Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fabric Types, Defined Part II - The Synthetic

The Synthetics
  • RAYON Here’s a synthetic that can hang well, but it also can do some pretty bizarre things for a fabric. Check the fabric contents on window treatments to be sure the rayon content is low, or nonexistent. In the summer rayon absorbs humidity and rises up your window, or shrinks upward. It lets back down in lower humidity months. It’s like window treatments on a pogo stick.

Applications: Rayon is fine for window treatments in a very low-humidity area.

  • ACRYLIC Acrylic is colorfast and resists stains well. It also has sun-resistant qualities not found in the natural fabrics. But it is slightly harder to clean than wool and it can pill.
Applications: Acrylic is often blended with natural fabrics to add durability.

  • NYLON That nylon is tough stuff. It says "no," to stains and static electricity and wears well. Nylon is a continuous filament as opposed to a twist (hence nylon can’t breathe, while cotton has a high breathability factor as air passes through the twist).

Applications: The solidity of the filament makes nylon not particularly comfortable to sit on as it warms up from body heat quickly. But it is fabulous if you are jumping out of an airplane.

  • OLEFIN Another test-tube baby with high durability, but not so high on style.

Applications: Olefin is great for professional-football stadiums (it makes for swell AstroTurf), but it’s not so great in the home—unless you have a need for some indoor-outdoor carpeting.

  • POLYESTER This synthetic is what’s called a staple yard, consisting of strands bonded together. It’s fade-resistant but is harder to clean than nylon or wool. And it’s not as resilient as other fabrics. The term staple refers to a short length of fiber that is twisted (Go, Chubby Checkers!) to form a thicker strand.
Applications: Often used as part of an upholstery blend.
  • ACETATE Acetate is long wearing and is less affected by humidity than rayon. Softer than the other test-tube babies, acetate rarely pills and is tough to wrinkle.
Applications: Good in window treatments because of its draping wrinkle-resistant qualities.

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