Synthetic fibers and what they’re good at | FABRIC GUIDE | Justine Leconte

Synthetic fibers and what they’re good at | FABRIC GUIDE | Justine Leconte


Hi everyone, its Justine. Last time, we talked about natural fibers. Today let’s move on to synthetic ones or artificial ones. They are man-made and they don’t come from natural raw materials or they’re processed in a very chemical way. You’ll see that the definition is not always so black and white between natural and not natural. Basically the bad thing about synthetic fibers is that it’s not natural. The good thing is since you’re actually creating the fiber you’re gonna make the yarn with later, you can actually decide everything in terms of look and feel about that fiber, so you have many many more options versus natural fibers. Let’s go through the main types of synthetic fibers. First off rayon. Rayon was the first manufactured fiber. It appeared about a hundred years ago. Technically it comes from wood pulp but the whole process afterwards is chemical – every step. So usually it gets classified under the artificial fibers; some people say it’s a natural one. It’s discussed, um, however you want to put it. So basically you take that wood pulp turn it into a kind of compound. You dissolve that compound, you get kind of dough – you put that dough into a press like the pasta press. You know you put the dough, you press and spaghetti comes out? It’s the same process to get rayon filaments that you’re gonna build your yarn with. Rayon was created as an alternative to silk. It’s much cheaper. And it was used in linings inside the garment so you put silk outside rayon inside to make the garment overall more affordable, and you don’t see the inside anyways. That was the theory to make clothing really more accessible to more people. It is shiny, bit like silk, it wrinkles a lot. It usually needs dry-cleaning and it cannot be ironed. But it was a start. Then came acetate in the 20’s. Acetate is thermoplastic, so if you heat it up, you can shape it the way you want. For example, if you shape pleats in acetate fabric, when you wash the fabrics the pleats will stay, so that’s the cool thing. It’s also very, very cheap. I think it’s the cheapest fabric I know. It’s cheaper than rayon, cheaper than polyester, cheaper than everything else. So it will be used typically on cheap evening gowns or prom dresses that are supposed to look shiny. They have lots of fabrics, but still very cheap price point. It reacts to heat so it cannot be ironed. It is very shiny, but in fact so shiny that by looking at the luster on the surface You can tell that it’s not real silk. I don’t work with acetate myself. I find it very hard to care for. It doesn’t stand light so much so the color will go weird. It doesn’t react well to heat and it cannot be ironed. It’s a bit complicated, so I prefer not to use Acetate in my work. I don’t have a swatch to show you. Then, just before World War 2, nylon appeared. When you said, ” I got new nylons” it meant “I bought tights.” Tights are a very finely knitted fabric made in nylon. It’s a very flexible knit, so here the invention is the way of knitting that finely, plus a brand new material. It was groundbreaking at that time. It is strong and a good windbreaker so old raincoats and active wear used to be made in nylon before better fibers appeared. And the parachutes in World War 2 were also in nylon. It was really a revolutionary fabric, extremely resistant. One note about the breathability – terrible and a bad breathability. You know when you wear tights all day, and you take off your shoes at night? You know what I mean. In the 50’s, polyester was the new thing. If you’ve seen Saturday Night Fever, the suits were polyester. All of them. Polyester is hydrophobic – it hates water so it doesn’t retain it, which means that it doesn’t wrinkle, at all. How practical is that? That was a revolution again in the 50’s. You wash your garments, take it out of the machine, it’s dry already. You can put it on immediately. That’s why it was called the magical wash and wear fabric. Polyester is strong and flexible, so it’s great when mixed with other more fragile fibers. It makes the overall mix super strong and flexible. So it’s actually good fabric to mix with something else. The problem of polyester is that it’s oliophilic: it likes oil, so it retains the oil. So in oily stain when you’re cooking with the polyester shirt on, for instance, it’s gonna be super hard to remove. If you have oily skin or if you sweat a lot, the same phenomenon happens, you might notice that under the armpits, for example, on tight garments it marks. That’s why I don’t usually use 100% polyester. I prefer to mix that with other fibers really, unless it’s microfiber, because then it’s a whole different ballgame. It’s much better polyester. It’s improved polyester is also already 60 years old right? It kept improving, of course, so microfiber is a different thing and it can be extremely breathable. For instance, Gore-tex uses a membrane that’s kind of a cousin, an evolution of polyester. It is waterproof, it is breathable, and it is windproof at the same time. So today we have versions of polyester that are brilliant and are used in outerwear with great success. This blue fabric, for instance, is polyester. It is a satin weave. We’ve seen that in the previous episode so that’s why the correct side here is a lot shinier than the other side – but that’s because of the weaving technique. It’s pretty flexible. It’s pretty breathable. I’ve done a skirt with that and I use this fabric as the lining this one is cheaper polyester. And it’s actually mesh, so the basis is a tight knit and the surface is honey comb knitted, very airy. In between, you even have kind of a foam effect. That’s typically something you couldn’t do with natural fibers only. But it’s pretty stiff, so let’s compare it with the other one which is also 100% polyester, but a more advanced one. This one is a lot more flexible, I definitely feel it – but I think you can even see it on camera. Acrylic, created in the 50’s too, is an alternative to wool. In fact, it often gets mixed with wool to make a garment overall cheaper and all lighter because acrylic fibers are lighter than wool fibers. It feels almost like wool, not as well, but close if it’s good acrylic. And it can also feel like wool – that’s the bad side. It will adapt to the outside temperature and humidity, just like wool does, so it will become warmer when you need more warmth. It’s also a good winter option if you don’t like to wear animal hairs. Acrylic is completely animal free, if you’re a vegan for instance, the only thing is it won’t feel a hundred percent as good as wool, if that makes sense. Then spandex. That’s basically rubber. You don’t see garments made 100 percent in spandex. It’s rather just a few percents to make stiffer fibers stretchier. For instance, yoga pants that need to stretch a lot, have a couple of percent spandex. It’s rarely more than 10 percent, it’s usually 2 to 5 percent. Jeans that are stretchy, skinny jeans, can be 95% cotton 5% spandex, otherwise given the shape they have, you wouldn’t be able to get in. You need that spandex. You don’t see it when you look at the fabric up close because it’s usually in the middle. You have one core yarn of spandex, of rubber, and then they wrap cotton for example, around it so what you will see is the cotton, you only feel it if you pull. And it… you can pull so much more than without. That, you know, okay, there is spandex in there. The bad thing about rubber, if it’s cheap rubber, which you can’t tell when you purchase it, is that over time it will eventually become stiffer, over time anyways, but even more if you use it more, if you pull on it. You notice that on old underwear where the elastic is in stiffer and doesn’t bounce back anymore. If you pull, you will hear click click click click, that’s the rubber… breaking. Those are the main synthetic fibers. But science keeps improving so we are getting more and more improved variations of those things. For instance, poly-acrylic, poly-amide. One more that I want to show you, because it’s used to make fake fur and it’s fun, is called mod-acrylic. This is fake fur so the hairs are completely artificial, the basis at the back is woven. It doesn’t even have to be the same fiber and here you see the difference very clearly. This one is material for one fluffy sweater. Let me tell you, it’s in fully acrylic and polyester. The back is a knitted structure. People wear a lot more knits than they think and even fake fur can be knitted. So if you open your closet, I bet that you have at least 50% of garments that are actually knitted structures. That’s it for the main synthetic fibers, a very quick overview. Really there are many more things that I could talk about but the video would get really really long. As I said, I don’t use synthetic fibers completely alone. One sort I mix several ones or I mix synthetic fibers with natural fibers to get fabric qualities that are extremely stable and feel great on the skin. So mixes are what I prefer. Next time, I’ll show you some mixes and I must have at least a thousand interesting swatches – I pick up this stuff. Thumbs up if you enjoyed the video and subscribe to my channel by clicking on the red button somewhere to follow this series on fabrics. New videos every Wednesday and Sunday on everything related to fashion. So, see you soon. Take care. Bye.

100 Replies to “Synthetic fibers and what they’re good at | FABRIC GUIDE | Justine Leconte”

  1. hi Justine … good video … just wanted to let u kNow there some mild background noise .. like it's shot at night

  2. why you don't talk about the feel of all these fabrics on the skin. in general we can say that natural fabrics breathe – you rarely/never sweat in them. artificial fabrics don't breathe. and they don't warm up your body. thus, acrylic sweaters are not warm at all. woolen sweaters are – on the contrary – comfortably hot.

  3. Thank you, very informative and I noted the comment about oils bonding with poly. I stopped using dryer sheets years ago and dry much less than I used to. I'm trying to get my family on board with care of clothing especially activewear.

  4. Great info, thank you, I enjoyed listening to it, makes a lot more sense about fabrics now I come to think about it. Btw love your hoodie 🙂

  5. This is one of those channels where I’ll gladly watch all the ads, because I’m happy to support your hard work and creativity! Thanks for bringing educational, interesting content, Justine!

  6. As a knitter, I REFUSE to knit with acrylic. I find that the drape and breathability of garments is not to the quality that I want something I create. Wool, llama, mohair, alpaca, cashmere, silk, cotton and bamboo are all things I prefer to work with. They are certainly more costly, but you get what you pay for. Acrylic just feels like plastic – which essentially is just that.

    I should mention that in the case of baby garments, I find it is ok to knit with acrylic blends. Reason being is that the care is easier for parents and let's face it, kids puke and poop a lot, so in these cases, I do use cheaper fibers, but it still needs to be a higher level of quality.

    Love your videos!

  7. Lol I’m a child of the 70’s, how well I remember the indestructible polyester. Unless it met fire that stuff is still probably going strong. My thrifty grandma wore her polyester pants and shirts for more than 30 years. We could not convince her that they were out of style and no one wore them anymore, she didn’t care she thought they were still good and she was going to wear them until she died and she did.

  8. bonjour Justine. je découvre vos vidéos depuis qq heures et je ne m'en lasse pas. Mais c'est tellement frustrant de ne capter qu'un mot sur 3 quand on n'est pas bilingue! surtout pour la vidéo qui concerne les tons et sous-ton de peau pour apprendre à mieux choisir ses couleurs, elle est très complète, j'aurais vraiment aimé avoir la version en français.

  9. Hey Justine, I have a fashion question: I'm still studying and I need a new winter coat.. I love the red ones and I'm considering asking my parents for it as a Christmas gift (I don't have much money). Red is a really popular color right now and I'm scared this is just a trend I'm unconsciously following and that I might not like the coat a year from now. Do you think I should stick with a neutral color instead?

  10. Very informative, thank you. Could you make another video like this and talk about polyamide and synthetic dyes? I was also wondering if you know anything or could talk about the health impacts of wearing synthetic fibers and dyes?

  11. Really enjoyed this – you have a knack for making the complicated understandable, and such a lovely and friendly manner 🙂 And this is the BEST colour (top and lips) I've seen on you yet – sooo flattering! xo

  12. I collect and wear vintage kimono. This has been really informative since I have a few from the post WW2 era and I'm unsure how to handle them.

  13. Justine, I love this series! It's so interesting. Since you "confirmed" my intuitive preference of mixed fibers I'm so happy that it's not only a subjective impression but makes sense. One reason I avoid 100% synthetic fibers is the static charge.

  14. Great video, very informative, thanks! Do you have books recommendations to dig more into the history and specificities of fabrics? Thank you

  15. Hey Justine, I have a problem. I recognized that some fabrics/items are getting little holes. I always wash it properly, but they appear anyways. What am I doing wrong? 🙈 They appear after a few washes.

  16. Thank you for your wonderful videos. Is that a large puzzle ring you are wearing? Where did you get it, if you don’t mind my asking? I used to have a small one from long ago, but it was lost. I can’t find them anywhere.

  17. Could you make a video on different types of fabrics like organza, satin, lace, etc?
    Tell us what they are good for, what they are normally used for and what kind of style or vibe it creates.

    It would be really helpful, thank you!

  18. Justine, it is Friday and i have not seen your normal wednesday video! You are missed! Hope things are ok with you ❤️

  19. Hi Justine !! .Love all your videos ..they really are full of knowledge ..:)
    I have a question… what would be the best cotton fabric for polo shirts ..For example the one used by Lacoste and Ralph Lauren..they seem to be very high quality..
    thanks in advance for help ..

  20. Justine~ Thank you so much for all of your videos! They are extremely helpful and I've learned so much about quality and fabrics ^^ Do you have any suggestions for people learning to sew? I'm currently living in Seoul and I just signed up for my first sewing class, but I'm a bit nervous about picking up bad habits.

  21. I also am finding this series wonderful. This particular episode was unexpectedly interesting and at least somewhat lessened my prejudice against synthetics. I'd love you to explain the care required for two of my favorite synthetics: microfiber and also fleece (polyester, right?), as well as their characteristics, of course.

  22. First of all- love the videos! I have a question about nylon in relation to underwear: there are a few underwear brands that claim to be super breathable, quick drying, odour resistant etc and therefore are good for travel or sport- however you mentioned that nylon is not very breathable like a lot of synthetic fabrics (polyester and nylon clothing makes me sweat, I prefer cotton!). These brands claim that it is the "mesh weave" in their fabric that gives the underwear those characteristics- is there a difference in quality of nylon or how it is weaved as to whether or not its more or less breathable? Or do you think they might just be using good marketing tricks 😛 Sorry for the long-winded question! xxx

  23. I loved this video! Very informative and to the point! I would love it if you could tell us more about polyamide? I've noticed that wool and polyamide mixtures feel a lot more premium to the touch than acrylic mixtures. (It's weird, but whenever I touch a 100% acrylic sweater I have that shiver, like when you hear nails on a chalkboard, lol.)

  24. I really enjoy watching these videos! So concise and pleasant to listen to. Looking forward to pay more attention to fabrics when shopping next time 🙂

  25. Interesting information. The only strange part was your description of rayon. Perhaps you only have one kind in Germany, but here all rayon isn't shiny, dry clean only, with no ironing. In fact I love rayon challis. It has a flat finish, and can be washed and ironed. I think it's currently a bit out of fashion, but I make washable pajama pants often out of wild rayon challis prints – often tropical or abstract patterns that you wouldn't wear on the street, but make an evening at home feel like a vacation. I liked learning the details of it's manufacture. I'd never given it much thought beyond knowing it was highly processed plant material.

  26. OMG you explain things so well, you should be a fashion teacher!!! Very clear explanation and relevant information, perfect! I am also starting my own clothing line after years in fashion management, so finding all the videos super helpful 🙂 Thanks Justine!!

  27. I absolutely love fabric gorgeous fabric that is. Please continue with this series and would love to know know more about which fabric fibers are better to mix

  28. Hi Justine, thank you so much for this series. Your videos are so informative and calming. Do you have any opinion on a fabric called triacetate? Everland claims it to be easy-care, crease resistant which seems too good to be true

  29. I loved these series. I learned so much. I would love a video on undergarments (underwear). Specifically the non visible ones 😀

  30. Justine, excellent again! This is a learning day. All this info will help me be a more conscientious shopper. Thanks!

  31. I don't know how I missed your fabric videos! So glad I found them. ALL your videos are so interesting and informative. You don't ramble randomly like many YouTubers. Thank you for the grey background and the proper lighting too. I had to pause the video because I just HAD to tell you how complimentary your top is. The colour suits you perfectly. OK back to your video 😊

  32. Hi Justine love your informative videos. I heard somewhere that mixing natural & synthetic fibres can't be separated to recycle. Is this correct? If so what fabrics are able to be recycled? Thankyou : )

  33. Hi Justin..can you please make more videos on types of fabrics and the best methods to use them in designing clothes?

  34. i noticed that synthetics tend to get smellier at the end of the day more than natural fibers, so i usually wear a natural fiber layer underneath if i need to wear a blazer or something.

  35. Your videos are truly so educational and fascinating, Justine! Thank you for explaining about both natural and synthetic fibers. 🙂

  36. Hi! Could you please tell me whether is there any difference between nylon and polyamide? In case of lingerie I have noticed that nylon one is super resistant and comfy. Do you have the same opinion?

  37. You are incredible! Your knowledge is vast, your presentation clear, practical, and helpful; your manner delightful.

  38. The problem with polyester and other one make from plastic is that when we wash them micro plastic elements go to the water and we have it more in more also in natural water reservoirs

  39. I can't wear acrylic knit at all, I get very physically uncomfortable. Within half an hour it feels like I've gone into menopause with hot flashes and all. Also synthetic fabric has a tendency to smell more/make your sweat smell worse because it's less breathable, and the odour is often heat activated when you wear the clothes again, even after washing. When I shop for clothes, I always look at the label to check the material components. Too high percentage of artificial fibers and I'll leave it.

  40. thank you Justine for these advice. I am educating myself because of you about the healthy materials options. Mecri ^-^

  41. so so informative 🙂 i also love how non-condescending you are. i watched another YouTuber and she said, "if you want to be classy avoid polyester at all costs." then she didn't really explain why. whenever i watch your videos i learn something new. Thank you 🙂

  42. I love these videos I’m studying fashion marketing right now in college so these are so helpful for my textiles class!

  43. I have a test in my textile science class coming up and I found this series as a great resource. You presented the information better than my professors. Thank you.

  44. A pair of my favorite pants (white flowy chiffon) are polyester. When I found out, I almost didn't buy it as it was very expensive and polyester isn't that much! I wanted them so much, though. The mannequin drew me in right away. I truly wanted to get rid of all polyester in my wardrobe. Anyway, I tired the pants on and they breathe, they're so soft, and they fall perfectly. I had to buy them. Screw the expense. I'm glad to know polyester isn't the devil. Makes me feel better about my purchases. I've noticed that a few high-end pieces have polyester in them. I was really surprised. Not so much anymore, thanks to you. Great videos. I watchrd the entire series, and I learned so much. If you do see this amoung the seas of comments–how and why did you start using YouTube for yourself?

  45. I noticed a few others commented on the environmental, social and human health problems that synthetic fibres cause. I really hope in the future you will do an in depth video about the detrimental consequences of using these fabrics. Except for some outerwear, I only purchase clothes that have been made with organic and natural materials and low or environmentally friendly dyes. The fashion industry is now known to be the 2nd worst polluting industry only second to the oil industry which is actually the what these fibres are mostly made from. They are mostly petroleum based/plastic fibres. For the health of the planet and all of it's inhabitants I do not believe we should add to our world wide problem of pollution, plastic and toxicity. I will if absolutely necessary for outerwear purchase clothes that have recycled plastic. For weather proof items that are not going to be directly on my skin and that I know are recycled and ethically made (Patagonia brand).. I would also love to see a video which explains the differences between organic cotton and non-organic cotton. I will not purchase any non-organic cotton partly for environmental reasons, for my health, and also because I do not want a penny of my money going to support Monsanto. They have been found guilty in a California court for their 'pesticides' causing a man to get terminal NHL cancer. And these are the same pesticides that they pour into the ground, are in the cotton seeds, the workers have to be exposed to, and people wear on their skin. I will go without before I knowingly support them. These are very important issues for us all because we all buy and wear clothes. We are all contributing to the 'problems' and I believe we can all become the solution. A wonderful blogger that has Youtube videos that explain material types with these issues in mind is Daria from wonderwardrobe. I hope you do learn about these issues and help spread the information and also become part of the solution.

  46. Hi Justine! I just want to know if there's already a sequel to this video? I'm trying to make better choices for my clothing, and information is key. Would love to watch more. Thank you.

  47. Hi, thank you for another interesting video, as well as for that one about natural fibres. I would welcome more similar videos dadicated to industry of fibres, cleaning, ecological ways how to throw them out like how to recycle synth.fibres to not let them turn into microplastic particles etc…

  48. Justine, really enjoyed this video.  It was a good review of fabric types; learned about them in Jr. High School (1960's) and I'm still interested in all types of fabrics.  Thanks for all your videos, they're excellent.

  49. Thank you so much for this video. I'm a fashion student and needed to study different fibres, properties and characteristics for my textiles test the next day, very helpful and straight to the point briefings. Picked up so much information in a short period of time. I was able to put things together in my own understanding. Forever grateful!

  50. I hate polyester soooooo much, unfortunately most of lovely prints are polyester so I used to fall for it. Never again, I feel so "bad in my skin" all day long as wearing it 😖 could you explain why some people say viscose is natural and others say it is not ? And why on earth sometimes viscose feels lovely on the skin all day long, and sometimes just as awful as polyester ? It varies soooo much from an item to another ! Thanks for the tips 🤗

  51. Great video thank you. What do you think of viscose? I think it ist very bad material. Every T-shirt I have has shrank.

  52. Thanks a lot for your great videos .. but would you please discuss mixing fabrics as I can't find video about it at your channel .. thanks in advance

  53. Hi Justine 🙂 You mentioned the bad breathability of nylon, and I totally know what you mean. However I can't seem to find any thin/sheer tights that aren't made from nylon/polyamid, no matter the price range. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!

  54. Could you make a video about how to choose tights?)) I have always thought that nylon tights look cheap and never bought them! But I am not sure if i am right actually…

  55. I found this fascinating Justine, I very much enjoyed your very clear and articulate explanation of the composition of fabrics. I feel so much more informed now x

  56. Hi Justine,
    Not sure if you made a video about how these fabrics feel when worn and if they breathe? Also I have heard that Polyester and a few other synthetic fabrics contain formaldehyde is that true??

  57. I find it sad that it is so hard to find tops that are not made of synthetic fabrics mostly polyester which is not comfortable at all. it does not breathe makes me sweat becomes smelly.

  58. Can you make a video about softeners (using it, not using it, using white vinegar as an alternative)?
    Thank u! I love your channel!

  59. I have to ask if you're talking about the acetate that predates rayon, and is the same as rayon in many respects, I've it's a cellulose fibre and most of its qualities eg being weak when wet but very breathable are the same as rayon….I collect vintage and acetate was a popular fabric as was rayon. I like all your videos, very informative and thought provoking.

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