I have been shopping at many second hand stores, and vintage boutiques for as long as I can remember. When I was a small child, or perhaps even an infant, my Mother and I would visit local thrift shops to find great quality clothing at discount prices. As I grew into adolescence, my love for "thrifting" only increased. I recall a trip to my Grandparent's hometown of Laredo, Texas, where when asked where I would like to go, I replied, "The local Thrift Shops!" My older aunts were surprised that I was perfectly content purchasing a few second-hand blouses and cassettes, when most teenagers my age were seeking name brand garments at the local mall.
My Step-Mother, Kathy, also shares my love of thrift store shopping. Kathy, has an eye for designer handbags, shoes, and clothing, and can often find amazing designer labels for insanely low prices. When I was about 16 years old, my parents, my sister, and I, were invited to a formal event in San Francisco. It was the winter season, and my Step-Mother suggested we purchase a fancy coat to go along with my formal gown. The three of us, My Step-Mother, sister, and I, visited a few local second-hand boutiques, before finding a lovely black coat, that appeared to be genuine Fur. Due to the price and feel of the garment, my Step-Mom was pretty certain it was indeed real Fur.
I kept this coat, hanging in my closet, along side all of the other coats I have accumulated over the years, but honestly, never had a reason to wear it again. Wearing real Fur can be controversial, and I have not attended any high end, luxurious parties or events. The coat has sat in my closet, in a garment bag, all of these years...
While attending Fashion Design College, I took the course, "Textiles for Fashion". I really enjoyed learning about the different types of textiles available, and the proper ways to use different textiles in various fashion projects. In addition, we were taught how to identify the fiber content in fabric!
The Burn Test Method...
One such method of identifying fabric fibers, is called The Burn Test (or Flame Test). To use this method, cut a fiber or thread from the garment in question. You will want to use tweezers to secure the fiber. Once you have the fiber held firmly with the tweezers, simply hold a flame, from a lighter, to the fiber. Depending on the type of fiber you are holding, you will notice a difference in the way the fiber burns and the way the fiber smells while burning. These tell-tale signs will help you to identify what type of fiber you may have.
Protein Fibers are fibers that are created using natural animal sources. These fibers include, but are not limited to, Wool, Silk, Mohair, Cashmere, or Angora. According to the web-site,
TextileSchool.com, "In general, protein fibers are fibers of moderate strength, resiliency, and elasticity. They have excellent moisture absorbency and transport characteristics. They do not build up static charge."
When using The Burn Test, if the fiber burns slowly, and smells of burnt hair, it is a Protein Fiber!
Cellulose Fibers are fibers that are created using plant based material. These fibers include, Cotton, Linen (made from Flax), Rayon (made from wood pulp), Hemp, or Bamboo (just to name a few). These fabrics are then used to create a wide range of fabrics, with a wide variety of usage.
When using The Burn Test Method, if the fiber ignites quickly and smells of burnt paper or leaves, it is a Cellulose Fiber!
Besides, Protein and Cellulose Fibers, a third type of fiber is also readily available and widely used. Developed in the late 1800's, Synthetic Fibers are man-made, artificial fibers. Interestingly, some such fibers may be made using wood, but due to the manufacturing process, they are considered "Synthetic". Synthetic Fibers include Polyester, Nylon, Spandex, and Kevlar. The list of Synthetic Fibers continues to grow, as new methods and combinations of materials are developed constantly.
Benefits of using Synthetic Fibers include its resistance to being eaten by bugs such as moths, which do consume Cellulose Fibers, or the absence of fungus and molds that can sometimes attack natural fibers. Synthetic Fibers also last many years if cared for properly. However, the durability of Synthetic Fibers cause these fibers to be non-biodegradable, which is a huge factor in environmental waste that is such a concern today. I own several Polyester blouses made in the 1960's and 1970's, that aside from a few seams being mended over the years, they are still in perfect condition to this day!
When using The Burn Test, you will find that a Synthetic Fiber shrinks away from the flame and smells of burnt plastic!
Here is a more detailed chart of common Burn Test results:
I found that learning about The Burn Test Method of identifying fabric was very interesting and easy! While learning of this method in my college class, I decided to bring my Vintage Fur Coat, to test the fiber with my professor. I cut a small strand of fiber from the coat, and collar, and burned the fibers. The fibers immediately smelled of burnt hair, which we were then able to conclude that the coat was authentic animal fur!
If you ever question the fiber content of your garment, particularly vintage finds, that may not have a fiber content label, try The Burn Test Method to verify what the garment is made out of. By knowing the fiber content, you can better care for the garment, and perhaps preserve it for many years to come!
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I hope that you have a fantastic day!
Hello Readers! Welcome to my Blog! I am Roxanne Rodriguez Rangel, a Fashion Designer from Northern California. I love all things Fashion, particularly historical fashion! Join me, as I take you around Northern California, covering fashion events and related topics!