produce white or black smoke, while others may produce a specific odour, such as burning hair or plastic.
  3. Burn rate: Pay attention to how quickly the fabric burns. Some fabrics will burn quickly, while others will burn more slowly.
  4. Ash colour and texture: After the fabric has stopped burning, examine the ash left behind. Note the colour and texture of the ash. Some fabrics will leave soft, fluffy ash behind, while others will leave behind hard, crunchy ash.

Here are some common characteristics of different fabric types:

  • Cotton: Burns steadily with a yellow-orange flame and leaves behind soft, greyish-white ash.
  • Polyester: Burns quickly with a sputtering flame and leaves behind hard, black, melted plastic beads.
  • Silk: Burns slowly with a faint blue flame and leaves behind black, crunchy ash.
  • Wool: Burns slowly and self-extinguishes when removed from the flame, leaving behind black, crunchy ash.

Water Test

The water test for fabrics is a simple test that can be used to determine the absorbency of a fabric. It involves placing a small drop of water onto the fabric and observing how the water is absorbed.

The Process:

To perform a water test on fabric, follow these steps:

  1. Cut a small sample of fabric from an inconspicuous area of the garment.
  2. Place the fabric sample on a flat surface.
  3. Using a dropper or a small spoon, place a small drop of water onto the fabric.
  4. Observe how the water behaves. Does it bead up on the surface of the fabric, or does it quickly absorb into the fibres?
  5. Wait for a few seconds, and then blot the water droplet with a paper towel. Note if there is any water stain left on the fabric.

The water test can help determine the type of fabric, but it is not a definitive test and should be used in conjunction with other tests to confirm the fabric type.

Additionally, it is important to remember that the water test may cause water stains or damage the fabric, so it should only be performed on an inconspicuous area of the garment.

Based on the observations made during the water test, you can determine the absorbency of the fabric.

Here are some common characteristics of different fabric types:

  • Cotton: Absorbs water quickly and holds onto it, leaving a damp spot on the fabric.
  • Polyester: Repels water, with droplets beading up on the surface of the fabric.
  • Silk: Absorbs water slowly and evenly, with no beading or pooling of the water.
  • Wool: Absorbs water slowly and holds onto it, leaving a damp spot on the fabric.

Physical Characteristics

Several physical characteristics of fabrics can be used to identify their type.

Here are some common characteristics to look for:

  • Texture

The texture of the fabric can give clues about its composition.

Natural fibres such as cotton and linen have a crisp, matte texture, while synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon have a smoother, shinier texture.

  • Drape

The way a fabric hangs or drapes can also indicate its composition. Natural fibres like silk and rayon have a soft, fluid drape, while synthetic fibres like polyester and nylon may be stiffer and hold their shape more.

  • Sheen

The level of shine or lustre on fabric can be an indicator of its composition. Natural fibres like cotton and linen are typically matte or have a slight sheen, while synthetic fibres like polyester and nylon may have a higher sheen or gloss.

  • Weight

The weight of the fabric can also be used to identify its composition. Natural fibres such as wool and cotton tend to be heavier than synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon.

Learn More About the Standards!

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Have you ever seen a GOTS label on various organic textile products? What is GOTS certification, and what does it mean for a product to be GOTS certified? Check out our quick guide here:

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Where Does ODM Come In?

At ODM, we understand that choosing the right fabric material for your production needs is critical to the success of your project. That’s why our team of experts is dedicated to helping you select the best fabric that meets your specific requirements and standards.

We work with the best suppliers in the industry to ensure that we source high-quality fabrics that meet your expectations. Our team is committed to providing you with personalized service and support throughout the entire process, from fabric selection to production and delivery.