Colour Theory - Health & Social Care & D&T Teaching Resource

Fibre Source & Colour
Where and how did colour on
fabrics come from?
What are fabrics?
Continuous Dyeing
Textile Fibres
Disperse Dyes
Colour illusion
What's the difference between cotton and linen?
Natural fibers fall into two main groups: protein fibers, which come from animals, and
vegetable fibers which come from plants. The main ingredient in all vegetable fibers is
cellulose, a carbohydrate found in all plant life. Both cotton and linen are vegetable fibers.
Linen is made from the flax plant, cotton is made from the cotton plant.
A Field of Flax
One of the world's oldest
fabrics, linen is woven from
the fibres of the flax plant
and is a completely natural
resource – perhaps the most
ecologically sound fabric of
Cotton is a fiber obtained
from various species of
woody plants and is the
most important and widely
used natural fiber in the
Flax Production
The production of linen
fabric uses five to twenty
times less water and
energy than the
production of cotton or
other synthetic fabrics.
Linen fabrics are
biodegradable and
After harvesting the crop is laid
out to ret, a process whereby
the bark of the plant rots
naturally so that the fibres
loosen from the stem. It is an
environmentally friendly plant
and no part of it is wasted. The
seeds are used for linseed oil
and the bark for chipboard. The
fibres are then combed, spun
and woven and finished
according to the way in which
the fabric is to be used.
Retting softens and
separates the fibrous
core of the plant from
the outer layer.
The leading cotton-producing
countries are China (the world's
biggest producer), the United
States, India, Pakistan, Brazil, and
Egypt. The world production of
cotton in the early 1990s was
about 21 million tons (19 million
metric tons) per year. The world's
largest consumers of cotton are the
United States and Europe.
Wool is the fibre derived from the fur of animals of the Caprinae family,
principally sheep, but the hair of certain species of other mammals such
as goats, llamas and rabbits may also be called wool.
How is the fleece made
into wool?
Rolling into bat
Carding - For
wool, and woollike fibers (such
as llama, alpaca,
goat, etc.) fibers
are fed onto a
series of rollers.
depending on
the size of the
carder, the
number of
rollers differs.
A big drum
carder will then
take the bat
and turn it into
roving, by
stretching it
thinner and
thinner, until it
is the desired
Often rovings are the thickness of a wrist
A working Mule spinning machine
Carding Llama hair
Silk Production
A tray of silkworms
feeding on mulberry
leaves. These look like
fourth instar, one shed
away from cocooning.
As the silkworm
matures, it turns
indicating readiness
to cocoon, and is put
in one of these
cocooning trays.
Bundles of twigs are
also used.
Silk-reeling tools.
Clockwise from top:
tray with reeled silk,
silk-reeling cauldron
with cocoons in it, and
charcoal burner the
cauldron sits on. The
water is kept
simmering and
added/removed to
control the
Woman reeling silk. The
cleft stick she is holding
is used both to stir the
pot (which brings up
more silk threads) and
to "comb out" cocoons
that get pulled up with
the reeled silk.
Skeins of reeled
Weft yarn being
After reeling, the
pile of silk in the
tray at left is reeled
into skeins with this
tied for mudmee
(ikat) dyeing.
They're wound in
skeins exactly as
they will be woven,
then resist-dyed in
complex patterns.
This is a very
coarse pattern--the
bundles are big.

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