In general, the term ‘textile industry’ spans both textile manufacture and apparel manufacture. Sri Lanka's globally renowned 'garments without guilt' are the highest revenue earner in the country's exports basket. In 2020, Sri Lanka’s Apparel export earnings stood a little above US$3.9 billion, down from US$5.2 billion it made in 2019. In the context of this article, we’re going to focus on the textile mills or the fabric and yarn manufacturing industry in Sri Lanka. The textile mills in Sri Lanka fall into two main categories, that is, the traditional handlooms and the more sophisticated and efficient and power looms.
The history of Sri Lanka’s handloom textile industry stretches centuries back in time. The tale of the origin of the Sinhala race with the arrival of the exiled Indian Prince Vijaya on the island, places Kuveni, queen of an indigenous race of Yakkas (demons), at a spinning wheel weaving cotton yarn, when the prince first caught sight of her.
The year was 543 BC. So, the fabric and yarn industry has such deep roots in Sri Lanka. By today, the fabric and yarn manufacturing industry has advanced enough to catch international attention. The handloom industry too has progressed but has retained the traditional practices. The handloom textile is prized as it’s handcrafted.
The Difference between Textile and Fabric
Even though textiles and fabric sound very similar and are often discussed in the same context, the relationship between them is a little more complex. Textile is any material made of interlacing fibres, including carpet and geotextiles. Any woven or knitted fabric is a textile. All textile is made of textile fibre such as yarn, thread, natural silk, rayon, chemical fibre short-hair silk, elastic silk, and metal wire. Textiles are created by processing, weaving, or knitting these materials. These can create typically manufactured products, such as clothing, accessories, gloves, hats and blankets, or any type of plastic, industrial, natural fur, agricultural or medical fabric. Thus, beyond the world of fashion, textiles comprise any woven or knitted material for any use.
In contrast, the fabric is a flat-film mass consisting of fine-soft objects connected by intersecting, winding, and joining. Fabrics cover all woven and knitted materials, but they include non-woven materials, too. Common examples of non-woven fabric include teabag paper, face cloths, synthetic fibre paper and shingling. We find textiles everywhere, from fibre to yarn, from cloth to clothing, from medical treatment to various industries. They range from fibres woven together to a finished product, ready for use. That apart, fabric comes still under the textile umbrella. So, in other words, we can make fabric and textiles from the same materials. In summary, not all textiles are fabric, while all fabric is a textile.
Textile Manufacturing in Sri Lanka
The Textile sector plays an important role in Sri Lanka’s apparel value chain for both domestic consumption and exportation. Also, a significant volume of both fabric and yarn is exported from Sri Lanka. That apart, the sector supplies textile for the manufacture of export apparel. The top companies in the textile industry are well-equipped with advanced technology and machinery to manufacture textile up to the highest international standards.
Different Types of Power loom Textile Manufactured in Sri Lanka
There’s a whole variety of textile that’s manufactured in Sri Lanka. These are some of the commonest.
Single Jersey Fabric
The single jersey fabric is a weft-knitted fabric that is formed by one set of needles. The single jersey fabric is mostly used for making T-shirts in textile. In a piece of single jersey fabric, the face side and the backside appearances are different. This fabric is much warm, flexible, stretchy, and offers comfort to the wearer, so it's widely used in the manufacture of apparel.
The interlock fabric is a knitted fabric, it is made by a series of stainless-steel needles that cross each other working alternatively; this type of production creates a double-knit fabric, making it very soft, visually it resembles a honeycomb; the back and the front of this fabric are the same.
Rather than wool, fleece fabric is a form of synthetic fabric. This means this warm, soft, and cosy textile is man-made. They're usually made from polyester. Sometimes, it's referred to as polar fleece or polyester fleece.
The ribbed fabric is a knitted fabric with a rib pattern. The rib knit is a double-knit fabric that knits the fabric in a vertical ridged pattern called ribbing and is highly stretched in a crosswise direction. The ribbed fabric is often used in round necks and cuffs for certain types of T-shirts.
The pique's weave features cotton yarn characterised by raised parallel cords or fine ribbing. This gives the material a subtle pattern and texture – which can only be seen up close. The textures and patterns vary across pique shirting too.
it is a type of fang knit fabric that has an image similar to a honeycomb obtained by lock and needle arrangements, especially through single plate knitting machines with loop and fang movements.
French Terry Fabric
The French terry fabric is a knit fabric similar to a jersey, with loops on one side and soft piles of yarn on the other. This knit results in a soft, plush texture that’s found in the comfiest sweatshirts and other kinds of loungewear.
The cuff fabric is a circular or round knitted fabric. The cuff fabric is made of a combed cotton quality that always springs back to its original shape when it’s stretched and released.
Flat Knitted Fabric
Flat knitting is a method for producing knitted fabrics in which the work is turned periodically, i.e., the fabric is worked with alternating sides facing the knitter. Flat knitting is usually contrasted with circular knitting, in which the fabric is always knitted from the same side.
Other textile solutions from Sri Lanka
- Synthetic fibre solutions
- Protein fibre Solutions
- Stretch fabric solutions
- Finishing Solutions
- Yarn dye solutions
- Textile printing solutions
Textile machines are used to process natural fibres such as silk, wool, and cotton, or with artificial fibres such as polyester, nylon, and polypropylene. They are used in processes such as spinning, weaving, warping, and dyeing. Textile equipment can be used to manufacture, dye, and finish materials such as fibre, yarn, and thread. They are also used for the extrusion of non-woven, synthetic fibre, and various plastics. Some of the common textile machinery include the following:
- Draw frames
- Fabric cutters
- Textile Calender
- Die presses
For winding operations, the textile machinery used includes ballers, doublers, and winders. Textile apparel equipment includes cutting and finishing machines, embroidery machines, and sewing machines.
Handloom Textile Production in Sri Lanka
The handloom textile is a testament to the impeccable craftsmanship and patience of Sri Lankan handloom weavers, mostly elderly women in the rural areas of the country, and it’s a cottage industry in the country that serves a valuable niche in the export market.
The international buyers of Sri Lankan handloom textile root for the rich colours and painstaking creative labours of manually weaving yards of clothing. They’re profoundly aware of the passion, patience and focus it takes to weave one yard of handloom textile and are ready to pay a premium for that compared to the textile woven by a power loom.
The handloom textile products made in Sri Lanka
- Fabric and curtaining
- Dress fabric
- Bed linen
- Table linen
- Kitchen linen
- Readymade garments
- Soft toys
- Hand-woven rugs and tapestries
Training & Education in the Textile Manufacturing Industry in Sri Lanka
To facilitate sustainable development of Sri Lankan Textile & Apparel Industry (SLITA) by producing a competent workforce with specialised skills, Sri Lanka Institute of Textile & Apparel has been established after merging the two Institutes - Textile Training & Services Centre and Clothing Industry Training Institute - by Parliament Act No. 12 of 2009. SLITA boasts a state-of-the-art textile testing laboratory that offers a degree program, several diploma courses, many certificate courses and short courses as well through several departments including one devoted to ‘textile technology.’
In the specific case of handloom textile, there are 14 textile industry training schools and 2 design schools in operation under the Department of Textile Industry. Discover Apparel & Textile Manufacturers in Sri Lanka>