Yarns Spun Here: Pearls of Wisdom


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Tim Burke |

Combing (not beachcombing) defined for textiles

CHICAGO — We learned in our last Yarns Spun Here special that the term “carding” related to textiles describes the first mechanical process used on fibers such as wool.

Now we turn our attention to a new term: “combing.”

Before you start having visions of beachcombing, and discovering lost pirate ship wreckage and doubloons, and you prepare for a morning walk on the beach to search for buried treasure, or fancy seashells (or pearls washed up from the sea), we want to alert you to that this isn’t that kind of combing.

Combing, in textiles, is done on yarns that have been carded to separate long fibers from short. The short ones (“noils”) are removed, and the long ones are pulled parallel to one another.

Again, we turn to author Norman Oehlke in the Complete Spotting Guide & More published by American Drycleaner: “These long, parallel yarns are more uniform in strength and have a smooth appearance — they are ‘worsted.’

“They also have a hard finish and are used to make gabardine fabrics. Because of their smooth finish, they are prone to showing shine in wear but do hold a crease well.”

Shiver me timbers (or me fine threads), you mean to tell me there isn’t any chest full of pearls?!

No. But now that you’ve been sufficiently combed, ol’ salt, let’s define a few other terms in textiles that you hear.

“Fibers” are made of fine strands, either natural or man-made. They make up the smallest and most basic component of fabric. And “filament yarn” is long fibers. Most synthetic fibers are produced as a long, continuous filament, notes the Complete Spotting Guide.

“Filler yarn” is an individual yarn in a woven fabric that, writes Oehlke, “interlaces with the warp yarn at right angles. Filler yarns lie in the horizontal direction of a woven fabric.”

What is warp yarn, you ask? We will answer in “pirate speak” (say the following out loud using your best pirate voice):

“Why, it be the individual yarn that runs lengthwise, or in the vertical direction of the fabric, me hardy!”

Last, but certainly not least, “staple yarn” is short fibers, usually around 1 to 3 inches in length.

Right now, I’ll bet you wish we were talking about beachcombing for pearls or seashells, and not yarns!

Alas, such is the life of a sailor! (Or a tailor!)

Next time, we'll “walk the plank” on another textiles topic in Yarns Spun Here. Ahoy, matey!

About the author

Tim Burke

American Drycleaner


Tim Burke is the editor of American Drycleaner. He can be reached at 312-361-1684 or [email protected]


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