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THE SCHOOL OF TEXTILES AND MATERIALS TECHNOLOGY


Do You Know?

Spandex

Spandex fibers seem to be everywhere, in every type of clothing. It is not a new fiber. Research began during World War II when the supply of natural rubber was not readily available. Spandex is the elastic fiber you've been used to in intimate apparel, socks and swimsuits. But now it is in cotton, cotton/polyester, and silk blouses and knit tops; in pants and skirts with all fibers - wool, cotton, cotton or rayon blends; in wool or blended suits and jackets; in active sportswear and even in shoe fabric And the % are a lot higher.

Spandex can be added lengthwise, crosswise or both directions in both knits and wovens.

Spandex fibers seem to be everywhere, in every type of clothing. It is not a new fiber. Research began during World War II when the supply of natural rubber was not readily available. Spandex is the elastic fiber you've been used to in intimate apparel, socks and swimsuits. But now it is in cotton, cotton/polyester, and silk blouses and knit tops; in pants and skirts with all fibers - wool, cotton, cotton or rayon blends; in wool or blended suits and jackets; in active sportswear and even in shoe fabric And the % are a lot higher.

Spandex can be added lengthwise, crosswise or both directions in both knits and wovens.

Fashion silhouettes have gone tighter to the body, slimmer. The addition of spandex allows freedom of movement and comfort while looking trim and neat. You can pour yourself into those pants and still sit down....and breath. This is called comfort stretch. Power stretch has moved from the lingerie drawer to active sportswear. All major sports stars use spandex for its support as well as movement with their very functional "panty girdles" to reduce muscle injury.

Spandex is laid-in with every other yarn in a weft jersey knit to give crosswise elasticity. This is used for knit tops of cotton, manmade fibers, wool or silk. In warp knits like tricot, spandex can be added along with the lengthwise yarns to give more of a power knit construction.

The US/Canada generic name for this elastomeric fiber is spandex but the name elastane is also common in the global marketplace. Spandex is any synthetic fiber composed of at least 85% segmented polyurethane. US manufacturers and trademarks are:Lycra by DuPont, Dorlastan byBayer Company and Glospan and Cleerspan by Globe Manufacturing Co..

Textile designers have a new range of fiber sizes and yarns available to them.They also have manufacturing equipment that can better handle the finer bare spandex fibers. This means lighter fabrics with hidden spandex. Stockings with 15% spandex are supersheer rather than the old support hose. The size of the fiber and amount added are determined by the performance characteristics desired.

A fabric with areas of added spandex and areas without any spandex will have instant puckers as manufacturing tensions are released. The design possibilities are endless.

The greatest property of spandex fibers is elasticity. They have 99% recovery at 200% stretch. But they are fairly weak in relation to other fibers. The melting point is about 450 dregrees F with a sticking point about 340 degrees F (much lower than polyester). Yellowing and loss of strength occurs with prolonged sunlight, time and acid fumes in the air. Fiber resistance to body and cosmetic oils and to aging has improved in more recent fiber developments.

The use of heat is the major care concern when spandex is part of the fabric. Cool water washing is easy, but repeated use of a hot dryer will deteriorate the fiber. Chlorine bleach should never be used. Ironing temperatures should not exceed 300*F (the synthetic setting) on a hand iron. Steam pressing at the drycleaner will also be detrimental over time. So techniques normally used for a cotton shirt for example must be modified for the new sleek looking 95% cotton 5% spandex shirt. And over time, the fiber will degrade...just like those old socks, underwear and bathing suits.

 

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Philadelphia University
School of Engineering and Textiles
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Philadelphia, PA 19144-5497
 

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