Chinese cotton and silk have been famous since the times of the Silk Route. Today, China is the leading manufacturer and exporter of textiles in the world. In 2019, China’s export value of fabrics was close to 120 billion USD. It has managed to capture almost 40% of the total global export market. Over the last two decades, the textile industry has boomed in China. Because of the availability of cheap labor, Chinese fabrics are available at very competitive rates.
There are two types of textile fibers – natural and synthetic. And two types of production processes – woven and knitted.
Natural fibers are sourced from plants or animals like cotton from the cotton plants and silk from the cocoon of the silkworm. Synthetic fibers are made entirely of artificial, man-made materials like polyester.
Woven fabrics are made of two strands of yarn that are interwoven on a loom horizontally and vertically. The fabric is sturdy and taut and does not stretch like knitted fabrics. There are three types of woven fabrics – plain weave, satin weave, and twill weave. Linen, crepe, chiffon, satin, silk, denim, are examples of woven fabrics.
Knitted fabrics are either warp-knitted or weft-knitted. They are elastic and hold their shape like Lycra, lace, and mesh, etc.
Let us focus on a few specific types of fabric:
- Cotton: Cotton is the prime cash crop of China today. The fiber is extracted from the seeds of the cotton plant by ginning. The woven fabric is light, soft, and durable. The garments made of cotton are ideal for hot countries since they breathe well. The woven material is hypoallergenic, but tends to shrink and wrinkle. Cotton yields other fabrics like muslin, gingham, chintz, and chino.
- Silk: Silk is a soft, elegant, and luxurious natural fabric much-coveted down the ages by the rich and nobility. It is smooth to the touch and very durable, but it requires careful maintenance and delicate handling. Some silks tend to pucker, so it is best to handwash or dry-clean this fabric.
- Polyester: Polyester is a yarn derived from fossil fuels like petroleum. It is commonly used to make shirts, pants, hoodies, jackets, hats, blankets, upholstery, etc. Often it is blended with cotton or other natural fiber. It is durable and ideal for long-term, outdoor use. Although first manufactured in the USA, today China is the largest producer and exporter of polyester.
- Lace: Lace is a delicate fabric made from looped, twisted, or knitted yarn or thread. Originally made from silk and linen, lace is now made with cotton thread, wool, or synthetic fibers too. The two main elements of lace are the design and ground cloth that holds it together and used to embellish gowns, veils, and nightwear.
- Denim: Denim is a woven cotton twill fabric. It has a cotton warp yarn and a white cotton stuffing yarn. The fabric is sturdy, durable, and comfortable. It is normally dyed with indigo, giving it its distinctive blue color. It is used to make jeans trousers, jackets, and dresses.
- Velvet: This soft, luxurious, rich, and opulent fabric has always been a favorite with royalty. It is a heavy fabric with a shining woven warp pile and a smooth pile effect on one side. Velvet can be made from cotton, silk, linen, nylon, or polyester. Coats, evening wear, skirts, shirts, cloaks made of velvet give the wearer a high-class style.
The world fashion industry depends on the superior quality fabrics manufactured and exported by China. They are also popular because the prices are very competitive.
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