The Latest Patterns in the Textile Industry The Buzz


The textile industry is one of the most important industries in North America. Textiles are used in everything from the socks we wear to the cars we drive.

If you want to work in some aspect of the dynamic textile industry, you could potentially find work anywhere.

Textile and fiber production are among the oldest industries in the world. For thousands of years, humans have woven, knitted and spun a limited number of natural materials into various forms of clothing, carpets, home furnishings and other goods.

Until the 18th century, the textile industry was limited to producing cloths and fibers from a small number of fibers found in nature, including cotton, linen, silk and wool. However, natural fibers are scarce, expensive and fragile. Linen, for example, wrinkles easily; silk is rare, and wool is prone to shrinkage.

It was not until synthetic (man-made) fibers were discovered that the textile manufacturing industry really made an impact on our lives.

Nylon created a revolution in the fiber industry when it was invented in 1931. Unlike the manufactured fibers that came before it, such as rayon or acetate, which were developed from plant cellulose, nylon was completely synthesized from petrochemicals. The emergence of nylon as a fiber that could be used virtually anywhere opened new doors for fiber manufacturing.

According to Khaled Mezghani at the Center for Materials Processing in Tennessee, the textile industry manufactures fibers for many different uses.

"Textiles today are used not only in fashion design but in all areas of life, such as home furnishings, medicine, aeronautics and pharmaceuticals."

Opportunities in Textiles

Today, the textile industry uses cutting-edge technology to produce and manufacture new multifunctional fibers for use in the home and the workplace. The industry employs thousands of highly specialized individuals in areas such as chemistry, engineering and fiber technology.

So if the textile industry interests you, but your area of expertise is engineering or chemistry and not fashion design, the opportunities for employment are limitless.

Engineers and chemists develop new washing processes and chemicals to coat and protect fabrics and invent new ways of spinning, weaving and manufacturing yarns and fibers.

Textile engineers work in areas as diverse as plant and design engineering, process engineering, production, supervision, quality control, research and design, as well as corporate management. They can tailor fabrics to make them fire resistant, stain resistant and wrinkle free.

Textile managers are usually streamed into mid-level management or manager-trainee positions in sales, marketing, and finance as well as human resources. Polymer and textile chemists focus on technical services, plant operations, research and development, and environmental control.

"The starting salaries for individuals who graduate from the textile and fiber engineering program are amongst the top salaries recorded at the school," says Maria Dunn. She is a counselor at the Georgia Institute of Technology's school of materials science and engineering.

She's quick to add that "the more highly specialized your area, the more money you are likely to make."

Links

American Apparel and Footwear Association
Get information on the industry

FiberSource
Gives fact sheets, news updates and links

Georgia Institute of Technology
School of materials science and engineering