Textiles for Shoe Design:If you want to learn how to design shoes you must have an understanding of fabrics. Fabrics, or textiles, are a miracle material for footwear designers! With an infinite variety of weaves, knits, colors, patterns, and special features, textiles have a special place in footwear design. You will find fabric inside and outside on footwear, even on shoe bottoms. The polymer fibers such as nylon and polyester are lightweight and durable. Lycra is stretchable and cotton canvas is a must for vulcanized construction and has a look all its own.
When considering any textile for your shoe design there are five things to consider. The thread size, fiber composition, weave pattern, backing material, sizing, and surface treatments.
The basic building block for fabric is…of course, thread! Denier is how thread weight is measured. 1 denier = 1 gram per 9000 meters of thread. Typical deniers are 110D for very lightweight fabric, 420D to 600D are common in shoes, 1000D for boots and bags.
Fiber Types:Footwear textiles come in many fiber types including cotton, wool, nylon, polyester, polypropylene, rayon, and lycra. Each has their own look and physical properties like water absorption, stretchability, UV resistance, and colorfastness. For shoe design, polyester and nylon are very common. Stretchable lycra is often used for bindings and linings. Cotton is a must for vulcanized shoes as synthetic fibers tend to melt. Natural fibers like cotton or wool will accept finishing treatments. Cotton canvas shoe uppers can be salt or stone washed before assembly to give the shoes a special character. Cotton can also accept an oiled or waxed finish, but this must be done after the shoe is assembled. Oily or waxed canvas cannot be easily bonded to the shoe outsole during assembly.
The Ultimate Shoe Material Textbook
There are many ways to “weave” the fibers together. In a woven pattern, two fibers cross each other. The fibers running the length of the fabric are called the “warp”. The fibers running across the fabric side to side are called the “weft”. The more typical “plain” square weave has an equal number of fibers in the warp and weft. There are many weaves: plain, twill, satin, basket, doddy, and ripstop.The “knit” is the other common way fibers are joined. In knitted fabrics, the thread follows a meandering path forming symmetric linked loops. These linked and meandering loops can be easily stretched in different directions giving knit fabrics more elasticity than woven fabrics. Depending on the fiber type and knitting pattern, a knit fabric can stretch as much as 500%. Common knits types are jersey, interlock, double knit, and ribbed. High-tech “air” mesh or 3D mesh is made by knitting. Also known as sandwich mesh, the inner surface can be smooth and act as the shoe lining.