Weights and Measures
A continuous filament is a long, continuous strand of fiber that is extruded from a spinneret--usually a man-made fiber such as rayon, nylon, polyester or acetate; natural fibers (wool, cotton) have shorter length or staple. The exception is raw silk, spun by silkworms as a continuous filament in lengths of 300 to 1,600 yards.)
Hanks are standard skeins of yarn (comprised of strands), used to gauge fineness. In the worsted system, one hank measures 560 yards, with the number of hanks in a pound indicating relative fineness. For example: 40's quality yarn is actually 40 hanks which is 40 x 560 or 22,400 yards of yarn per pound--twice as "course" (less fine, smooth and dense) as 80's yarn which is 80 hanks or 80 x 560, equaling 44,800 yards of yarn per pound. Obviously, the higher the hanks, the finer the yarn.
Denier measures fineness by a factor of grams per a constant length: 9,000 meters. This system works in the reverse of the worsted system: the smaller the denier, the finer the yarn. Denier is used mainly to measure synthetic fibers.
The weight of fabric (and the suit made from it) is determined in ounces per linear yard (which measures 36 inches long x 60 inches wide). Tropical weight suits (6.5-8.5 ozs.) once considered summer weight only, are now suitable for even year-round wear because of recent advances in fiber density, blending and construction. Midweight suits (9-10 ozs.) originally designed for 10-month wear are now often suitable for all-year wear as well due to advances in fabrication and lighter suit construction. Regular weight suits (11-13 ozs.) are usually harness fabrics (see "Twill Weave") suitable for fall and winter.
Twist and Ply
Twist is a term no retailer should misunderstand, as it has become all-important in '90s high-twist fabrics which are crisper, "dryer," and stronger than predecessors. Twist is applied to yarns as they are spun, making twisted yarns more resilient than "straight" yarns; super high twisting creates crepe yarns.
Ply is the process by which two yarns are twisted together before weaving. Single ply (known as "singles" and used in terms like "40's singles") refers to the weaving of two yarns only. Two on one construction (2x1) refers to the weave of a single yarn with two yarns that have been plied together. Two on two construction (2x2) is the weave of two plied yarns.
Looking at Weave
On a loom, the warp runs lengthwise, the weft runs crosswise. a single warp yarn is an end. A single weft or filling yarn is a pic. Pics are inserted by a shuttle as harnesses manipulate ends up or down to achieve the weave.
Plainweave is the simplest method of weaving yarn, accounting for nearly 80 percent of all woven fabric. Each end goes under and over each interlacing pic, alternating on the next pass.
Basketweave is more decorative and delicate, but is essentially a plainweave with multiple ends interlacing multiple pics.
Twill weave is characterized by diagonal ridges that are formed as each pic interlaces over every third end (called 3-harness construction, due to the three harnesses needed on the loom to control the three consecutive ends). 4-harness construction in its most common 2/2 form--two ends up, two ends down--also produces a diagonal twill line. Harness construction allows advanced pattern detailing, textural variety and increased weight. The face or front of a twill fabric will not match the back because it shows more warp than weft. 5-harness construction can yield a smooth, lustrous fabric with a face that consist almost entirely of warp yarns.
Stock Dyeing applies color to woolen staples or strands. Distinctive heather coloration develop as the yarn is spun.
Top dyeing applies color to tops, or short ropes of worsted staples. An expensive dyeing method, it nonetheless offers maximum color control.
Yarn dyeing applies color to spun yarn before it is woven into fabric.
Piece dyeing applies color to woven fabric that is still in its colorless greige (pronounced "gray") state. The fastest and cheapest method of cloth dyeing, it is often used in blazers and solid-color slacks.
The hand is the feel of the fabric that the finish imparts.
Fulling uses heat, friction, moisture, chemicals and pressure to shrink and mat a fabric, giving it a dense felt like hand.
Napping uses metal rollers to raise the surface of fibers, giving the fabric a soft, lofty flannel-like feel.
Mill finish or semi-mill finish is used to describe the soft, downy effects of fulling and/or napping.
Decatizing removes wrinkles from fabric as it is wound tightly on perforated rollers with either hot water (wet method) or steam (dry method) running through it. All fabrics are decatized, but fabrics with a hard finish are decatized more than others.
Shearing cuts all surface fibers to a common length, improving consistency of texture. Some fabrics, sheared so closely that no finish is apparent, are known as clear finish.