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352 The Yearbook of Agriculture 1965

knit, the number of loops lengthwise

should be approximately i.i times
the number widthwise. For example,
plain knit that has 30 wales per inch
should have about 33 courses per inch.
Much of the knit piece goods in
retail stores is not properly finished
and hence will shrink and stretch in
laundering. These materials may be
relaxed in the home before they are
made into garments.
Knit fabrics of wool may be lightly
steamed, pressed, and allowed to lie
flat before cutting.
Piece goods knit of cotton as well
as other fibers may be relaxed by
wetting out thoroughly, extracting or
drying in a towel, and tumbler dried.
If you do not tumble dry it, lay the
fabric flat without distorting it for

T-shirts after 20 washes with tumble dry-

ing. Inserts show closeup of knit fabric be- Stretch
fore laundering; ink marks on shirts origi-
nally marked a lo-inch square.
Because of distortion in finishing,
many knit garments are unsatisfac-
tory in size and in appearance after
laundering. STRETCH FABRICS are the sort of thing
For example, the plain knit cotton that leads one to ask, "Why didn't
T-shirt in one of the drawings made somebody think of it before?"
of the fabric with elongated loops They provide better fit for many
shrank in length and stretched in items, from baby clothes to upholstery.
width and has ruffled sleeve seams They come in many weights, fibers,
and a stretched neckband. The T-shirt colors, and finishes. Some have little
made of the fabric with round loops stretch; others, much. Some give ease
held its shape in laundering and of movement or a smooth fit; others,
maintained its attractive appearance. forceful control.
We can classify their stretch in two
How CAN ONE select knit garments ways.
that will not shrink or stretch? One is the power stretch, of the
Choose those with the round loops. kind built into foundation garments,
This is not always easy, especially in a swimsuits, men's tummy-restraining
finely knit fabric. A sure way is to shorts and briefs, and so on.
count the number of loops in a i -inch The other is comfort, or action,
distance both lengthwise and width- stretch. It is used in children's gar-
wise of the fabric. In case of a plain ments, sport and casual clothes, men's
Stretch Fabrics 353
shirts, and other items in which move- The type of fibers, the original
ment is involved and a smooth fit is amount of stretch in the yarn, the
desired. tensions of the yarn during fabric
Many people know about power construction, the temperatures and
stretch. Comfort stretch is a newer chemicals used in making, dyeing, and
idea, and it is the one I discuss here. finishing, all affect the amount of
You cannot tell by looking at cloth stretch in the finished fabric, the
whether or not it is a stretch fabric. amount of shrinkage to be expected,
It probably looks just like a similar and the care required.
fabric—gabardine, batiste, taffeta, or Slack mercerization, the third
print cloth—which has only a normal method, is a treatment applied to
stretch. fabric. Cotton fabric is treated with
The amount of stretch in the finished sodium hydroxide while there is no
fabric depends somewhat on the fiber tension in the direction that is to
and the method of producing the stretch. The fabric is then washed and
stretch. finished to the chosen stretch, which
may be 20 percent or less. Stretch may
THREE BASIC METHODS are used in be lengthwise, widthwise, or both.
making stretch materials. No industry standards for comfort
Spandex—a fiber with rubberlike stretch had been set in early 1965. In
elasticity—is made from polyurethane. fact, according to one manufacturer,
Spandex lasts longer than rubber and there were as many definitions for
requires no special care. stretch as persons defining it.
Spandex is seldom used alone, but As a result, some fabrics labeled
forms the core around which other "stretch" have little more stretch than
fibers are spun. The amount of stretch a good-quality fabric of the same type
is determined by the amount of elonga- that is not labeled "stretch."
tion used during the spinning process. In general, however, the trade has
The treatment of the fabric is deter- agreed that stretch in the widthwise
mined by the other fibers used. direction (also called east-west, hori-
Many of the power stretch fabrics zontal, or filling stretch) should be
are made from spandex. It also is about 20 percent; in the lengthwise
used for comfort stretch, sometimes direction (called north-south, vertical,
alone and sometimes as the core for or warp stretch), 50 percent or more.
spun yarn. Sometimes a jfabric stretches in both
The second method is thermoplastic, directions (but usually only in one),
or the heat setting of yarns. Any meth- and garments are cut lengthwise or
od for producing texturized or crimped crosswise, depending on the type of
yarns may be used. A common pro- garment.
cedure for manmade fibers is to twist Pants and slacks usually are cut with
the yarn to the desired amount; heat- the stretch lengthwise; other garments,
set it; then twist it in the opposite with the stretch widthwise.
This process gives a tight curl that ALTHOUGH I have discussed stretch
uncurls and returns to a less tense only, fully as impartant to you is
position when forces are removed. whether or not the material returns to
Cotton may be processed by this its original size and shape after the
method, if resin is applied before the forces are removed. If not, the material
heat treatment. Again, the amount of is said to "grow."
stretch is predetermined by the manu- Growth is the percentage of increase
facturer. in length after the fabric has been
When stretch yarns are woven or stretched and released. If the fabric
knitted into fabrics, some of the stretch grows, a garment made of it may
may be lost in the manufacturing. become wrinkled and baggy.
7^8-092 °—65- -24
354 The Yearbook of Agriculture 1965

The ideal fabric would have zero- any more than the same type of fabric
percent growth. Some fabrics have a not labeled stretch? Does it stretch
large amount of growth—20 percent enough to give a smooth, comfortable
or more. But the aim of reliable manu- feeling in the use you plan for it?
facturers is 2 inches per yard (about 5 Does it stretch less than 20 percent?
percent) or less for children's and Perhaps a good knit which may be less
sports wear and less than i inch per expensive would serve as well for your
yard (2 percent) for dressier wear. purpose.
Of course, the farther you stretch the How much is 20 percent stretch? If
fabric, the more it will grow. You you grasp the cloth at two points 5
therefore should select a fabric which inches apart, you should be able to
has much more stretch than you stretch it i inch, or one-fifth of the
actually need. original length.
Since there are no labels to tell you If you are planning a garment to
how much a fabric stretches or grows, stretch widthwise, 20 percent is enough.
it will be necessary to check both to If it is lengthwise stretch you want,
see if they are sufficient for your pur- better look for 50-percent elongation
pose. A test at the store does not or more.
guarantee that the material will wear Does the fabric spring back to its
well or that growth will not increase original length after you have pulled it
with wear. All that you are doing is out the desired amount? Is there a
assuring yourself that adequate stretch bulge or a stripe of puckered threads?
and minimum growth are in the fabric Only a slight ripple should appear.
at the time you buy it. If the answers are satisfactory, the
As you can see, there are many cloth should be suitable.
places where mistakes can occur in Another thing to check in garments
making or selecting the right fabric for is whether lining, interlining, and lace
the purfKJse. It is more important than (if any) stretch, too. If not, why use
usual, therefore, that you consider be- stretch for the part of the garment to
fore buying what you want and what which they are attached? It will
you expect it to do. neither wear nor clean satisfactorily.
The manufacturer of garments On the other hand, are shoulder seams,
makes them so that the same garment buttonholes, front opening, and other
will fit more different shapes of the parts of the garment which should not
same general size more comfortably stretch, properly reinforced?
and more attractively than a non- Stretch will not prevent shrinkage.
stretch fabric can. His judgment may Read the label. Unless the manufac-
vary from yours. turer guarantees a shrinkage of less
So, first consider carefully what the than 2 percent, you should probably
advantages to you will be if you choose buy a larger size in order to assure a
a stretch fabric. You may not need good fit after the garment is laundered.
stretch at all. A sleeveless blouse or a Or, in the case of cloth, you should
full skirt of stretch would be a waste shrink it before you make it up. Dry-
of money. Why pay extra for stretch cleaning does not cause as much
you will not use? shrinkage as washing, but there may be
On the other hand, slacks or a some dimensional change, and you
blouse with sleeves may be much more should plan accordingly.
comfortable in a stretch material. Stretch may take care of some of the
Certainly, a stretch slipcover would be fitting problems, but it will not be
much easier to fit around the corners an advantage if you force something
of a chair than would a nonstretch into a space that is too small, so that
fabric. there will be no chance for expanding
Having decided what you need, you and contracting. Just as well buy a
next examine the cloth. Does it stretch nonstretch—it is cheaper.
Stretch Fabrics 355
BEFORE YOU PURCHASE stretch fabric, time will come when it will be poorly
be sure that you know how to handle shaped, no matter what the treatment.
it. Stretch fabrics require special sew- The best method for drying stretch
ing techniques. fabrics is tumbler drying, with the
The fabric should be laid flat at dryer set at the correct temperature
least overnight so that folds and bumps for the fiber. If you cannot use a dryer,
can relax, and the material will be the garment should be laid flat and
smooth before cutting. blocked, if necessary, to insure the
No special patterns are needed, but correct size in the dry garment.
each piece should be placed so that Under no circumstances should an
the stretch will be in the chosen article with lengthwise stretch be
direction. hung up for drying—it will stretch.
Make test stitchings before sewing Whatever method you use, be sure
on the garment. that the fabric is thoroughly dry before
In general, fine needles and fine you use the article. Otherwise, it may
stitches are required. Fine zigzagging lose its shape.
may make the seam more elastic. Usually no ironing is required, but
Seams may need machine overcasting if pressing is necessary, use a press
to prevent fraying. cloth, a cool iron, and a light touch.
As I mentioned in connection with Slack-mercerized fabrics are especially
purchase of readymade items, linings, sensitive to a hot iron and pressure;
interlinings, trimmings, laces, and overpressing may destroy the stretch
such should be as elastic as the outer or make the garment too large.
fabric to which they attach or the Stretch fabrics, wet or dry, should
purpose of the stretch will be lost. not be hung for long periods of time.
Tape stays, however, should be applied Store the cloth flat in a drawer or
at shoulder, waist, and other places on a shelf. Hanging in the closet is
where no stretch is desired. Button- especially undesirable for lengthwise
holes need reinforcement. stretch, because the weight of the
Press the seams lightly with a cool garment will cause it to lengthen an
iron and a press cloth. inch or more.
As styles or manufacturing methods
change, fabrics may change too, and SINCE LABELS do not list stretch proper-
the sewing instructions also may ties, you will probably always have to
change. More detailed up-to-date check the amount of stretch and
instructions for sewing with stretch growth in any fabric you buy to be
fabrics may be obtained from the sure that it is suitable for the use you
thread or pattern companies. plan. You will need to check garments
and household articles to be sure that
As FOR THE CARE of stretch materials : they stretch enough and that the man-
As a rule, follow the same procedure ufacturer has not decided to use a less
for washing or drycleaning that you elastic fabric in order to cut costs. A
would use for any other fabric made cheaper product that does not perform
from the same kind of fibers. properly is not an economic buy—why
Read the labels, mark them for pay for stretch you do not get?
identification, and save them, if there In short, a careful examination of
are special instructions about care. each item you buy will be the best
Most stretch fabrics can be washed, way to obtain the performance you
but the kind of fiber, weave (or knit), expect. If the material does not live
colors, and finishes may affect the up to its guarantee, it should be
method and temperature of cleaning. returned for adjustment. Stretch is a
Washing may bring back to shape a ''magic" word today, but be sure
fabric that has stretched too much. If you receive the magic you pay for.
the garment is too small, however, the (S. HELEN ROBERTS)

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