top of page

ponder craft & design


Materials of the Trade


How much use will you be giving the garment?

Fabrics should have consistent and appropriate tension throughout the work.

All vessels and wall weavings made of felt or other fibres should be solid and sturdy, able to hold its shape over time.

Pay attention to labelling, especially when shopping for items that will come in contact with skin or children. Be aware of allergies and inhalation hazards.


Are all thread beginnings and endings properly secured?What is the likelihood of threads coming loose over time?

Are fabrics pre-treated for shrinkage and any texture changes, to ensure quality consistency with the final product?

Labelling on clothing and textile items are subject to Federal Government labelling legislation. Some items require permanent labels (able to withstand 10 washes) and others require non-permanent labels. Both require dealer contact information and fibre content percentages.


Labelling should also identify any washing or care instructions, fibre content and any colour pigments applied to the work.

Ask about the fibre process, such as colour-fasting. Fibre materials must be lightfast/colour-fast, before use. Ensure the piece’s design and quality are durable enough to last and withstand its intended use.

...Ask the Artist About

The Material

The word "textile" comes from the Latin word texere, meaning "to weave". Textile, fabric and cloth are words that are generally interchangeable. They refer to anything made from fibres or fibrous materials. 


Textiles are made by using either natural or synthetic fibres. Until the late 1800s, all textiles were made from natural fibres, including linen, cotton, silk, and wool.  Today, many who work with natural fibres continue to collect, harvest, and clean their own raw materials as an integral part of the making process.  


Industrialization and new technologies offer an ever increasing range of synthetic and natural fibres to the maker. Today, we also have synthetic fibres such as nylon, polyester and acrylic.



Identifying Features:

Textiles are materials, composed of a woven, knitted, felted or chemically bonded network of either natural or artificial fibres. Depending on the source of the fibre, the texture, flexibility and workability may vary, making certain fibres more suitable for particular uses and needs.



Textiles come from a variety of different means in a variety of different forms of fibre. To list a few:

Raw or natural fibres come from animals (ie. wool, silk, leather), minerals (ie. asbestos, much less common due to its health concerns from prolonged exposure), or plants (ie. hemp, sisal, cotton, soy, cedar, seagrass, linen, ramie, cellulose pulp). Natural fibres can be hand-worked or commercially spun into textiles.

                Processed or synthetic fibres include polyester, rayon or microfibers. Since synthetic fibres are artificial, they are typically identified as commercial fabrics (produced, processed and woven in factories alike).

                Today, many textiles are clearly identified as to whether the fabric is new, or a recycled garment. As well, many more textile manufacturers are experimenting with recycled plastics and ethically sourced and spun fibres – concepts even embraced in many brand name fashion companies today.


Common Uses:

Textiles are everywhere. From what you wear, clothing and bags, to your home, carpeting and upholstering, to sculptural and decorative arts, not to mention various cultural and religious textile traditions and belongings.



Identifying Features:

Paper can appear in a variety of different textures and colours, from smooth to rough, soft to stiff, virtually any colour of the rainbow. So varied, that sometimes you may not even realize the material you are using is, in fact, a product made from plant fibres.



Paper is a plant-based product composed of hand-collected plant fibres; such as from wood or grasses. Plant fibres or cellulose pulp, are moistened and pressed together. Then, the pressed fibres are dried into flexible sheets, forming what we know as paper. The material can then be sculpted, layered, moulded and dyed.


Common Uses:

Paper is primarily used in stationary – notebooks, cards, post-it notes. However, paper is also used for many other industrial and construction purposes, such as packaging and even cleaning supplies; the list is endless.

For information about basketry and leather, see 



Creating Materials:

Felting: A means of matting, condensing and pressing fibres together to produce felt. Felt can be made from natural fibres (wood) or synthetic fibres (acrylic), or a blend.

Knitting: Uses two pointed needles to wrap and loop strands of yarn around the other, producing a continuously interlocking textile. With knitting, multiple stitches are open at the same time, the loops transferring between needles as you stitch. There are many different patterns and stitches that can produce a variety of designs (ie. Cable knots, etc.).

Macramé: A textile-making process where rather than weaving or knitting, the fabric is interlocked through knotting. Historically used by sailors to decorate knives, bottles or ships, today macramé is used in belts and jewellery, such as friendship bracelets from your childhood.


Netting/Lace Making: Done by hand or machine, the process of looping and twisting threads to create intricate, web-like patterns. Linen, silk and now cotton or synthetic fibres are used.


Paper Mache: A malleable mixture of paper strips or pulp, and an adhesive, such as glue, starch or wallpaper paste, which hardens when dry. Paper Mache can be reinforced with textiles, or layered over objects as it cures, to form 3D sculptures.

Quilting: A technique where two or more layers of fabric are sewn together (machine or by hand), creating a thicker padded material. Quilting is typically made with three layers: the top fabric consisting of the surface design, the insulating or padding material, and the backing material.


Rug Hooking:  A labour intensive technique that uses a rug hook to pull 40cm - 60cm lengths of fabric strips through a loose even weave linen, burlap, or cotton substrate creating a loop pile.  Different materials and techniques are used to make durable floor rugs, decorative wall hangings, and three-dimensional works.  Please note - this is not latch hooking where a latch hook is used to knot uniformly cut lengths of yarn into a cotton/polyester mesh creating a shag rug pile.


Spinning: The twisting together of strands of fibres to form yarn/thread, which is then used to produce various textiles.


Weaving: the process where two distinct sets of threads are interlaced to form a fabric. The horizontal running threads are called the weft, and the vertical threads are the warp. Different methods, tensions and tools used in weaving affect the appearance and function of the final fabric.


Wet Felting: When warm soapy water is applied to layers of animal fibres, which is then repeatedly agitated and compressed. This process can only be performed on animal fibres, as plant and synthetic fibres lack the ‘scales’ found on the animal hairs that allows them to hook together to form the new material.


Discharging: A means of dyeing materials where the dye is subtracted from the fabric rather than added; typically with the use of bleach.


Dyeing: A process for colouring fibres that can be performed at any stage of the fabric-making process. Dyes can be aniline (chemical) or natural. Specific fibres must be dyed with specific dyes, where often a mordant is required. Resists are used to create patterns during the dying stages.

Surface Design:

Beading: Process of ornamentation where a design is created by stringing beads onto a thread, thin wire or directly on the material, using a sewing needle.

Braiding/Coiling/Twining: Methods that move beyond Spinning, where multiple threads are combined to produce thick strands of fibre. These techniques are common in basketry.


Collage: Using a variety of fabric pieces to create a surface, this is different from quilting, as the pieces themselves are not stitched together.


Conditioning: It is important to take proper care of your leather to ensure it keeps its standard of quality. Saddle Soap is often used for cleaning, conditioning and softening leather.


Crocheting: Similar to Knitting, crocheting is the process of interlocking yarn to produce a textile but uses a single hook instead of two needles. Crocheting also differs in that each stitch is completed before proceeding to the next stitch.


Emboss/Deboss: The process of creating raised or recessed relief designs in the paper. Embossing is typically done with a press, where metal plates shape the paper. The paper is compressed between a raised plate and a recessed plate, pressing the paper into the recessed plate, resulting in an embossed imprint on the other side. 


Hand Embroidery: Made with a range of types and thicknesses of threads to embellish or draw on the surface of a base fabric. Using frames and hoops to keep tension in the fabric, hand embroidery employs needles, scissors, threads and yarn to decorate the surface material. 


Machine Embroidery: There are two main types of machine embroidery, Free Motion and Computerized. Free Motion sewing uses a basic zigzag sewing machine, where the artist still has to control the fabric as it is fed through the machine. Computerized sewing uses a digitized embroidery design file that is programmed into the machine; the computer directs the needle/design, while the artist simply ensures no tangles or errors occur.


Printing: A process for patterning a fabric with (repeated) text or images in a timely manner and with consistency, using a template.


Block printing: The earliest known form of printing, originating in China. Wooden or metal blocks are carved out with a design, coloured with pigment, and then transferred onto fabric. 



Digital Printing: With the introduction of home computers and design programming, contemporary printing has become much more accessible. An image can be printed on paper, iron-on materials or directly onto the fabric using a design straight from the computer. 


Eco Dyeing/Printing: A combination of both dying and printing, this technique uses organic materials (leaves, seeds, bark) as the stencil, placed directly onto the fabric. The fabric is folded and tightly bundled with the stencils, then steamed in water and left to soak for as long as several days. After removal of the leaves and organic plant materials, the garment is rinsed before any further natural dying or fixing. The result is a delicate colouring of familiar organic shapes.


Stencilling: Produces an image by placing a template or object with a design cut out, typically paper, wood, metal or plastic, onto a material, and then applying a pigment over top. Upon removing the stencil, the fabric is left with a print of the cutout design. Stencilling is a quick and reusable technique, commonly used for creating clean lettering. 


Transfer Printing: The process of printing dye onto paper in a desired pattern, and then transferring said pattern onto fabric with the application of heat and pressure.

For Your Reference

Artificial Leather: A fabric or finish meant to imitate that of leather, but without the cost or ethical concerns of authentic leather. Typically, a plastic-type shell coating will cover a synthetic polymer or fibrous base layer (ie. Polyester).


Colour-fast/Lightfast: A property of dye/pigment that characterizes how resistant the fibre/colour is to fading when exposed to light. The higher the colourfast, the more resistant the fibre is to fading. Some natural dyes tend to be less colourfast.


Fabric Construction: Refers to the structural process and integrity of a fabric – the most basic interlocking techniques of weaving, knitting, macramé, etc. that produce the textile.


Deckle Edge: Refers to a paper’s feathered edge, opposed to a clean cut edge. While hand-made paper typically has a natural deckle edge, commercially produced paper can be artificially cut to mimic a deckle edge.


Mordant: A substance that combines with a dye or stain, allowing it to properly fix to fibres of a specific material. Different dyes react differently to different mordants, depending on the desired shade/colour. Modrants help colourfastness.


Resist: A substance used in dying fibres to block dye from reaching certain areas of the fabric. A resist can be in the form of a paste that is applied onto the fabric, or as a bind such as the tying of threads around fabric to prevent the dye from penetrating these specific areas.


Surface Design: Refers to any fibre techniques used for ornamentation – of clothing, placemats, etc.

bottom of page