With Christmas not far away, our thoughts turn to luxury and extravagance. This applies to fabrics too and what could be more regal than velvet? The term “velvet” refers to the weave of a fabric rather than to its fibre content. Velvet has a pile weave that is created when loops are formed during the weaving process. The pile weave is on one side of the velvet fabric, whilst the other side is plain. Velvet can be made from many different kinds of fibres, but traditionally silk was used. Velvet made entirely from silk is very costly, so other materials can be used such as cotton, although this often results in a slightly less luxurious fabric. Velvet can also be made from other natural fibres including linen, mohair, and wool. Nowadays, synthetic velvet’s are a lot more common, including polyester, nylon, viscose, acetate, and mixtures of different synthetics, or synthetics and natural fibres (for example viscose mixed with silk).
I was recently in Lyon in France, where they make beautiful silk luxury items, and I discovered some interesting facts about silk manufacturing that I’d like to share with you. As early as the 12th century, the Chinese were the first to produce silk. They used it to make winter clothes, bow-strings and fishing-nets since silk was a very cheap product there. It is a natural fibre produced by the caterpillar of the mulberry bombyx butterfly. The breeding of this silkworm is known as sericulture.
Did you know that the derivation of the word ‘canvas’ is from the Latin word cannabis? Modern canvas is usually made of cotton, linen or synthetic materials, but it was originally woven from hemp, which comes from the same plant that has a number of other well-known recreational uses. Cotton crops are produced across the world. China and North and South America produce the majority, followed by India, Pakistan and Egypt – as well as many smaller Asian Republics. Generally, cotton grows well in tropical climates.
“Water resistant” and “waterproof” both refer to penetration of liquid water. Manufactured waterproof fabrics have been around for over a hundred years. They are either treated or are inherently resistant to water penetration and wetting. In Victorian times, Scottish inventor Charles Macintosh sandwiched rubber between cloth to make an impermeable fabric that was waterproof but not breathable. Raincoats were made from this material and became known as ‘macs’. However, the early designs smelled quite bad and melted in hot weather.
Next time you go to a theatre or concert, just imagine what might happen if a fire broke out on stage. In fact in any public place such as a shop, school, library, restaurant, hotel, council building or anywhere people gather together. Even in your own home there are risks of a fire breaking out, but don’t be too alarmed, there are many ways of minimising the damage and preventing flames and smoke from spreading. The obvious ones come to mind, such as fire doors and extinguishers etc, but perhaps less evidently, you can ensure that the fabrics and materials used are fire-retardant too.
There is a city in the southern Indian state of Kerala known as Kozhikode in the local Malayalam language. Colonised successively by the Arabs, Portuguese, Dutch, French and British, it is also perhaps better known outside India by its English name Calicut and is the place that gave its name to a variety of cotton known as calico. Calico is a fabric designed from unbleached cotton, using a plain weave and a low thread count.