When researching or reading about different fabrics, you are likely to see the word yarn mentioned a lot. “Made from spun yarns” or “with synthetic yarns” are a couple of examples. But what is yarn? What is spun yarn? Are there other types? What does it all mean, and how much relevance does this bear to your final fabric? That’s what we are here to look at in a little more detail.
What is Yarn?
Yarn is a length of fibers. That’s the simplest way to explain it. It is a continuous length of fibers that are interlocked, and it’s used to produce fabrics, as well as in crocheting, knitting, embroidery, and ropemaking.
This means that we can split yarn into two different categories. The thread that is used for embroidery or in sewing machines, as well as yarn (commonly known as balls-of-wool) used in crafts such as knitting or crocheting, are long lengths that are bought as yarns.
The alternative would be a yarn which is then knitted or woven into a fabric. The textile is then bought as fabric, in lengths, rather than the yarn itself being purchased separately. This second description is the one that we will explore further in this post.
What is Yarn Made From?
Yarn can be made from a variety of different fibers. This includes both natural and synthetic fibers. The most common plant fiber is cotton, however, you can also use other natural fibers such as bamboo. Alongside cotton, synthetic polyester fiber makes up the two most commonly used fibers. Animal fibers are also often used, such as wool, harvested from sheep, as well as cashmere (harvested from goats) Angora (from rabbits), and silk (from insect larvae).
What is the Difference Between Spun and Filament Yarn?
Spun yarn is made by twisting staple fibers together in either an S or Z twist, to make a single thread. The process of twisting the fibers together into yarn is called spinning and it was one of the first processes to be industrialized. Spun yarns can contain a single type of fiber, or you can spin various types of fiber together to give you a blend.
Filament yarn is made up of filament fibers that are either twisted together or simply grouped together. It can either be composed of one filament, which is called a monofilament, or it could be made of more than one, in which case it would be known as a multifilament. This can be as few as two or three filament fibers, or even up to 50, or more.
What is an S or Z Twist?
When spinning, your yarn is made up of twisted strands of fiber. These are known as plies when grouped. The strands are twisted together – or plied – in the opposite direction to make a thicker thread. Whether you have an S-twist or a Z-twist is dependant on the final twist. For those who appear to have the threads going up and to the left, it would be considered an S-twist, whereas those which go up and to the right, are z-twist yarns. For single-ply, the final twist will always be the same as the original twist.
What is the Difference Between Staple Fibers and Filament Fibers?
A staple fiber is one that is considered of discrete length. These are short fibers that are spun together to create a long, spun yarn. Staple length is the term that relates to the length of the group of fibers. Depending on the origin of the fibers, this can vary greatly, so the staple length would be an average. The staple length makes a vast difference in the complete yarn; shorter staple lengths will provide a “hairier” outcome, whereas longer ones will give a smoother end result.
A filament fiber is a continuous, or near-continuous, length of fiber that is used to make the final result. Silk is the most common natural filament fiber, however, most synthetic fibers are created in the form of filament fibers. If you cut a filament fiber into individual lengths, it will become a staple fiber.