Elastane/Spandex

How is Elastane made?

Elastane is a synthetic elastic fabric. It goes by many names. In Europe it is usually referred to as Elastane, North Americal calls it Spandex which is an Anagram of ‘Expands’ and in Britain it is typically known as Lycra.

Elastane Manufacture

Elastane is a Polyurethane-Polyurea copolymer and was invented in 1959, and began and began to revolutionise many areas of the clothing industry.

Elastane fibres are produced in four different ways. These are melt extrusion, reaction spinning, solution wet spinning and solution dry spinning.

Solution dry spinning is used in many manufacturing processes of synthetic fibres, and is the main way of producing Elastane faibres, with over 94.5% of all the Elastane being made in this way. The prepolymer is drawn out to create filaments, with the use of a spinneret. This causes the solution to be made into liquid filaments. Once these are heated and the polymer reacts, solid filament fibres are created.

There are two main ways of processing Elastane into garments. The first one is to wrap the Elastane fibre in a non-elastic thread. This can either be natural or man-made. The resulting yarn has the appearance and properties of the fibre that it is wrapped with. The second method is to incorporate the actual Elastane fibres into the garments during the weaving process. Small amount of Elastane are only required to add the properties of it into the fabrics. Trousers only use around 2% to add to the comfort and fit, with the highest percentages being used in swimwear, corsetry or sportswear reaching 15-40% Elastane. It is never used alone and is always blended with other fibres.

Properties of Elastane

  • Exceptionally Elastic
  • Stronger and more durable than conventional rubber
  • Good tear resistance
  • A third of the weight of natural rubber
  • Clings to the body
  • Comfortable
  • Always reverts back to its original form after being stretched
  • Crease Resistant
  • Not sensitive to cosmetics, sun cream or seawater
  • Easy Care

End uses of Elastane

  • Tights
  • Sportswear
  • Swimwear
  • Corsetry
  • Woven and knitted fabrics
  • Garments which need a permanent level of elasticity


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Kelly Mitchell

Written by Kelly Mitchell

Kelly Mitchell, extremely competent and reliable, she is currently in her third year at the University of Lincoln UK, studying Fashion. Kelly is responsible for the Fabrics, Fibers and Leathers sections of our Dictionary


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