Manufactured Fibers - Nylon

For most of us, Nylon has been around for ever.  For the most part, all of the tents that I own are made out of nylon. But, prior to 1931, if you wanted to purchase anything that was made of or contained nylon, you couldn't... it was not invented yet.

In 1931 American chemist Wallace H. Carothers told the world about a new fiber he called "66". It was later named nylon and nicknamed the "miracle fiber". Nylon was made from petro-chemicals, which are found in petroleum and natural gas.

The first experiments used nylon as sewing thread, in parachute fabric, and in women's hosiery. But in December 1941, the United States entered World War II and every bit of nylon was needed for parachutes, tires, tents, ropes, ponchos, and other military supplies.  It was even used for high-grade paper for U.S. money.

After the war, the demand for nylon stockings was so enormous that almost all nylon was made into hosiery.  By the end of the 1940s, nylon also was being used in carpets and automobile seats.

Textile Merit Badge Book, pg 23 | Photo Credit: @troop2riverside

Textile Terms

With the colder weather settling in, and the holidays on the horizon, this is usually the time of season that I break out the circular knitting looms and make a new hat to keep my noggin warm.  The portion of looking in the back of the book at the glossary to learn certain terms is not always the fun part of the merit badge... ok, it's never the fun part of the merit badge.  But, having a knowledge of the terms will help you understand the tools and material you are working with.  Especially when the person receiving the gift of your freshly knitted beanie thanks you and asks you if this was made with acrylic or organic fibers or if you used needles or a loom.

Textile Merit Badge

Requirement 4 - Explain the meaning of 10 of the following terms:
  • Warp - In a woven fabric, the yarns that run lengthwise and are interlaced with the weft (filling) yarns.
  • Harness - On a loom, the frame containing heddles through which the warp is drawn and which, in combination with another frame or frames, forms the shed and determines the woven pattern.
  • Heddle - On a loom, the main part of the harness that guides the warp yarns.
  • Shed - On a loom, the openingcreated between raised and lowered warp yarns through which the shuttle or other filling insertion mechanism carries the crosswise filling yarns.
  • Aramid - A kind of synthetic fiber, very strong and resistant to high temperatures. Kevlar and Nomex are examples.
  • Spandex - A highly elastic, synthetic manufactured fiber; it can be repeatedly stretched without breaking and will recover to its original length.
  • Sliver - A loose rope of untwisted or loosely twisted fibers produced in carding and combing.
  • Yarn - A continuous strand of textile fabers created when a mass of individual fibers is twisted together to create fabrics.
  • Spindle - A rod, usually made of wood, used in hand-spinning to twist the fibers drayn from the mass on the distaff, and upon which the yarn is wound as it is spun.
  • Distaff - A staff for holding fibers for spinning by hand.
  • Loom - A hand-operated or power-driven device for weaving fabrics.
  • Cellulose - A natural substance based on glucose (a sugar) found in the cell walls of plants. Cellulose is an important part of plant fibers like cotton and flax, and is the major raw material used for the manufactured fibers of rayon, acetate, and lyocell.
  • Sericulture - Raising silkworms to make silk.
  • Extrusion -  a process used to create objects of a fixed cross-sectional profile. A material is pushed through a die of the desired cross-section. (plastic fibers)
  • Carbon Fibers - Strong, stiff, thin fibers of nearly pure carbon.
  • Spinneret - The body part that a spider or caterpillar uses to spin silk for its web or cocoon; or, a metal plate or nozzle with tiny holes through which a chemical solution is extruded to make continuous filaments.
  • Staple - Short fibers, typically ranging from 1/2 inch up to 18 inches long. Wool, cotton, and flax exist only as staple fibers. Manufactured fibers can be cut to a staple lenght from the continuous filament.
  • Worsted - A tightly woven fabric made by using only long-staple, combed wool or wool-blend yarns. The fabric has a hard, smooth surface and no nap.
  • Nonwoven - Made of fibers matted, tangled, fused, glued, or melted together.
  • Greige Goods - (gray goods) Unfinished fabric; fabrics as it comes from the loom or knitting machine, before it has gone through any finishing processes.

Textile Merit Badge

  1. Discuss with your merit badge counselor the importance of textiles. In your discussion, define the terms fiber, fabric, and textile. Give examples of textiles you use every day.
  2. Do the following:
    1. Get swatches of two natural-fiber fabrics (100 percent cotton, linen, wool, or silk; no blends). Get swatches of two synthetic-fiber fabrics (nylon, polyester, acrylic, olefin, or spandex). Get a sample of one cellulosic fabric (rayon, acetate, or lyocell).
    2. Give the origin, major characteristics, and general content of each type of fiber obtained for 2a. Explain the difference between a cellulosic manufactured fiber and a synthetic manufactured fiber.
    3. Describe the main steps in making raw fiber into yarn, and yarn into fabric.
    4. Assume you will soon buy a new garment or other textile item. Tell your counselor what fiber or blend of fibers you want the item to be, and give reasons for your choice.
  3. Do TWO of the following:
    1. Visit a textile plant, textile products manufacturer, or textile school or college. Report on what you saw and learned.
    2. Weave a belt, headband, place mat, or wall hanging. Use a simple loom that you have made yourself.
    3. With a magnifying glass, examine a woven fabric, a nonwoven fabric, and a knitted fabric. Sketch what you see. Explain how the three constructions are different.
    4. Make a piece of felt.
    5. Make two natural dyes and use them to dye a garment or a piece of fabric.
    6. Waterproof a fabric.
    7. Demonstrate how to identify fibers, using microscope identification or the breaking test.
  4. Explain the meaning of 10 of the following terms: warp, harness, heddle, shed, aramid, spandex, sliver, yarn, spindle, distaff, loom, cellulose, sericulture, extrusion, carbon fibers, spinneret, staple, worsted, nonwoven, greige goods.
  5. List the advantages and disadvantages of natural plant fibers, natural animal fibers, cellulosic manufactured fibers, and synthetic manufactured fibers. Identify and discuss at least four ecological concerns regarding the production and care of textiles.
  6. Explain to your merit badge counselor, either verbally or in a written report, five career possibilities in the textile industry. Tell about two positions that interest you the most and the education, cost of training, and specific duties those positions require.