This section is from the book "Clothing For Women: Selection, Design, Construction", by Laura I. Baldt. Also available from Amazon: Clothing For Women: Selection, Design, Construction.
In order to become wise and intelligent buyers, not only of fabrics, but of ready-to-wear garments as well, purchasers should have a practical knowledge of the textile field. They should know, first, the names and general characteristics and qualities of the fibers used in the manufacture of the cloths of which their garments are made; second, the methods of production and preparation of these fibers for manufacturing purposes; third, enough of the processes of weaving the cloth to be interested in the value and effect of the different weaves; fourth, the adulteration of fibers practised by the manufacturers to the detriment of the cloth and the deception of the consumer; fifth, the names, prices and widths of staple materials, and such findings as tapes, braids, etc., and the general uses to which they may be put; sixth, the condition of the laborers engaged in the making of women's garments, that sympathy and interest may be stirred to help in the betterment of these conditions.
It is scarcely within the province of this book to enter into a historic or scientific discussion of textiles. Abundance of good material on this subject is to be found in the numerous texts listed in the bibliography. It is the purpose of the writer, however, to review briefly the points mentioned above, with emphasis on the acquisition of the knowledge of the names and characteristics of materials and findings used in the construction of garments.
All cloth of whatsoever kind, whether used for under- or outer-garments, is made by the interlacing (or weaving) in some fashion, of yarns, made by the twisting of one or more kinds of fiber. The four fibers most commonly used in the manufacture of cloth, are cotton, linen, wool, and silk. These are classified in two general groups, vegetable and animal fibers. The value of a fiber in the weaving process depends upon the following qualities: length, strength, elasticity, and curl.