fabric burn test

I’m making preparations to sew a hood, and I have scrap fabric that I thought would be perfect – supposedly wool.  Well, it’s been tortured (washed and dried) just in case I didn’t do it  the first time, and again, I was looking carefully at the fabric and thinking, hmmm…. did a burn test, and no, it’s not wool.  It might be a blend, at least, but pure wool wouldn’t produce that sort of nasty chemical smell!

However, it started me on another train of thought – it can be tricky for me to be sure of what I’m identifying based on the web resources out there (this one is particularly nice) – the descriptions are good, but some are so similar I’m not sure I’m getting it right.  So – wouldn’t it be a great project to get some fabric bits – pieces where you were very confident of the fabric content – and do a burn chart like that linked above except including photos of the fabric while burning and of the ash residue. So, questions – would it be useful?  Does it already exist?  and assuming the answers to the above are yes and no, do you want to help?  My stash doesn’t have all fabric types, after all!


2 responses to “fabric burn test

  1. I don’t know if there’s a good website of this, but I know I’ve seen pictures of the fabrics while they burn, the fabric after it’s burnt, the ash residue from the burned portion, and a description of how it burns and what it smells like as it burns.

    I probably saw it in my textiles textbooks or a slide show in one of my fiber science classes.

    What I used in school to help me identify unknown fabrics was a collection of zip-top bags each containing the fabric and ash of a post-burn sample of known fabric and an index card with the fabric name, general description of the fabric (hand, wrinkling, etc), my observations of the burn (flame color, extinguishing, smell, etc) and burn products (hard, crumbly, etc).

    Another fabric identification trick is to soak the unknown in bleach, which disintegrates any protein fibers. Rinse very well and dry the remains, then evaluate them as a separate unknown.

    Also always be sure to pre-wash a sample you’re going to burn so that resins and sizing don’t skew your identification results.

    One of the coolest fabric identification tools we had in school were dye solutions that behaved differently on different fabrics. Unfortunately these really only work if your uknown is the same nearly white fabric of the sample strips that are woven to contain tiny stripes of many known fiber types.

    • the pictures you describe are exactly what i’m thinking of. i can read about what it should look like, smell like, etc but i want to be sure!

      don’t think i knew that about bleach – or if i did, didn’t remember. coolness!

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