Fabric Manipulation Techniques

Fabric Manipulation Techniques

Shubham Anil Jain
Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited
Bangalore, India
Email: shubhamajain125@gmail.com


Fabric manipulation is also called as textile manipulations and is defined as playing with the fabric to change its appearance, drape or shape. Normally, aim is that, the fabric to become more dimensional, to go from flat to 3D. In another word it can be defined as, “Fabric manipulations are techniques that reshape a fabric or textile surface.” Generally, in fashion design, textile manipulation techniques create unique details and textures, and also influence the final shape and silhouette of the garment. Generally, the application of fabric manipulations is mostly done in fashion design, interior design, and textile art. It’s also a good way to upcycle old clothes and recycles fabric scraps.

fabric manipulation

Various Fabric Manipulation Techniques:

1. Smocking:
Basically, smocking is an embroidery technique is results in gathering of the fabric so that it can stretch. Initially, before elastic, smocking was commonly used in cuffs, bodices, and necklines in garments where buttons were not required. Smocking developed in England and has been practiced since the Middle Ages and is unusual among embroidery methods in that it was often worn by laborers. For smocking technique it requires lightweight fabric with a stable weave that gathers well. Cotton and silk are typical fiber choices, often in lawn or voile. Smocking is done on a crewel embroidery needle in cotton or silk thread and normally requires three times the width of initial material as the finished item will have.

Fig: Smocking

2. Tucks:
When it comes to sewing, a tuck is a fold or pleat in fabric that is sewn or fastened in place. Sometimes small tucks, especially multiple parallel tucks, may be used for decorating clothes or household linens. When the tucks are very narrow, they are called pintucks or Pin-tucking. Tucks are also used to shorten a finished garment, especially a child’s garment, so that it may be lengthened as the child grows by removing the stitching holding the tuck in place. Majorly they are sewn vertically and parallel, close together, in the chest area of a blouse or a festive men’s shirt. To form the tuck you can also insert a string.

Fig: Tucks

3. Shirring:
Shirring or is a kind of decorative technique in which a panel of fabric is gathered together with many rows of stitching across its entire length and then attached to a foundation or lining to hold the gathers in place. It is very commonly used to make larger pieces of clothing with some shape to them. Simply, it is two or more rows of gathers that are used to decorate parts of garments, mostly the sleeves, bodice or yoke. The term is also sometimes used to refer to the pleats seen in stage curstring. In the construction of digital 3D clothing shirring can be accomplished by applying a displacement map or normal map when rendering the digital clothing models in a render engine.

Fig: Shirring

4. Gathering:
It is a sewing technique used for reducing the length of a strip of fabric so that the longer piece can be attached to a shorter piece. It is commonly used in dresses to manage fullness, as when a full sleeve is attached to the armscye or cuff of a shirt, or when a skirt is attached to a bodice. When it is simple gathering, parallel rows of running stitches are sewn along one edge of the fabric to be gathered. The sewing threads are then pulled or “drawn up” so that the fabric forms small folds along the threads.

Fig: Gathering

5. Applique:
Here, different motifs or cut-outs from other prints onto a yoke or pocket to embellish a plain fabric and add interest to a garment. The basic, three ways to add applique to a garment are hand stitching, machine stitching or using fusible applique pieces. The use of applique can enhance pockets, hems and various types of home furnishings. One can use it on kid’s clothing, quilts, handbags, and clutches. The applique can be a picture or a simple monogram letter and can be done on your machine or by hand. The applications are limitless.

Fig: Applique

6. Quilting:
It is the terminology, given to the process of combining a minimum of three layers of fabric together either by stitching manually using a needle and thread, or mechanically with a sewing machine or specialized long arm quilting system. A series of stitches is passed through all layers of the fabric to create a three dimensional padded surface. The three layers are typically referred to as the top fabric or quilt top, batting or insulating material and the backing. A huge variety of effects can be employed by the quilter that contribute to the final surface quality and utility of the quilted material.

Fig: Quilting

7. Patchwork:
It is also called as “pieced work” and is basically a form of needlework that involves sewing together pieces of fabric into a larger design. The larger design may be based on repeating patterns built up with different fabric shapes (which can be different colors). These shapes are carefully measured and cut, basic geometric shapes making them easy to piece together. Patchwork is most often used to make quilts, but it can also be used to make rugs, bags, wall-hangings, warm jackets, cushion covers, skirts, waistcoats and other items of clothing.

Fig: Patchwork

8. Macrame:
This is a type of technique which involves knotting to make fabric with special macrame cords. One can use macrame to decorate the fabric or make the whole fabric with macrame. Here is a list of easy to make knots you can make with yarn/thread etc and add to fabric for that extra bit of texture which is knotty. Macramé is a form of textile produced using knotting (rather than weaving or knitting) techniques. The primary knots of macrame are the square and forms of “hitching”: various combinations of half hitches. It was long crafted by sailors, especially in elaborate or ornamental knotting forms, to cover anything from knife handles to bottles to parts of ships.

Fig: Gathering

9. Rhinestones:
Rhinestones are flat backed beads which can be sewn or glued on to the fabric to add sparkle to garments and accessories. Rhinestone fabric is any fabric covered with rhinestones or crystals. It can be lightweight and see-through like tulle or mesh, or thick and opaque like tweed or wool cloth. There are dozens of rhinestones that differ in shape, size and material. From acrylic to Swarovski, from flat-backs to pointed, from tiny caviar beads to statement crystals, there’s one for every design. Rhinestones are decorative items that look like real gems or precious stones. Machine-cut or molded, they have various degrees of light refraction that depend on their cut and quality.

Fig: Rhinestones

In several aspects it is found that, the fabric manipulation in its simplest construction, are very useful and helpful. From the point of functional, it provides ease in movement as well as comfort. Aesthetically, they maintain an elongated feminine silhouette and the lines also extend body movement. From other perspective, from the angle of social behavior of a society, however, for its users, the fabric manipulation are connected with traditional advantages, out of the trend, which might be contradicted with the youth conception as set aside in fashion. Fabric Manipulation on the other hand has more illustrations and colorful pictures that let see the results made in different kinds of fabrics. Fabric manipulation and ornamentation techniques make the garments into a one-of-a-kind piece of art.


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  5. Fabric Manipulation and its impact on Fashion Designs, Education (part 1), Nashwa El Shafei. PhD1, Laila Al Maghrabi. PhD

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