Yarns come in different weights. Heavy natural wool, spun into long thick yarn would be unsuitable for a lightweight garment. Hence they are used for their properties of warmth and rain resistance and are more practical for outer garments.
Fine silk lends itself to a light and flexible garment that requires a smooth finish.
Cotton can be woven into many thicknesses by spinning many fibres or yarns together. The longer fibres of the cotton seed pod or ‘boll’ creates a better quality cotton fabric.
Egyptian cotton is known to be the best quality cotton as it produces longer fibres.
The ‘pashmina’ wool of the Himalayan goat, the Andean Alpaca or Mongolian Yak, is longer and finer compared to the shorter coarser wool of lowland grazing sheep. It thus creates a smoother, finer yarn and garment. These animals live high up in very cold regions so produce longer hair to survive.
In India weavers combine the shorter wool filaments with the longer silk filaments to create a fine, strong yarn. The more silk used the smoother the appearance of the finished product.
Some fabrics are printed after they are woven. Printing can be done by hand - block printing - usually up to 3 colours. A block can be used many times.
Screen-printing is done by hand or machine - usually up to 5 colours.
Digital printing is done by computer-controlled machines. This technique can reproduce complicated designs and can incorporate many colours from the three base colours of yellow, blue and pink. Scarf or panel print, usually a one directional design, is to be cut for a specific garment.
Some fabrics are made from yarns of different colours dyed prior to weaving. This creates a greater depth of colour and two-tone effect. It can give an iridescent quality especially if the yarn is silk. Ombre or dip dyeing is where part of the fabric is dyed after weaving.
Tie-dyeing is where certain parts of the fabric are tightly bound to prevent the dye penetrating. This creates abstract patterns or small shapes depending how the bindings are tied. Single Ikat is where the weft yarn is tie dyed in bundles before weaving.
Double Ikat as where the warp and weft yarns are tie-dyed before weaving. This is precision work, as the two have to match up exactly to create the desired pattern. Piece dyeing is where individual pieces or garments are dyed after they are made.
A mordant is a chemical or paste used to fix dyestuff onto fibre. Paste or liquid resist dyeing is where portions of the fabric are painted or brushed before dyeing with gum, mud, resin or liquid wax (batik). The dried resist material is removed after dyeing by washing or boiling the fabric.