Loom – traditional method of weaving

Cloth, textile or fabric are similar names for manufactured material. They are made by weaving or knitting fibres together. Cloth can be made from natural fibres or man-made ones.

  • natural fibres – cotton, wool, and silk.
  • man-made fibres – nylon, viscose, and polyester
  • e-textiles – fabrics with embedded electronics, sensors, motors, lights and small computers

Loom – a machine for weaving thread or yarn into textiles. Looms can range from very small hand-held frames, to large free-standing hand looms, to huge automatic mechanical devices.

  • weaving – the interlacing of two sets of threads at right angles to each other to form cloth. One set of threads is called the warp. These threads are held taut and in parallel order on the loom by harnesses creating a space called the shed.
  • yarn, thread – a long, continuous length of fibers that have been spun together. Some consist of core fiber, with another fiber of a different material wrapped around it, to produce a fiber with different properties than either of the combined fibers.


Polyester - viewed with an electron microscope
Polyester – viewed with an electron microscope

What’s the problem?

Bomb-proof curtains (video 9:58) – There are many interesting areas of research in textiles. Imagine having a fabric that can made into curtains to protect against bomb blasts]]. A new type of material, one that gets thicker rather than thinner when you stretch it, this is called an ‘auxetic’ material is being developed.

  • Ask – What happens when storms or bombs cause windows to break? How can damage caused by flying glass be reduced? By making curtains of a special fabric, the small pieces of glass can be stopped and collected.
  • Imagine – What are some properties that this new fabric needs to have? Are there examples of other materials with these same properties? How can computer modeling be used to get the correct properties for the final cloth?
  • Design, Build – How are the curtains be tested to demonstrate that they are effective?
  • Improve – By analysing the results of these tests and computer models, engineers are working out the details for producing fabric will provide protection against the flying glass.

That’s engineering

  • shear – the deformation of a material substance in which parallel internal surfaces slide past one another
  • fracture – separation of a body into more than one piece under the action of stress
  • absorption – something takes in another substance in a physical or chemical phenomenon or process

Engineering ideas

  • fiber, test, material, stretch, auxetic, stiffness, conventional, strength, wrap angle, blast energy, pressure sensitive, deformation, elasticity, tensile strain, shear resistance, fracture toughness, sound and vibration damping, ultrasonic energy absorption

Do it
Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • Weave a pattern – see how different patterns can be woven into cloth as it is being made.
  • Find some examples of other specialty fabrics that are being developed? What are the properties of the fibers and the fabric?
  • Some of the properties of auxetic materials are shear resistance, fracture toughness, sound and vibration damping, ultrasonic energy absorption. Suggest some uses or places for these special new materials.

Learn more…