Friday 24th of March 2023

Nairobi, Kenya

Unearthing Fabrics: Spandex

Unearthing fabrics is a new series that looks at your favourite garments before you started wearing them.

Today, we’re looking at Spandex however it can also be called Lycra or Elastane. It’s a wonder garment with endless possibilities.

Rock & roll musicians liked wearing tight pants, made of spandex and this helped popularise it. Superheroes & Villains wear costumes made of elastane in comic books, tv series & movie adaptations.

It’s a polyether-polyurea copolymer fabric formed when a polyester reacts with a diisocyanate to create a long polymer chain. This polymer chain is placed in a fibre production cell, spun around before it’s pushed through a spinneret.
The fibres are heated with nitrogen and solvent gas solution to form solid strands and bundled together as they exit the spinning cell. Later it’s treated with a finishing agent like magnesium stearate before its loaded on a spool ready for use.

Spandex has a high elasticity and stretches up to five times its original length without breaking.
It isn’t worn out by lotions, sweat or deodorants. It’s highly breathable, durable & easily pulls moisture to the surface so it can evaporate.
In clothes, it helps people feel comfortable since it fits different body sizes exactly. Spandex can absorb different colour pigments. A fashion designer has the freedom of creativity.
Alternatively, it can be sourced as an opaque fabric. It isn’t damaged when it’s sewn with other fabrics because it’s sturdy and abrasion-resistant.
On the other side, Spandex doesn’t let your body breathe since it’s skin tight. Also, it’s heat-sensitive, you can only handle it with warm water, so it retains its shape.

Spandex can create underwear, innerwear or activewear men and women. It can create a wide- range of fashion garments including sportswear, swimsuits, bra straps, yoga pants, leggings, bicycle pants & support hose.

Spandex is slightly expensive so it can be used with other material like wool, cotton, polyester e.t.c to give them more elasticity.
Outside fashion, spandex has also been used in furniture & automotive door panel fabrics. In the film industry, it’s used for creating motion capture suits that make it easier to generate 3D visual effects.

Let us know about your favourite Spandex moments in the comments section below.

Unearthing Fabrics : Wool

Unearthing Fabrics is a new series that looks at the history of your favourite fabrics before you started wearing them on your backs.

Of course, wool always feels warm especially in the Kenyan winter, that’s why cucu loves it.

Wool is a natural fiber that grows on different animals – sheep, goat, camel and rabbit. The animal is shaved then it regrows its wool till it needs to be shaved again.

Processing Wool

Sheep grows a coat of wool & it’s sheared off once a year. This shorn coat is called either fleece or grease wool because it has oil, lanolin, manure & vegetable matter.

The wool that has too much matter is removed. Followed by washing the remaining fleece with soap or detergent and a lot of water. Alternatively, scouring is done by submerging the wool in an acid bath.

The dried wool is ‘teased’ or ‘picked’. It’s put in a picker that opens up the locks and makes the wool fluffy. A special spinning oil is also added to help them stick better together.

Then, the woolen fibres need to be carded so the wool is combed many times with a machine. Finally, the smaller fibres are placed on a spinning frame & yarn is made.

The yarn is collected on wooden bobbins. When, they’re full  a cone winder is used to transfer it to a paper cone. The paper cone can be used in a knitting machine.


Why Wool??

Water-resistant & it absorbs up to 30% of its weight in moisture & liquid.

Absorbs and dries moisture quickly so if you’re sweaty then you wont stay wet compared to cotton.

Breathable and it can stay warm in colder areas but stays cool in hotter areas.

Odor resistant, it’s doesn’t easily pick up odors.

Wool is Bio-degradable.

It easily draws in colour dyes.


Looking After Wool

To begin with, it needs to cleaned with cool water & mild detergent in warm water. It can be soaked for 3 or 5 minutes to remove deep stains.

Whilst, removing water, never wring it and dry it on a flat surface.


Types of Wool

There are many types of wool including Virgin Wool. Merino wool, Cashmere, Alpaca, Angora & Mohair.

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