What is Lycra fabric?
Lycra fabric is the brand name for elastane material. This is a general term for any textile where elastane yarns have been used in its construction. It is strong and flexible, like rubber. It does not lose its shape or stretch when pulled and it has excellent recovery.
Lycra material can also be known as Spandex. It is a polyurethane based synthetic fibre, which has an exceptionally high degree of stretch and rapid recovery. Initially developed in 1958, it was created to replace latex rubber as a stretching agent in clothing. It is usually combined with other fibres, such as cotton or polyester and it is used in a huge variety of products – from fashion to medical equipment.
How is it manufactured?
Lycra is made up of a long chain polymer called polyurethane. This is produced by reacting a polyester with a diiscoyanate. The polymer is made into a fibre using a dry spinning process.
The unique stretchy attribute of Lycra fibres is a result of the yarn’s chemical composition. A block co-polymer process produces them. The long flexible blocks of polyurethane alternate with shorter, more crystalline segments. The longer portions provide the stretchiness and the crystalline segments create re-enforcing points. This is what makes it such a strong and durable fibre.
Purposes of Lycra fabric
Lycra is mainly used in the fashion and sportswear industries. It is a popular fibre choice for women’s undergarments and lingerie. It can also be used for homeware products, such as fitted sheets, or anything else that requires a degree of flexibility.
Because it doesn’t get damaged by sunlight, sweat or detergents, it is a very durable material. These are key reasons why it is such a popular textile for sportswear, activewear and swimwear.
Lycra is always combined with other fibres, however the amount of Lycra used is different for every end use. For fashion items, as little as 2% Lycra is added to give the garment shape retention, drape, movement, and form. High performance garments – such as those used in activewear – require more Lycra fabric. These can contain up to 20 – 30%.
Lycra material is a flexible and forgiving fibre. When combined with other fabrics, it can provide security, comfort, and support.
Some of the most notable properties of Lycra fabric include:
- Stretchy and very flexible
- Can be stretched to 4 to 7 times its initial length
- Springs back to original length when released
- Excellent ageing and mildew resistance
- Durable and strong
- Always combined with other fibres
- Easily dyed
- Resists pilling and abrasion
- Moisture wicking
- Excellent holding power
- Machine washable
Advantages of Lycra fabric
Lycra comes with a plethora of advantages, that makes it a pleasure to wear and gives the wearer many benefits. When you blend Lycra with other fibres, there are even more advantages.
Lycra material is very popular in clothing and sportswear, since it is lightweight and breathable. It is also extremely comfortable, as it gives you support while remaining flexible. Another advantage for wearing Lycra is that it is moisture wicking. The material dries very quickly, making it an ideal choice for athletic and swimwear.
This strong and durable fabric is naturally bacteria resistant. It also blocks ultraviolet rays, giving it an advantage for outdoor clothing.