Textile Yarns: Definition, Types & Classification

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  • 0:04 What is Textile Yarn?
  • 1:20 Classifications of…
  • 2:21 Types of Textile Yarn
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Have you ever looked closely at your favorite shirt? It's made of fabric with many woven textile yarns. But how is the yarn made? In this lesson, you will learn about types and classifications of yarns used to make textiles.

What Is Textile Yarn?

Every day we use things made with textile yarn. Think about the shirt you wear and the carpet you walk on. Have you ever thought about how that yarn is made? Textile yarn is a strand of natural or synthetic fibers or filaments. A fiber is a small short piece of hair. A filament is a long strand of a single substance. In textile yarn, individual fibers or filaments are wound together to make threads.

Textile yarn can be made with natural fibers from substances such as wool from sheep, silk from silkworms, or cotton and linen from plants. It can also be made with synthetic, or man-made, fibers created from a variety of substances like nylon, acrylic, and polyester.

The process of making yarn is called spinning. Yarn can be spun by machine or by hand. Yarn used for weaving tends to have a tight twist, smooth surface, and lots of lengthwise strength. Yarn for knitting has a looser twist.

Brightly colored cotton yarn used for weaving. The surface of this yarn is tight and smooth.
cotton weaving yarns

Many specific production methods result in an endless variety of yarn. Textile yarn is made in a global industry that involves many specialized technical terms. We can't cover them all here, but for now, let's explore basic classifications and a few types of yarn.

Classifications of Textile Yarn

All textile yarn is classified according to structure, or how they are made. In general, there are three basic classifications. Let's look at each of them.

  • Staple fiber yarns are made of many short staple fibers that are wound together to make yarn. This is the most basic classification of yarn. Most staple fiber yarns are made of natural materials.
  • Ply yarns are made of one or more strands of staple fiber yarns. A single ply yarn is a single strand of staple fibers held together by twisting. Two- and three-ply yarns are made of two or three single yarns twisted together. Multiple-ply yarns are used for fabrics that might require more strength or fabrics that need a desired surface effect.
  • Filament yarn is made of one or more continuous strands that run the entire length of the yarn. These are much longer than staple fibers. Silk is the only natural filament yarn. Most filament yarns tend to be made from synthetic materials created by mechanical or chemical processes.

Detail of wool knitting yarn with clear view of the ply
Detail of knitting wool yarn

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