The COTTON UNIVERSITY™ program offers additional teaching resources from CottonWorks™ and Cotton Incorporated exclusively for university faculty members teaching fiber, fabric, and fashion related courses.

  • 101 Textile Basics
  • COMING SOON: Cotton Textile Teaching Modules
  • COMING SOON: Cotton Plant Teaching Modules

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Fibers 101

A textile fiber is defined, in a very general way, as any product capable of being processed in weaving, knitting, or non-conventional systems into a fabric substrate. It may be thought of as the smallest visible unit of textile production.
In more practical terms, a fiber is a material with the following characteristics:

  • high length-to-diameter ratio (at least 1000 to 1)
  • small diameter (10 to 200 microns, or 0.0005 to 0.01 inches)
  • low bending rigidity
  • white or clear color

For use as textile material, the fiber must also have the following properties to at least some degree:

  • strength
  • extensibility
  • temperature resistance
  • chemical resistance

Textile end uses require a wide variety of fiber properties. All textile fibers share many of these properties, but not many fibers have all of these properties.

Yarns 101

A textile yarn is a continuous strand of staple or filament fibers arranged in a form suitable for weaving, knitting, or other form of fabric assembly. Also, a yarn is a textile product of substantial length and relatively small cross-section consisting of fibers with twist and/or filaments without twist. The yarn can be twisted with one or more yarns to create added value or aesthetics. Traditionally, yarns have been constructed of fibers of finite length called staple fibers. Today, continuous filament yarns are also used to construct yarns.


Filament yarns tend to be smoother, more lustrous, more uniform, harsher, and less absorbent. Spun yarns have a hairy surface, are more uneven in appearance, have lower luster, are softer, and more absorbent. Spun yarn is the yarn of choice in many woven and knitted fabric products. The short fibers can be natural fibers such as cotton where the fiber grows in short lengths. But they can also be synthetic fibers such as polyester that are manufactured in a continuous length and then cut into shorter staple lengths.


This document will discuss how yarns are formed. It covers fiber preparation and spinning for cotton and blends of cotton. Also covered is the production of synthetic filaments and their conversion to tow and how the tow in turn gets cut into short fibers. Then the steps in the processing of cotton and cotton/synthetic blended spun yarns and the various spinning systems used will be addressed. Emphasis will be placed upon the influence of the yarn on fabric properties and performance.

Weaving 101

Weaving is the process of interlacing sets of yarns together to form a woven fabric structure. As diagrammed in Figure 1, one set of yarns run along the fabric length or machine direction; these are called warp yarns, warp ends, or simply ends. The other set of yarns run along the fabric width and are called weft yarns, picks, or filling yarns.


The warp yarns unwind from a loom beam and move forward at a fixed rate as the woven fabric is formed. The weft yarns typically are inserted one at a time across the warp yarns. The warp yarns are under tension and undergo stress, strain, and abrasion as they move up and down and follow a path through the various parts of the loom. The tension is necessary in order to form a clear opening, or shed, for insertion of the weft yarns.


This booklet covers the preparation of the warp yarns for weaving, the basic motions of a weaving machine, and basic woven designs.

Printing 101

The desire of adding color and design to textile materials is almost as old as mankind. Early civilizations used color and design to distinguish themselves and to set themselves apart from others. Textile printing is the most important and versatile of the techniques used to add design, color, and specialty to textile fabrics. It can be thought of as the coloring technique that combines art, engineering, and dyeing technology to produce textile product images that had previously only existed in the imagination of the textile designer.


Textile printing can realistically be considered localized continuous dyeing. In ancient times, people sought these designs and images mainly for clothing or apparel, but in today’s marketplace, textile printing is important for upholstery, domestics (sheets, towels, draperies), floor coverings, and numerous other uses.

Dyeing 101

Color is an extremely important aspect of modern textiles. The color of a textile product is a major factor in the marketing and use of that product. The color of textiles can be used to differentiate groups of people such as uniforms used for athletic teams, hospital personnel or military organizations. Color can also be functional such as camouflage or protective uniforms. However, in the modern retail store, the color of textile products is a major contributor to what is referred to as fashion. The color is very important with apparel, carpet, upholstery, curtains, drapes, sheets and towels. All of the items are marketed with an emphasis on their specific color.

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