Processes everyone who works in fashion should understand

Posted on 11 Jan 2016 by The Manufacturer

We take a look at a few of the most important manufacturing techniques now available that firms use to transform raw materials into finished garments.

Textiles Stock Image
The UK textile industry directly employs more than 340,000 people and annually adds over £11.5bn to the nation’s economy.

Having an awareness of the processes involved in textile manufacturing is crucial for people who work in fashion.

It can help them to make the most of the materials on offer and understand any limitations.

Cotton: from fibre to fabric

Cotton is one of the most widely used materials in the textiles industry.

In its raw state, it exists as fibres that surround the seeds of the cotton plant and its natural properties mean it is easily spun into strong threads, making it perfect for a range of garments.

The first stage of cotton production involves mechanically separating the usable fibres from the chaff and seeds.

Bales of these fibres are then spun into yarns, making the cotton stronger and easier to work with.

The next step is to weave the cotton yarns together on looms that interlace them lengthways and crossways.

Harvested cotton in a man's hand
Harvested cotton in a man’s hand.

Although the woven fabric at this stage is largely complete, it’s rough and greyish in appearance, meaning more work has to be done to get it up to the required standard.

The final stage takes place at a finishing plant, where the cotton is coloured and finished to the desired colouring and softness.

Once this has been done, the material is ready to be cut, shaped and stitched to make clothes.

Printing and embroidery

To differentiate their clothing, companies can take advantage of a range of customisation techniques.

One of the most popular now is screen printing. This process involves passing ink over fabrics through a special mesh, or screen, to which a stencil has been added.

The openings within this stencil determine the design that is printed on the material.

RESIZE Fabrics
The UK is the third-largest fashion employer in the EU – behind Italy and Germany.

Clothing experts Fire Label suggest the technique can be used to create a striking, high-quality finish, especially when the most suitable inks are used.

Embroidery is another important garment finishing method. This simply describes the process of decorating fabrics with a needle and a yarn or thread.

In the past, this was always done by hand. Now though, computerised embroidery machines are used to speed the process up and make it more accurate.

Of course, these are just a few of the textile manufacturing processes now available to companies.

There are many more techniques available, and by making sure they are clued up on the relevant production methods, people working in fashion can ensure they make the best decisions when designing, making or selecting garments.