What is Lycra? Fabric Guide, Uses and Care

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What is Lycra? Lycra, also known as spandex or elastane, is a registered fabric made of polyurethane-based manufactured fiber. It was introduced in 1958 by the DuPont Company as a replacement for latex, a stretchy rubber-like material used in clothes. Many are interested in knowing what is Lycra as a material because it is widely used by many clothing companies. If you are interested in knowing the answer to this question, continue reading this article.

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Contents

What is Lycra?What are the Characteristics of Lycra?How Is Lycra Produced?What Are the Uses of Lycra?What are the Different Types of Lycra?Cotton Lycra FabricNylon Lycra FabricWool Lycra FabricHow Can I Sew Lycra Fabric?How Can I Maintain Lycra?What is Lycra – In Conclusion

What is Lycra?

Lycra is a registered brand for elastane and is a very stretchy synthetic fabric. Although it has various names, Lycra, elastane, and spandex are all made from the same material. That means all of these can expand 5 to 8 times more than their normal size. What is Lycra if it is similar to other polyurethane fabrics? Lycra is a polymer made of long monomer chains, and these chains are linked using a special acid type.

The difference between Lycra to other synthetic materials is that they can resist heat well. Therefore, it is considered a good material to add to highly sensitive fabrics such as nylon and polyester.

What are the Characteristics of Lycra?

What is Lycra in terms of characteristics? Elasticity is the best attribute of this fabric. As mentioned, once you release the tension, the fiber can be stretched up to 8 times before it goes back to its original form. It can be an ideal stretchy material.

In addition, it has great recovery and elastic quality, providing a good fit, flexibility, freedom to move, an excellent range of motion, and shape retention.

Lycra is also smooth, resistant to wrinkles, lightweight, and moisture absorbent. Because of its flexibility, it is durable and easy to maintain. You will not have pilling or static problems, and it is also breathable. Many athletic wear manufacturers choose Lycra because there are fewer muscle strains and muscle fatigue on the wearer. Moreover, detergents, lotion, body oil, and sweat do not damage the fabric.

You have to keep in mind that these characteristics differ depending on the amount of Lycra in the fabric. That is because many clothes are made from a combination of Lycra fibers and other fibers such as nylon, silk, and cotton. What is Lycra when it is used on its own? It can expand a lot. It can stretch 600% from its usual size. Nevertheless, the fabric can still function well for its purposes even when manufactured using other materials.

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How Is Lycra Produced?

What is Lycra and how is it made? It is made of purely synthetic fibers, all of the elements of the fabric are made in a laboratory. Even though many of the components used to make Lycra are organic, most of these components have been reformulated or changed to the point that they do not have similarities to their organic origin when Lycra fibers are made.

What are Lycra and what is its production process? There are 4 ways to create Lycra, but most of these have been completely eliminated. Even though some manufacturers utilize reaction spinning, melt extrusion for making elastane, or solution wet spinning, solution dry spinning is the method used to produce 95% of Lycra around the world.

What Are the Uses of Lycra?

Several types of consumer fabrics utilize Lycra. The amazing stretchability of this fabric is what makes it very well-liked by the clothing industry since the beginning of the production of this fabric. Nevertheless, it is very rare that Lycra is marketed on its own.

To increase its stretch, Lycra is often blended with other textile types. For instance, if Lycra is woven in wool, cotton, or polyester, the fabric is much stretchier. The increase in elasticity can be determined once Lycra is combined with another fabric. If 10% Lycra is added to the rigid fabric, it can expand roughly two times its normal size.

Lycra is also usually used in clothing that is shape-fitting. You can also see it used in sheer underwear for women and men. Many types of undergarments that are in close contact with the skin have some Lycra in them. There is also some Lycra in boxer briefs for men even though they are loose. The Lycra in the waistbands of these undergarments helps give them tightly in the abdominal area.

Not only in underwear, but Lycra is also found in the waistbands of loungewear, sweatpants, and other pieces of underwear or bottoms that have stretchiness to them. You can also find Lycra in many kinds of socks. If socks do not have this fabric, people will have a hard time putting them on and removing them because of the lack of elasticity.

What is Lycra, and how is it used in sports? Virtually all types of sporting gear have some Lycra in them. Sportswear such as the ones worn on swimming, hiking, or biking is made to be close to the skin. Lycra makes it possible for sportswear to be tight on the skin and comfortable at the same time.

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What are the Different Types of Lycra?

Part of answering the question of what is Lycra is discussing its different varieties. These are the different types of Lycra:

Cotton Lycra Fabric

This Lycra fabric is used to create shrink-free tops and shirts. This is an ideal option for durable and crinkle-free clothing because of the mix of Lycra and cotton. Many other pieces of clothing are made from this Lycra fabric as well. It is also easy to wash and maintain. You also do not have to worry a lot about staining since stains can be removed easily. Therefore, it is great for clothes.

Nylon Lycra Fabric

Many products are made from nylon Lycra fabric, such as couch covers, bags, handbags, and table covers, among many others, because of its sturdiness. Even though these products have a little shine, they last for a very long period. The shine can be seen when the light comes in contact with the fabric. Moreover, it is free-flowing and very smooth. It is low maintenance and lightweight. When the fabric is worn at night, the piece will look elegant and classy.

Wool Lycra Fabric

What is Lycra in suits and coats? Wool Lycra fabric is the ideal choice for these garments. That is because it keeps the wearer warm and looks nice. Suits and coats do not shrink because of the stretch properties—many people enjoy wearing suits like it because of the non-shrink feature. Also, the rigidness and fit are a must so that the suit coat looks great. It is recommended to get the right measurements when purchasing and stitching wool Lycra fabric. It will give the structure a perfect fit making it look much better.

How Can I Sew Lycra Fabric?

What is Lycra, and how can I sew it? Before using the fabric, you need to wash it first, just like any other fabric. You should wash it using cold water and line dry it after. You have to keep in mind not to tumble dry it since Lycra fibers can get damaged from high heat.

Sewing Spandex and LycraSewing LeotardsHow to Sew Stretch Fabric

When picking out the needle and thread, you must follow the fabric’s weave since most Lycra fabrics are blended. You can change the needle to a heavier or lighter one depending on the weight of your fabric. It is important to use stretch needles to prevent skipped stitches.

If the fabric you are working on is very stretchy, you can use small and close zigzag stitches to sew. This can hold the stitching in the seams so that they do not separate afterward. It is also recommended to gently stretch the fabric while you sew. This helps prevent the stitches from creasing and breaking. 

How Can I Maintain Lycra?

You need to follow the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure that your Lycra fabric can have a longer life. Many manufacturers of Lycra fabrics specify the details on how to wash and maintain the fabric properly and these can be found on the fabric tags.

What is Lycra, and how should it be maintained? Here are some general care tips for Lycra fabrics:

You should not use hot water to wash the fabric. This is because the Lycra in the fabric is sensitive to heat, so it can distort and make the shape of the fabric uneven.Dry cleaning and hand washing are some of the common ways of washing Lycra fiber. Nevertheless, you have to remember to choose the washing method indicated for the main fiber.Do not use chlorine bleach when washing Lycra.Do not hot iron fabrics that have Lycra. When you dry Lycra fabric properly, it will not have creases.

What is Lycra – In Conclusion

Now you know the answer to the question; what is Lycra? This fabric is a favorite because of its durability and sturdiness. It has a wide application not just limited to biking shorts or leotards because since it`s very versatile.

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