Man-Made Fibers: Nylon

Today, let’s talk nylon!  Nylon proves to be one of the most recognized man-made fibers for the hand-spinner, but how much do we really know about it?

First produced in 1935, nylon wasn’t commercially available in the United States until 1939, where it was demonstrated at the World Fair and used for toothbrush bristles and women’s nylon stockings.

Nylons actually represent a group of fibers referred to as polyamides and are created using petroleum or natural gas, air and water.  The chemical process creates the long chain polymides which are then melted, spun and stretched to give it the desired properties.

from the Man-Made Fiber Fact Book

These properties might include:

  • Elasticity
  • Luster
  • Resilience
  • Low moisture absorbency
  • Abrasion and damage resistance
  • Superior dye acceptance

In commercial production, nylon is used in a wide variety of products: carpet, tents, hosiery, rope, suits, toys, parachutes, etc.

In hand-spinning, it also sees some regular uses.  For example, firestar is a type of nylon.  It is made to have a sparkly luster and is used as a blending fiber to add sparkle to yarns.  Various “blending nylons” are available as well which tend to have less luster, but are used to add strength to a fiber blend.  Blending nylons and firestar are regularly added to fiber blends meant for the creation of sock yarn, which needs added strength to stand up to the wear and tear which socks receive.

Nylons are also used to produce faux fibers, fibers which aim to replicate certain natural fibers as a lower price point.  You might run into faux angora, faux mohair or faux cashmere.  These fibers can come close, but don’t usually perfectly replicate the intended fiber.  That doesn’t mean  they’re not fun to spin!

Man-Made Fibers Fact Book, , Man-Made Fiber. Producers Association, Inc. 1978.

Blakinger, Keri (April 30, 2016). “A look back at some of the coolest attractions at the 1939 World’s Fair“. New York Daily News. Retrieved 10/09/2018.


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