Nylon is a term that we will all have seen countless times when looking at fabric for dress-making or checking the composition of garments in our wardrobes. A term that is less familiar is chinlon, but there are clearly enough fans on online guides and blogs to make it worthy of further investigation. So, what is this alternative fabric, how does it differ from nylon, and how can we use it to our advantage when sewing.
What is chinlon fabric?
In short, chinlon is a different type of nylon that has been modified to make it a bit smoother and nicer to the touch. This makes it a finer weave and there are plenty of applications in sewing and fashion. The downside of this is that you don’t get the same durability as you would with standard nylon, which could make it unsuitable in some applications. Still, there are plenty of dress-makers that enjoy working with this material for activewear, swimsuits, and more.
Where does the name chinlon come from?
There are lots of names for new versions of materials and it can be difficult to tell the difference between some of them. One of the most notorious is the use of Spandex in the US to talk about the brand Lycra, which is actually a form of elastane. The name chinlon is actually a portmanteau of China and Nylon. This is not to be confused with the popular sport of chinlon, or chinlone, in Burma.
What is the difference between chinlon and nylon?
It is important to remember that chinlon and nylon are pretty much the same thing. The difference is in the way that the material is treated. Manufacturers start with nylon and process it to make it lighter and softer. There are some dress-makers that refer to this as the more refined and modernized approach to nylon, with the suggestion that it is a much better choice than standard nylon. However, it all comes down to the application of the material. There are times when it is ideal for certain garments and other items and others where it might not perform as well as hoped.
What are the benefits of using chinlon fabric?
Most people that choose to wear or work with chinlon do so because of the way that it feels. You may feel that nylon is a little too rough and heavy for regular wear and that you would rather have a strong synthetic with the softness of a natural material. That is the whole purpose of this updated material and lots of users do find that they can make all kinds of comfortable clothes out of it.
The love for chinlon is often due to the combination of a smoother texture and a nice luster. This shine is something you don’t see with standard nylon and gives some items of clothing a more tactile quality.
What are the downsides to using chinlon over nylon?
One of the biggest issues in using chinlon instead of nylon is that it isn’t as durable. The lighter weave and softness have the knock-on effect of creating something more prone to damage. Therefore, if you were to use this in any activewear, it might not last as long as other materials. You could find that regular wear leads to abrasions or that rough handling breaks some of the fibers.
There is also the problem of a lack of UV resistance. A strong nylon fabric Is great in outdoor applications for shades and canopy because of the density and the way that it will protect users from the sun on different levels. If you were to make your own shades from scratch at home to replace something that is polyester or nylon, you might find that you don’t have the same safety rating. In turn, you could put your family at more risk.
Another consideration here is that this material might not be as breathable as you expect. There is the assumption that the lighter weave makes that a more breathable choice than standard nylon fabric. This may be true to a point, but it isn’t going to provide the same lightness and breathability as cotton or other natural fibers.
Will chinlon fabric shrink in the same way that nylon does?
At its core, chinlon is very similar to nylon in terms of the quality of the fibers and its synthetic origins. Therefore, there is every chance that it will behave the same when exposed to high heat. If you were to put a piece of chinlon in the wash at a high heat then the hot water could degrade the fibers and lead to some shrinkage. It is unclear if the lighter weave could actually increase the risk of the material shrinking back into a smaller form. At the same time, you should be careful when drying any material like this in high heat because it might have a similar effect. Chinlon blends may be less susceptible to damage. You can always check the labels of anything store-bought to see what the care instructions say. But, it is harder to know what to do when caring for items you’ve made yourself.
Can you sew with chinlon fabric at home?
What we really want to know about this material is whether or not it is worth adding to a sewing room when creating summer clothes. You can buy chinlon from a range of suppliers and should find that there are some great patterns and colors out there. The quality of the material should make it relatively easy to work with and to fit to models. Just remember that if you do plan to make swimwear that contains elastane too, this will affect the stretch. In turn, it will be harder to cut and pin for a precise fit. But, you shouldn’t let that stop you from trying out different patterns and ideas.
Can you use chinlon fabric for swimsuits?
One application that you will see mentioned a lot is chinlon swimwear. The idea here is that you get to use a softer version of nylon that will be more comfortable on the skin. There are mixed views on the use of chinlon for swimwear. Critics would warn against the use of chinlon in swimwear because of that lack of durability, UV protection, and absorbancy. There is the suggestion that instead of using it for outfits for swimming, it is better for lounging near the pool because of its comfort. There are also questions over what pool water or seawater would do to the material, and how the heat of the sun might affect it when drying off after a swim.
One of the best ways to use chinlon in swimwear is to get something that is blended with elastane. The elastane fibers provide the stretch that is so helpful in creating a tighter fit and a more comfortable feel. The higher the elastane count, the better. You can get some great pieces of material where there is 80% chinlon for softness and body, and then 20% lycra/spandex for stretch. A little lycra goes a long way with any stretchy fabric.
With all this in mind, there is still that argument that ITY would be better because of the density of the material and its movement. ITY has a twist that allows for better movement and shape retention while still being dense and nice to wear.
What else can you use chinlon for?
There are also sewers and manufacturers that will use chinlon in hosiery. This might not be something that you are that confident to make yourself at home. The suitability comes down to that combination of the lighter feel, smoother texture, and luster. Of course, you don’t have to stop there and you can experiment with lots of different ideas. With the right denier, you could end up with a good item. The denier refers to the translucency of the material and the amount you can see through it. A piece of chinlon with a low denier could make for a great material for hosiery. If you are interested in see-through fabrics, don’t forget to check out my other guide
Is chinlon fabricworth it?
There is some understandable confusion over the suitability of chinlon for garment making and its place alongside nylon or softer natural material. It seems to occupy a mid-way point between other materials, which could lead to it being forgotten as a potential fabric choice in dress-making. However, the benefits in the texture and shine of this synthetic option do pay off in certain applications.
What this all means is that you shouldn’t be afraid to use chinlon fabric in some of your sewing projects. It could end up being a great alternative material for summer wear. Just be aware that it might not do everything you want and that you may need some stretch chinlon blends for the best results. Either way, there is nothing to stop you from playing around with this material to see what it can do.
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my toddler however, that is typically a challenge with her limited attention span, messiness, and desire to always have clean hands. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and fond memory for the both of us.