Information about nylon taffeta fabric

Written by alicia rudnicki
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Information about nylon taffeta fabric
Nylon taffeta is a popular fabric for fancy dresses. (Wedding bouquet the bride on background of wedding dress image by Aliaksandr Zabudzko from Fotolia.com)

Crisp, shimmering, smooth, white taffeta parades up the isles of weddings and first communion ceremonies. Once made only of natural fibres such as silk, taffeta has become more abundant since the discovery of nylon in the late 1930s. But nylon taffeta isn't just a pretty fabric available in a wide variety of colours and printed patterns. It is also a utilitarian material used in the production of objects as diverse as fake arteries and umbrellas.

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History of Taffeta

The "Textile Lovers Diary," found at the online website Beloved Linens, identifies taffeta as deriving from the Persian word "taftah," which it says means "to spin." Other fabric sites indicate that it means "twisted" and "woven" in that language. While silk taffeta may have originated in Persia, the website WiseGeek notes that "China, Japan, India, and Iran all have a history of taffeta production, originally on hand looms."

History of Nylon

Artificial fibres such as nylon made luxury fabrics such as taffeta more affordable in the 20th century. The Chemical Heritage Foundation notes that chemist Wallace Carothers invented nylon while researching "synthetic polyamides" beginning in the late 1920s for manufacturers that wanted an inexpensive silk substitute. The DuPont chemical company produced the first nylon stockings in 1939, but soon found that most of its nylon was needed for World War II military uses, including parachutes. After the war, Chemical Heritage says, nylon "came to pervade all aspects of everyday life."

Information about nylon taffeta fabric
Nylons replaced silk stockings. (Seemed Stockings image by Dulce from Fotolia.com)

Nylon Taffeta Clothing

While there are many kinds of nylon, taffeta is one of the most popular in clothing design. Fabrics Manufacturers, an online business-to-business website, says this is due not only to nylon's lustrous look but also to its strength, durability, ease of laundering and the fact that it "accepts colour well." Also, it was one of the first "wash and wear" fabrics.

Laundering Instructions

WiseGeek notes that while silk taffeta requires dry cleaning, nylon taffeta garments usually are machine washable and have laundering directions on their tags. It is a good idea to use a gentle spin cycle, then hang dry the garment. Companies that sell nylon taffeta shower curtains online, such as Homewell Group, suggest machine washing those items on a warm setting with gentle detergent, then hang drying them.

Information about nylon taffeta fabric
Nylon taffeta can be machine washed. (waschmaschine image by Stefan Häuselmann from Fotolia.com)

Sewing Taffeta

The online site Fabrics International, which says its mission is "to serve the needs of the worldwide do-it-yourself sewing community," notes that all taffeta poses sewing challenges. These include the necessity of zigzagging or serging edges since taffeta unravels easily and has problems with puckering. Fabrics International recommends that seamstresses "start new projects with a new, fine needle and change needles frequently."

Arteries to Umbrellas: Other Uses of Nylon Taffeta

Nylon's uses include making bristles for toothbrushes, canopies for marine/aviation rafts, handbags, sports shorts, submarine escape suits, umbrellas, underground pipe liners and windbreakers. The higher the "denier"—a number indicating tightness of weave—the tougher the fabric. Its light weight, as well as its toughness and tightness, is part of what makes it possible to use nylon taffeta for artificial arteries. So nylon taffeta is far more than a pretty party fabric these days.

Information about nylon taffeta fabric
Umbrellas are made from waterproofed nylon taffeta. (girl with umbrella image by Stokholm from Fotolia.com)

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