What Is A Micron?

Charlie Bradley Ross Monday, 4 August 2014

A micron (µm) is a thread's diameter. It is directly related to the quality of a fabric. How wide an individual thread is in a shirt or suit for example will define the drape, softness and strength of the fabric.


How Big Is A Micron?

HowBigIsAMicron

A Closer Look At Fibres

Here you can see just how different each fibre is. It's these differences that give raw materials different properties - some might be softer, retain heat well, wick away water and so on. It's really important that you know exactly how a raw material works, so you can take full advantage of the amazing properties in your own design. Reindeer hides, for example, are extremely durable and warm, so they are ideal to use on interior furnishings in freezing winters. Another example, wool fibres have natural cooling and warming properties, so it keeps us cooler when we're hot and warmer when we're cold. It is also naturally fire retardant! These properties make wool ideal for stuffing duvets and wadding for clothing.

Comparing Fibres Under A Microscope

These fibres are combined together to create a thread. This incredible photo shows a red thread threaded through the eye of a needle, so you can see just how tiny each strand of fibre is:

Thread Closeup
Red thread through the eye of a needle

What Is A "Super Number" Fabric?

The "Super Number" in fact originated from a marketing campaign to increase the sale of a certain fabric manufacturer. Consequently, the term is somewhat elusive, but is now applied widespread to wool suiting fabrics.

Super Fine Wool Offset Warehouse
Thanks Donna Karen A/W 2012 for the fabulous micron example!

In my opinion, we should adopt these super numbers for all our fabrics!  As it not only takes into account the ply of the fabric, but also the micron.  It indicates how fine a fabric is.  Super 100 fabrics are wrinkle resistant, and generally smooth out after a day or two of rest.

UltraFine_Wool_and_Cashmere_Midnight_Black-XzNLAJ
Super 160 wool - no ordinary wool!

What Super Number Should I Look For?

When it comes to suiting, anything above a Super 100 is ideal. They say a super 160s wool is a great starting point, with individual threads measuring around 15.75 µm. Anything less than 15.5 µm can be highly fragile. So much so that even a mild abrasion against the fabric can scrape the cloth, break fibres and damage its integrity.

 

I hope that's shed some light! Stay tuned for our next articles where I talk about "Ply", "Four Harness Weaves" and "High Twist Fabrics". You can also add your email address to our "Designer Insider Knowledge" list (at the top of this page in the right hand column).