Undoing the woven to see the fibres

100% cotton? That remains to be seen.

Fabrics are made of threads that are made of fibres, of filaments or sometimes of both.

In order to analyse the fibres of a fabric it will be necessary, in the first place, to extract the threads of the fabric, and then to extract the fibres of the threads. 

Thread extraction

Detail of the thread without untwisting

Sometimes, filling and warp knit have different characteristics and composition. For example, we can have more resistant threads in the filling and others with an aesthetic function in the warp knit. This has to be taken into account when analysing fabrics and therefore, it will be necessary to extract filling yarn and warp knit separately.

Once we have the threads, the obtaining of the fibres or filaments will imply a reverse handprocess of the spinning : untwisting and separation of fibres.


Manual thread untwisting


Separation of fibres



Separated fibres to be seen under the microscope


When we have fibres already separated, one or two fragments is placed on the microscope slide, a tiny drop of Canada balsam is added to fix the fibre and it is covered with the slide cover. The preparation is ready to be seen under the microscope. The microscope allows seeing the fibres enlarged. The zoom of the microscope depends on the product of the ocular magnification and the lense.


Image under the microscope: one of the fibres


To obtain this microscope picture, we have applied a 10x ocular and a 10x lens; the magnification will be then 100 and any length is multiplied 100 times. When it comes to area and given that the surface has squared length dimensions, for this 100 line magnification we have a 10000 surface magnification.

Cotton fibres present convolutions or foldings in the shape of tape. These are only visible under the microscope. All fibres obtained from this fabric look like in the image above. 

Indeed, 100 % cotton.

Salvador J. Ros Turégano
Photographs by: Irene de Jáudenes Bernabé
Microscope photography by: Jose Ignacio Pérez Tormo
Translated from Spanish into English by Edu Grao and Alicia Hergueta


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