Paper, glass, fine steel filaments and a fibre derived from bamboo are among the innovative yarn components destined for inclusion in fabrics for the coming season, and previewed at the autumn 2004 Expofil.

As is now usual, Expofil ran in tandem with Première Vision at the Paris Nord exhibition complex, and as usual it was Italian spinners and fibre producers who dominated the event.

Of a total of l50 exhibitors, 55 came from Italy, with the only serious challenge to their supremacy coming from the host nation with its 24 exhibitors.

It was, however, the Japanese who provided some of the biggest surprises, such as the Tokyo based Oji Fiber Company Ltd's range of 100 per cent paper, paper and wool or paper and polyester yarns. Another Japanese company, A-Dress, introduced blends of bamboo with high-quality cashmere.

Obviously the availability of bamboo, a member of the grass family native to South East Asia, is encouraging the region's fibre houses to experiment with it as a raw material - most notably the Fung Luen Wool Textile company from Kowloon.

At Expofil, it introduced three-way blends of bamboo, silk bourette and wool. These yarns are ideal for making up into the dry handle 'rustic' look fabrics strongly promoted as winter 2005/6 winners throughout the show.

New slant on sheen
Added lustre from the inclusion of tiny, light reflecting glass beads in the basic composition of polyester yarn was the new slant on sheen offered by Italy's metallic yarns specialist Lame Ledal.

"The iridescent effects greatly enlarge the colour palette we can offer our customers," the company explains. "Although the technology of employing glass beads isn't in itself new, we were previously only able to offer decorative yarns of this type in grey or a few simple, plain colours."

Stainless steel fibre was married to merino wool to provide a barrier against potentially harmful electrostatic and electromagnetic emissions in the technical advances for the specialist workwear market proffered by the Swiss Schoeller Spinning Group.

"Cloths created with this yarn could also be of interest to mobile phone users who worry about the possible adverse effects such devices could have on their health," Schoeller says.

Fellow Swiss spinners Buhler AG continues to push its silver-coated X-Static polyamide yarns as "anti-bacterial, anti-static, therapeutic and heat regulating."

Shape retention in completed fashion garments is the principal motivation for Suprafil's addition of flexible steel filaments to viscose and angora yarns, although this Prato-based Italian spinner also cites added lustre, without perceptible loss of the soft handle supplied by the angora element or the fluid draping properties of the viscose.

The desire for a combination of softness and lustre has also inspired Japan's Kurabo Industries to introduce a range of cotton yarns created by a new-style spinning process which surrounds non-twisted cotton yarns with an outer, binding layer of cotton.

"This technique will ensure that the desirable properties of the yarn survive regular and frequent launderings," comments the Kurabo technical team.

Cotton wrappings around a woollen core yarn are also being employed by Kurabo to improve thermal properties and lend shrink resistance to another Expofil introduction which will run alongside its already well-established Spinnair composite yarns.

In the Spinnair series of cotton wrapped yarns, the core is Kuralon. Subsequent processing dissolves the central section leaving a hollow centre and the result is a yarn which retains apparent bulk but which is light in weight.

Lightweight performance
Designer demand for ever more delicate-looking lightweight fabrics, which will nevertheless offer the performance of much sturdier materials, has resulted in Italian spinner Ghezzi blending Invista's branded corn starch fibre Ingeo with silk to produce a range of 20/22 denier yarns which can be either woven or knitted to make up 'modern muslins.'

Another bonus is that users can describe the yarns as "fully environmentally friendly, and when their useful life is ended, fully biodegradable," says Ghezzi.

Ghezzi is not, however, wholly abandoning the synthesised fibre scene, and at the Paris show was also promoting blends of acetate with textured polyamide suitable for knitters servicing the stretch sportswear market.

The supple gloss of satin, achieved via the application of a glazed coating to cotton yarn, was the big Expofil story from Somelos Fios. While 'disturbed' surface effects on peachskin fabrics utilising the different shrinkage rates of the component manmade fibres lend added fashion interest to the latest range of yarns from the German TWD Group.

Textures which have a handle between peachskin and suede are promised for the fabric producer employing Filature Miroglio's latest range of Sens yarns, which have been the subject of a new finishing treatment.

This range, of which a key component is Corterra, is also suitable for low -temperature dyeing and therefore a potential blend partner for a variety of naturally sourced fibres, including luxury animal fibres like cashmere or alpaca.

It was a feature of yarn ranges seen throughout the autumn 2004 Expofil, but especially the offerings of the Italian contingent, that any doubts about mixing natural and manmade fibres, on the basis that the former would be 'degraded' by blending, have melted away.

By Sonia Roberts.