AcrylicSpinning straw into gold?

By: Karen Brandon,Textile Fabric Consultants, Inc.

Did the fairy taleRumplestiltskin ever make you wonder if you could spin straw into gold?Can you really spin a gold fiber?Yes,you can.It isn’t made out of straw but the minerals, gold andsilver, can be made into a fiber.


Since ancient times goldand silver have been used as decoration in the clothing and textiles of kings,leaders, nobility and people of status.Manyof these elegant textiles can be found in museums around the world.However, today using gold or silver in our clothing is impractical andexpensive.Although some couturiers still use it in their textiles themodern substitute is metallic fibers.TheDobeckmun Company produced the first modern metallic fiber in 1946.Currently metallic fibers are manufactured primarily in Europe and noneare made in the United States.Inthe past aluminum has always been used as the base in a metallic fiber.More recently stainless steel has become a base as well.It is more difficult to work with but provides properties tothe yarn that allows it to be used in more high tech applications.


There are two basicprocesses used in manufacturing metallic fibers.The most common is the laminating process, which seals analuminum layer in between polyester or acetate film.These fibers are then cut into lengthwise strips for yarnsand wound onto bobbins.The metalcan be colored and sealed in a clear film, the adhesives can be colored or thefilm can be colored.There are manydifferent variations of color and effect that can be made in metallic fibers,producing a wide range of looks.

Metallic fibers canalso be made by using the metalizing process.This process involves heating the metal until it vaporizes thendepositing it at a high pressure onto the polyester film.Although this process makes the fibers more flexible and durable it isless commonly used.


The Lurex Company Limitedhas manufactured metallic fibers in Europe for over fifty years.They produce a wide variety of metallic fiber products including fibersused in apparel fabric, embroidery, braids, knitting, military regalia,trimmings, ropes, cords and lace surface decoration.The majority of Lurex® fibers have a polyamide film covering the metalstrand but polyester and viscose are also used.The fibers are also treated with a lubricant called P.W., a mineral basedoil, which helps provide ease of use.

MetallicFiber Characteristics

? True metal fibersare heavy in weight compared to other fibers.

? Coated metallicfibers do not tarnish.

? The film on ametallic fiber makes it insusceptible to salt water, chlorinated water orclimate conditions.

Metallic fibers can come in many formsincluding braids, ribbons, and chains.

End Uses

?The most common enduse for metallic fibers is upholstery fabric and textiles such as Lamé andbrocade.

?Many people also usemetallic fibers in weaving and needlepoint.

?More commonly todayyou can find metallic fibers in clothing, anything from party and evening wearto club clothing to everyday wear.Theshiny effect that the fibers create has become a symbol of the new millennium.

Metallicfibers are also used in places that you may encounter every day.

?Stainless steel andother metal fibers are used in communication lines such as phone lines and cablelines.

?Stainless steelfibers are also used in carpets.Theyare dispersed throughout the carpet with other fibers so that they are notdetected.The presence of thefibers helps to conduct electricity so that the static shock is reduced.These types of carpets are often used in high volume computer areas wherethe chance of producing static is much greater.

?Other uses include:

–Tire Cord

–Missile nose cone

–Work clothing such asprotective suits, space suits, cut resistant gloves for butchers and otherpeople working near bladed or dangerous machinery.


Thebest way to determine how to care for a particular metallic fiber in a fabric isto read the care instruction label.Ifyou cannot locate the label you should have the item dry-cleaned if at allpossible.Be careful when ironingmetallic fibers or fabric because the heat from the iron, especially at hightemperatures, can melt the fibers.

Metallicfibers can be used in a variety of ways to create a variety of effects, fromeveningwear to protective gear.Theyare becoming very popular in today’s fashion industry and in technicalapplications.Many designers have been using more and more metallic fibersand fabrics in their modern designs.Clothingthat resembles space suits and other futuristic ideals have started to gainpopularity.Modern advances intechnology reflect into our daily lives.One of these ways is the common use of synthetic and metallicfibers.


Sara J. Kadolph, Anna L. Langford, Textiles8th ed. Prentice-Hall, Inc. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 07458, pages 134-5.

Hatch, Kathryn.Textile ScienceWest Publishing Co.New York, 1993. Page 308.


Textile Fabric Consultants, Inc.

5499 Murfreesboro Rd. Suite D

LaVergne, TN37086

615-459-7510 / 800-210-9394





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