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A

abaca
Musa textilis. Abaca is a similar plant to banana. Abaca, banana, sisal and manila hemp are all leaf fibres. The length and thickness of the fibre normally indicates the strength of these fibres. Each is different and are used for a variety of different usus. Abaca produces a fine white fibre, similar, but longer than sisal. This fibre is extracted from the inner leaf sheath, which forms the trunk of the abaca plant. The outer leaf sheath is removed in the form of 'tuxies' which are stripped to recover a course cream to brown fibre. See also banana, sisal and manila hemp.

abrasion test
A test used to simulate the wear performance of textile yarns and fabrics. This test is often done using a piece of equipment called a Martindale Abrasion Tester, designed by Dr Martindale in the early part of the second world war to test the wear and tear of gas capes worn by soldiers who rode bicycles. It is generally agreed, however, that abrasion tests using any one of a variety of pieces of equipment do not necessarily simulate effects produced during normal day-to-day wear.

acacia
A genus of shrubs and trees found in tropical climates and used in textile production in many forms. Acacia senegal, found in eastern and western parts of Africa, acacia arabica, found in India, yielding the best quality gum arabic (see gum arabic) and acacia farnesiana produces gum used normally in India for textile printing. Acacia leucophloea yields a coarse bast fibre used in the manufacture of string, ropes and nets. Acacia catchu known as catchu, cutch or kutch, gives a dark brownish grey when an iron mordent is used. Alum mordent will produce a yellow-brown and a mixture of tin and cream of tartar gives a darker brownish-yellow. See gum arabic.

acetate
Textile fibre invented in 1865 and patented in 1894, derived from cellulose. Produced as acetate rayon (see also viscose rayon), known as acetate, from wood pulp or short cotton fibre (linters) treated with acetic acid or acetic anhydride to make the liquid from which the fibre is spun. Because of its lustrous sheen, it is the one man-made fibre which closely resembles silk. See rayon and cellulose acetate.

acid dye
A chemical anionic dye used in dyeing protein fibres, including wool and silk, also polyamide fibres. This range of dyes is often referred to as brilliant dyes, are wet-fast and produce good results in fastness and brightness of colour. They can normally be applied in an acidic or neutral state. This large group of acid dyes, with a limited range of colours, is subdivided into four main classes:

  • acid levelling or equalizing dyes
  • acid milling dyes
  • half milling or perspiration fast dyes
  • super-milling or fast dyes

acrylic fibre
The generic name given to a man-made fibre derived from acrylic resins. As a soft and woolly fibre it is often used as a substitute for wool.

adire 
A traditional Nigerian resist dyed indigo fabric. See indigo.

ageing
This was formally a process in which printed fabric was exposed to a hot, moist atmosphere. Now the term is almost exclusively applied to the treatment of printed fabric in moist steam in the absence of air. Ageing is also used for the development of certain colours in dyeing such as aniline black.

airbag cloth 
(details of this are in the pipeline)

algin 
An extract from certain algae or seaweed. Sodium alginate, a gummy nitrogenous organic compound used as a size for finishing cotton cloth or as a thickener in textile printing pastes. Alginic acid is extracted from algin, neutralized with caustic soda to form a spinning solution from which filament alginate yarns can be produced. Alginate yarns are soluble and non-flammable and have a low wet strength. Filament or staple alginate fibre can be blended with other fibres in the production of sheer fabrics where the alginate fibre is washed away to leave a sheer web of the supporting fibre. This is done when it would not be possible to spin a yarn from the supporting fibre alone. When areas of other fibres are embroidered onto 100% alginate woven fabric backing, the backing can be dissolved away leaving the embroidered area. This creates a lace effect. Latin: alga, seaweed. PVA (poly-vinyl alcohol) filament has now replaced algin in the production of soluble yarns.

allo 
Girandina diversfolia. The local name given to a nettle plant 2 to 3 metres in height, grown at altitudes above 1500 metres in the forest areas of Nepal. The stem contains fibres which are strong, straight, lustrous with a fibre length up to 58 centimetres in length. Used for bags, belts and fishing nets. See also nettle.

all silk 
This term is used when a yarn or fabric contains no other textile fibre than silk.

alpaca 
Alpaca fibre is from the semi-domesticated animal of the same name or of the llama, both of which live in the mountains of South America. The fibre is soft and lustrous, from brown to cream in colour and 18 30 centimetres in length. See llama.

alum 
Aluminium potassium sulphate. Used as a mordant when dyeing wool. Usually combined with cream of tartar in a ratio of 3 parts alum to 1 part cream of tartar.

amabouk 
A half-bleached, coarse Irish linen fabric used mainly for sailors shirts.

american cloth
This term is used in the United Kingdom to describe a waterproof fabric produced by enamelling the surface of an oiled cotton cloth. Used for household applications and inexpensive upholstery, it has now been replaced by polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coated fabrics. See oil cloth.

angora
The hair of the angora rabbit. Yarn spun with angora is extremely soft and in most cases contains a proportion of other fibre to facilitate easier spinning but is usually no more than 7% of the total amount of material. The soft lustrous hair from the angora goat is referred to as mohair. See mohair.

armistice cloth
A worsted cloth produced and used after the Boar War in South Africa.

annatto
A dye obtained from the soft pulp covering the seeds of bixa orellana. Known variously as annetto, rocou, bixin and orean. Found in Central and South America and Asia. A fugitive orange dye used as a ground for other colours. Traditionally used for colouring butter and cheese for which its use is now highly regulated. Barely soluble in water can be dissolved in caustic alkali.

artificial silk
Filament viscose or acetate rayon. Sometimes this term is shortened to art silk.

asbestos
A fibrous texture mineral, containing silicate of magnesium and calcium with traces of iron and other minerals, obtained from rock. It is acid proof, rust proof and flame proof. The practice of spinning asbestos with other fibres into yarns to manufacture protective cloths is discouraged as small asbestos fibres can be easily inhaled and enter the lungs.

azoic dyes
A range of dyestuffs, which are formulated within the fibre by combining two components. The production of an insoluble azo compound on a substrate by interaction of a diazotized amine (azoic diazo component) and a coupling component (azoic coupling component). Also known as ice colours because of the necessity of lowering the temperature during processing. Traditionally used in the production of African prints, they have been superseded by other dyestuffs and become uneconomic, their use having declined.