INTRODUCTION TO LYCRA YARN LYCRA is a registered trademark used for DUPONT¶s elastane fibres.
Elastane is a generic term, like polyamide or polyester. It defines a manmade fibre in which the fibre-forming substance is a synthetic chain polymer containing at least 85% segmented polyurethane. LYCRA elastane yarn has outstanding elastic properties ± very high stretch and recovery as well as high power at stretch (modulus). Its other important characteristics include good abrasion resistance, long wear life, strength, long flex life, resistance to daylight, to weathering, to mildew and to most chemicals. In addition, LYCRA is white or transparent in its natural state, and it can be dyed. LYCRA added to fabrics of non-elastic or ³hard´ yarns gives them stretch and recovery from stretch. This property makes them eminently suitable for a wide range of garments, an advantage which is recognized by the garment users, assuring the success of LYCRA with knitters, weavers and cutters. LYCRA in the stretch fabric is knitted or woven under tension. When relaxed, it trends to compact the fabric length and width to a ³jam point´. The ³hard´ fibre buckles when the fabric is³jammed´, and it limits the extension of the fabric when it is being stretched. Elastic fabrics are very often required wider and lighter than their width and weight at ³Jam point´. To ensure complete control of the desired physical changes, the processor must first determine the parameters of the ³jammed´ (fully relaxed) fabric, namely narrowest width, highest weight, corresponding wale and course or end and pick counts, greatest shrinkage and stretch in length and width. For this purpose a marked grey sample is boiled for 10-15 minutes, then it is dried relaxed, and measured. This check is especially important for the development of new fabric styles. Fabrics containing LYCRA elastane yarn require careful control of processing conditions top reserve the intrinsic elastic properties of the fibre, while obtaining the required fabric characteristics. These dyeing and finishing conditions should be chosen with care, because the performance of LYCRA elastane can be changed by prolonged hot/wet treatments, certain chemicals, excessive tension and high temperature. It is, therefore, necessary to be fully aware of the physical changes required to develop the desired weight, width, stability and stretch. Tension, temperature, concentration of process chemicals and the duration of treatments must be kept to a minimum, because they affect the elastic properties and the appearance of the finished goods. In particulars, the tension must be kept to a minimum during those steps which are carried out
at elevated temperatures, i.e. relaxation, hot wet processing, drying and curing. Although the use of high temperatures and tensions does not degrade LYCRA, fabrics containing it lose some power when they are hot ± stretched and this loss cannot be recovered.
Storage of Grey Fabrics
Most off-loom fabrics stay for some time in the grey room prior to wet processing. Storage conditions and the handling of greys affect heir quality. Good storage can help, while bad storage can reduce the quality of the finished fabric. Grey goods are doffed either in batches or in pieces and these are sent to the grey room. Stacking is undesirable, because : It will obstruct handling of bottom pieces that were stored first, the weight and pressure of the stack can use undesired moiré, folds or creases. It is best to keep the rolls of grey suspended horizontally, one be one, on metal axle-tubes. Light pieces can be stored individually in boxes. Storage of grey fabrics must be short to prevent yellowing or decay of LYCRA elastane by hard yarn finish or machine lubricants that might contain unsaturated fatty acids or fatty esters. The knitter, weaver, fibre supplier or coning oil producer should make sure by tests that the lubricants used do not discolour or degrade LYCRA during the normal course of processing. Before grey goods are put in stock for an extended period, they should be relaxed, thoroughly scoured and batched up again at controlled low tension (10-20% stretch over relaxed fabric) in order to remove the winding tension which might cold-set the grey fabric, and to prevent pleats and creases from setting and becoming permanent. If lag time is expected between operations, the fabric should be wrapped airtight, chemically inert covers, ideally black, to protect it from discoloration. This discoloration mostly affects batch edges and the external upper layers of unprotected fabric. Finally, it is recommended to avoid storage of grey fabrics for more than two months and total ways dispatch the oldest fabric first, so that the first fabrics into the grey room are first out to the dye house.
LYCRA elastane yarn withstands most of the conditions required for wet processing the other fibres with which it may be combined. However elastane fibres may be sensitive to certain chemicals used for rigid fabrics. LYCRA keeps its elastic properties almost intact when subjected to mercerizing, to carbonizing, to alkaline sourcing at 95O*C, to dyeing in strongly acid baths, to peroxide bleaching, to weak hypochlorite bleaching, to dry cleaning. One type of LYCRA elastane, i.e. LYCRA type 128C,reacts
differently to certain of these agents, as reported in Technical Information Bulletin L-515. Fabrics containing LYCRA are sensitive to unsaturated oils, greases, fatty acids and their derivatives, which tend to discolour and to degrade elatane yarns. Such compounds sometimes serve as lubricants for hard fibres and they vary from one yarn producer to another. Pine oil, use din printing cutting or barding, can also affect stretch fabrics. It is essential to make sure that these lubricants, if present, will not discolour or degrade LYCRA during the usual course of processing. Greys containing LYCRA which need storage for an extended period of time should be thoroughly scoured and dried to prevent any discoloration or degradation by an unsaturated finish. Further, the fabrics should be protected from any contact with grease during processing. In general, the duration of treatments and the concentration of chemicals applied in the wet process should not exceed the minimum necessary to attain the best performance of the treated goods. The duration and concentration of bleaching baths, the duration and pH of dye baths, the duration of solvent scouring, the treatments which involve caustic soda or acids, the selection of carriers for LYCRA/polyester dyeing, as well as resin curing catalysts and conditions, need particular attention. Fumes and other atmospheric pollutants may decrease the initial whiteness of fabrics containing LYCRA. Long exposure to ultraviolet light has a similar effect. This discoloration occurs more quickly in some localities than in others, because air pollution and climate vary widely. Such yellowing does not alter the wear performance of LYCRA, but fabrics or displayed garments may lose their customer appeal. During storage all fabrics and garments should be wrapped in chemically inert,airtight packing in order to prevent this effect
Selection of a particular processing route depends on the desired appearance, the required performance of the fabric in use and on fabric composition. Stretch textiles include a large variety of fabrics, each with their particular features, and it is impossible to advise one general process route for all of them. A standard discontinuous process suitable for most stretch fabrics comprises : Relaxation Heat ± Setting Scouring Bleaching / Dyeing / Printing Finishing
The first two steps involve LYCRA elastane directly and govern the future performance of the stretch fabric or garment, while the remaining steps must take into account the specific features of LYCRA in order to retain the best benefits of it.