King & Allen explains: The Finishing Process: Handle & Drape

Before the finishing process, cloth is usually hard, unworkable and unpleasant to touch. ‘Finishing’ is what gives a cloth its handle and drape – its two most significant characteristics.

 

Harris Tweed – a comparatively course handle but nevertheless exceptionally finished using water from the Outer Hebrides.

Harris Tweed – a comparatively course handle but nevertheless exceptionally finished using water from the Outer Hebrides.

Handle is how the fabric feels to the touch. Is it smooth or rough? Soft or hard? There are various ways to test a cloth’s handle such as weight, density and flexibility, but the handle of a cloth is less about scientific quantification and more about sensory response.

 

Look how the cloth runs faultlessly down from the shoulders and across the chest. This is perfect drape.

Look how the cloth runs faultlessly down from the shoulders and across the chest. This is perfect drape.

 

The drape is how a cloth looks on a human: the transferal of a two dimensional object onto a three dimensional object. It goes without saying that different cloths will drape in different ways. Heavier, harder cloths will, in general, drape better than lightweight, softer cloths… but will not be as comfortable. The process itself is also steeped in a contradiction: performed using a combination of century old techniques and cutting edge technology, of complex chemicals and the purest water on the planet.

In conclusion, the finishing process is the textile industry’s attempt at alchemy, where handle and drape work together as one

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