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Nylon Fabric Information

While silk, cotton, wool, and linen are all derived from plants or animals, nylon is an entirely synthetic fabric. Originally intended to be a man-made replacement for silk, nylon has extended its reach into a vast array of applications, from stockings to carpets to guitar strings. The term “nylon” is a generic descriptor for the family of synthetic polymers known as polyamides. First developed in 1938 by DuPont scientist Wallace Carothers, the invention of nylon was a direct result of World War II, during which the United States could no longer import silk and cotton from Asia. Before the war, silk was the sole fabric used in parachutes, and upon the onset of hostilities, American manufacturers began scrambling for a substitute. The DuPont Company, acting on the advice of the government to use plastic instead of metal whenever possible, began experimenting with plastic fibers. By 1938, nylon was being used commercially in hairbrushes and by 1940, women were wearing nylon stockings. However, though American women were quick to fall in love with the new nylon hosiery which was much cheaper than silk and resisted tears and holes, by 1941 America had relegated all nylon fabric to the war effort and the price of nylon stockings went from $1.25 a pair to $10 a pair on the black market. After the war, nylon was once again allowed to be used in hosiery production. Thousands of women flocked to New York department stores to buy what they now called “nylons”. When washing machines began to gain acceptance among the general public, nylon and nylon blends were touted for their amazing “wash and wear” qualities, meaning they could be washed and worn without ironing. Nylon fabric has a low absorbency rate, which makes it ideal for swimwear and sportswear. Nylon is often combined with other fibers, such as spandex and PVC, and can be woven into any pattern. It is often used in bridal wear and, unlike polyester and acetate, can be easily dyed. Nylon's uses are incredibly vast: it can be found in flags, toothbrush bristles, racket strings, machine parts and even sutures. Characteristics that have made nylon and nylon fabric in particular so popular include:

  • Rugged durability
  • Stretch and elasticity
  • Resistant to tears and abrasions
  • Resistant to heat and water
  • Resistant to molds, mildew, and chemical damage
  • Melts instead of catching fire

Due to the fact that nylon is a synthetic fiber derived from widely available ingredients, it is one of the most cost effective fabrics, making it ideal for beginning sewers or anyone who wishes to explore thriftier clothing options. And, because nylon fabrics come in all degrees of stretch and are great at wicking away moisture, they are perfect for leotards, jerseys, shorts, and any other situation requiring the freedom of movement. Nylon fabric is cool, durable, and extremely low-maintenance, which has lead to its meteoric rise in popularity over the past 70 years.

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