Clarification On The Public Perception Of Textile And The Tedhniques Of Fabric Design In Nigeria

By | July 24, 2014
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1Mrs. Christiana Terrumun Adugh

2Mr. John Faeren Anyam


1Home Economics Department,

College of Education, Katsina-Ala, Benue State.


2Fine and Applied Arts Department,

College of Education, Katsina-Ala, Benue State.



This article points out the erroneous public use of the words textile and textiles as well as elucidating the subtle differences between the two identical terminologies. Emphasis is also given to woven and non-woven fabrics with particular focus on their designing techniques and production. The article hopes to educate and inform the general public on the subject matter.




The terms textile and textiles are often used interchangeably to mean the same thing. To the generality of the people, including textiles students and teachers, ‘‘textile’’ is singular while ‘‘textiles’’ means plural. Although the two words are closely related, they do not mean the same thing, neither in scope nor content. ‘‘Textiles is a subset of the universal set Textile’’ (WorldEncyclopedia). In textile science, however, a textile is freely defined as “ any products made from fibers”. The term therefore refers not only to woven fabrics, but also to non-woven fabric; knitted fabrics and special fabric constructions (Anyam, 2005).The immense scope of the textile industry, according to Joseph (1977) makes it one of “the largest in the world as well as one of the oldest”

Textiles however, are more specific on the production of fabrics. It is a process that begins with fabrics (natural or man-made) and ends with the finished printed or non-printed fabrics. In this regard, Oguntona (1986) points out that:

Textile designs are strongly affected by the nature of techniques or method of production. Weaving, Dyeing, Printing, Knitting and Embroidery have specific design characteristics. Any design produced through these processes is bound to give varied effects in colour and texture. Identical designs when produced, for example, by batik or silk screen printing process exhibit completely different features. In weaving, designing is plotted first on point paper before it is produced through different mechanisms on the loom.

Most of the cloths and fabrics we use in the home for curtains, blanket sheets and upholstery are woven fabrics. Others are window shades, towels, cover for tables, beds and other flat surfaces, as well as “in art” (Wangboje, 2002).

Textiles have an assortment of uses, of which Anyam (2010) stated that apart from the domestic uses, they are also put to non-domestic applications:

In the workplace, they are used in industrial and scientific processes such as filtering, miscellaneous uses include flags, backpacks, tents, nets, cleaning devices such as handkerchiefs and rags, transportation devices such as balloons, kits, sails and parachutes, in addition to strengthening in composite materials such as fiberglass and industrial geotextile.

On the other hand, technical textiles are the products that are used primarily for their functional properties only. The industrial fabrics that are used for various industrial applications are also classified technical textiles. Technical textiles are devided into different categories known as: hometex, agrotex, clothtex, geotex, medtex, mabiltex, packtex, protex, and sportex; all these are produced by what  Hilton (1994) called “fabric construction .“

Structured design and applied structured design are achieved in the low construction of a fabric; these are the two types of low fabric construction design which are decorative works or art made on fabrics. This can be done by yarns combination as well as using yarns with special properties, and by “introducing novelty-type yarns.” It can also be done by making special woven structures or introducing extra weft yarn to form designs. Yet another way is by embossed, embroidered and flocked designs respectively (Nwaiwu, 1990: 150).

Nevertheless, fabric can be constructed in many different ways, mostly such fabrics are: Woven fabrics (plain weaves twill weave, satin and sateen weaves) (Gale, 1971). Knitted fabrics (flat and circular knitted fabrics, hose and half hose knitted fabrics); Felted fabrics; bonded fabrics (bonding with aid of thermoplastic fibers and fiber crises-crossing), Lace fabrics; Net fabrics, Braided fabrics; Laminated fabrics; Laminated plastics (laminated fabrics; Laminated filament and plastic coated yarns); Foam-back fabrics; paper fabrics and spun bonds fabrics (Hall, 1969). In this paper however, fabric design techniques shall be examined in the following:

  1.   Woven fabrics
  2.   Knitted fabrics
  3.   Bonded fabrics
  4.   Lace fabrics
  5.   Laminated fabrics
  6.   Foam-back fabrics



Woven Fabrics:

Woven fabrics are composed of at least two series of threads termed WARP and WEFT. The warp threads or ENDS lie lengthways in the fabric. The weft threads or PICKS intersect the warp at right angles and lie width ways in the fabric (Agu, 2001). Woven fabrics are universally manufactured with the aid of looms and the character of woven fabrics may also be varied by using special yarns in the warp and weft. Three steps are required.

  1. Shedding: The raising of one or more harnesses to spread the warp yarns and form a shed.
  2. Picking: Passing the shuttle through the shed to insert the filling
  3. Beating-up: The reel pushes the filling yarn back into place in the cloth.

Harness: Is a frame to hold a number of heddles.

Heddle:  Wire with a hole in the centre through which a warp is threaded. There are three basic weaves: plain, twill, satin and sateen weaves as stated below:

Plain Weave: Many fabrics are woven in plain or tabby weave, as this is the simplest method of interlacing the warp and weft, which can be produced on any loom. Plain or tabby weave is widely used for all types of woven textiles such as shirting, dress fabrics, suiting, curtain materials, household textiles and upholstery in both natural and man-made fibres alone, among others (Fig. 1)

        Twill Weave: In twill weaves, the interlacing of the warp and weft causes diagonal lines to be formed in the cloth. Fabrics in Twill include: Blankets,  and Gabardine among others (see Fig. 1). Satin Weave: Twill weave is the basement for satin weave and the interlacing of warp and weft gives a definite face and back to the fabric. This is achieved by spacing out, so that the twill lines are not so obvious and the least number of ends that form a satin weave is fine and this is called a five end satin. Satin cloth is used for dresses, cushion covers, curtains, coats and in good qualities for upholster and that these cloths can be woven in cotton yarns rayon’s, synthetic yarns alone or in mixtures (see Fig. 1).


Fig. 1 :  Plain woven structures



Weave: In pure Sateen weaves, the surface of the cloth consists almost entirely of weft floats. In the repeat of the weave, the weft passes over all, except one warp end. There are two kinds of sateen weaves, the regular and irregular, and the latter are entirely free from twill lines, giving them an advantage over regular sateens. Example of fabrics in satin and sateen weaves are: Amazon, Atlas, Beaver cloth, Divinity, Doeskin, Duchesse satin, Habit cloth, Japanese satin, Madras Shirting, Silesia, Venetian (Gale, 1980). (See Fig. 1)  

Knitted Fabrics

Knitted fabrics are composed of one or more series of threads interlocked in such a way as to produce a soft easily opened texture (Nwaiwu, 1990).Knitted fabrics today can be made very close and firm and can easily be mistaken for a woven fabric particularly when popular woven colour effects are introduced. Knitted fabrics are constructed of rows of stitches, each row hanging on the previous row, and there are many types of knitting machines which can rapidly produce such fabrics. Two types of knitted fabrics are produced, namely;


(i)            Flat and circular knitted fabrics

Large amounts of flat-knit fabric are produced with straight bar knitting machines for suitably cutting and then seaming to give various types of garments. The circular knitted fabric is largely used for underwear and often can be made into the necessary shapes with but little cutting (Hall, 1969).

(ii)           Hose and half hose

Men’s socks and ladies’ stockings are knitted on special machines which are largely automatic and allow complete socks or stockings to be produced without an operative being required to attend to the knitting of special tops, the heels, feet, and toes (Hall, 1969). If a fully-fashioned stocking is required instead of one in which the leg is seamless and which is only given some shaping by suitably varying the tightness of stitch from the top to the heel, then use must be made of a fully-fashioned knitting machine. This automatically produces a flat open fabric, which, when the free selvedges are sewn together which gives a stocking conforming closely in shape to that of a lady’s leg and foot. (See Fig. 2)

Knitted Fabric

Fig. 2: Knitted Fabric

Bonded Fabrics

Fibres are again involved and such fibres have increased with the increase of knowledge of man-made fibres (Agu, 2001). The two requirements for a bonded fibric are a web of fibres and a bonding agent which is in adhesive. A woven fabric or lace is bonded into a tricot acetate backing and has covering of vinyl. These fabrics can be used for rain coats as they are waterproof and can be made up by stitching or welding the material without the need for a lining. A very convenient and satisfactory method for making bonded-fibre fabrics has been developed. Thus Bonding with aid of thermoplastic fibres:

In this new method, the main bulk of loose fibres not sensitive to a high temperature are intimately mixed with a suitable proportion of those fibres which are heat-sensitive and which melt at a temperature not far removed from 100o C. the mixture of fibres is then made into a suitably thick layer and subjected to heat and pressure which according to Nwaiwu (1990) causes the small proportion of heat-sensitive fibres to soften and melt and bond together.

(i)            Fibre Cris-Crossing:

Fibre Cris-Crossing, addording to Hall (1969) the loose fibre mixture is passed through machine in which a blast of air effectively mixes the fibres and then enables them to be on a moving mesh belt of brattice in the form of a lap characterized by the fact that the fibres are distributed at random and in no particular direction. If several such laps are superimposed and fibre bonding then effected, the resulting non-woven fabric is equally strong in the length and the width directions. (See Fig.3.1, 3.2, & 3.3).




Lace Fabrics

These are made by twisting bobbins of fine yarns round each other in such a way as to form patterned open-work fabric. Lace fabrics are usually light in weight and the holes compose the pattern. “Tatting” is the process forming lace designs in loop and picots with threads and shuttle and tatting is commonly used for crafts, mats, collars and edging. It can also be put to cloths: for it adds elegance and is also for decorative purposes. The technique used in making tatting was developed over a period of time, so that the rings forming the motive are joined while working patterns. The bobbin is filled with thread incorporated in the shuttle, this is also removable. This is done carefully to avoid thread incorporated in the shuttle, this is also removable. This is done carefully to avoid thread dripping from sides of the shuttle. Though tatting looks delicate, it is quite strong and this is due to the thread used in making it. (See Fig. 4)


Laminated Fabrics

Traditionally, laminated fabrics were made by the amalgamation of two or more layers of woven fabric and the technique for producing multi-layer fabrics of this kind is to coat one of the fabrics with a suitable adhesive, super impose a second fabric, and then press the two fabrics together underconditions such that they become firmly united by the adhesive (Gale, 1978). The modern method for achieving the same result is quite different since it uses no adhesive as such. The method is to weave one or both fabrics so that they contain a proportion of heat-sensitive threads evenly distributed and the fabrics are then superimposed and subjected to heat and pressure to melt the heat-sensitive threads and allow them to be squeezed among the other threads and act as an adhesive (See Fig.5)Laminating_method

Foam-Back Fabrics

Foam -back fabrics is a new techniques in fabric manufacturing in which a very thin layer of synthetic foam sheeting is applied to the back of a woven or knitted fabric. Hall (1969) stated that a suitable adhesive is often used for this purpose, although, there is the alternative method of application of high temperature to one side of the foam sheeting so as to make it tacky and then pressing it against the fabric and thus securing good bonding (See Fig. 6)



        It is evident that the generality of people in Africa, and in Nigeria in particular are not aware of what happens in the textile industry the world over. It is therefore not a surprising thing for people to use the terms, textile and textiles interchangeably. Textiles have an assortment of uses and the most commonly known to the public is that of clothing, and the only fabric design method of production known is that of weaving. However, the twenty first century consumer can now choose among cotton, linen, wool, silk, rayon, acetate, triacetate, nylon, aramid, acrylic, modeacrylic, polyester, novo laid, vinyon, saran, viral, olefin azlon, spandex, rubber and glass. It is hoped that the article has adequately educated and informed the elite class on the subject matter.





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Wangboje, S.I. (1982) A Textbook on Art  For Junior Secondary Schools.  Ibadan: Evans Brothers (Nigeria Publishers Limited. Pp. 40 – 41.


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