NCW 2022 Celebrating Chemistry

Fabulous Fibers: The Chemistry of Fabrics

Celebrating Chemistry: Fabulous Fibers: The Chemistry of Fabrics

In this issue


Fabulous Fibers: The Chemistry of Fabrics

Find out what chemistry has to do with fabrics. Hint: It’s more than just lab coats!

How to Sweat and Not Stay Wet

Should you wear cotton, wool, or polyester clothes today? Find out what to consider when making your decision.

Fabrics from the Land & the Lab

Learn about 10 different types of fabric and how their uses are related to their characteristic properties.

Marvelous Masks

Masks that people wear block between 7% and 98% of droplets in the air from going into your nose, eyes, or mouth. How can you make sure that your mask is up to the task?

Chemistry Cracks the Case: Focus on Fiber

Forensic scientists test fibers collected at the scene of a crime. Find out which is better, examining fibers with a special microscope or burning them.

Meg A. Mole Interview with Dr. Tova Williams

Meg A. Mole interviews Dr. Tova Williams, Assistant Research Professor in Textile Engineering, Chemistry, and Science at North Carolina State University.


Investigate a Nature-inspired Invention: Hook-and-Loop Tape

Examine a burdock seed pod and piece of Velcro to find what they have in common.

Put Your Fabric to the Test

Compare how drops of water interact differently on umbrellas, towels, and both cotton and polyester T-shirts.

Dyeing to Color Fabric

Compare how cotton and polyester absorb the color from Kool-Aid.

Science Safety Tips

Meg and Avi share important safety rules to follow every time you do a hands-on chemistry activity at home. 

Bonus Content

Threads of Invention

Three amazing synthetic fabrics protect police officers, astronauts, snowboarders, and more.

Beyond the Bandage: Medical Fabrics Help You Heal

Medical fabrics are used on, in, and sometimes even outside a person’s body! 

How a Plastic Bottle Becomes a Shoe

Recycled polyester, made from plastic water bottles, cuts down on the amount of plastic in landfills and waterways.

From Fiber to Fabric

Natural, synthetic, and semi-synthetic fibers are all made from natural resources.

Fabrics from the Land & Lab: Origin Stories

Similar content to Fabrics from the Land & Lab but with detail about how fibers from animals, plants, and petroleum are transformed to become fabric. 

Words to Know

Cellulose—a polymer made by plants
Chemical reaction—the process of rearranging atoms within molecules to form different molecules
Chemical synthesis—the process of using one or more chemical reactions to create a desired molecule
Fabric—cloth made by weaving or knitting yarns together
Fiber—a long thin structure made of polymers that can be twisted with other fibers to make yarn
Hydrophilic—the property of being very attracted to water
Hydrophobic—the property of not being attracted to water
Natural fiber—A fiber that is fully formed in nature by plants, animals, or minerals
Polymer—a long thin molecule made of repeating groups of atoms
Synthetic fiber—A fiber that is made by humans using chemical synthesis
Wicking— A property of a fabric that pulls water from a surface and holds it
Yarn—A group of fibers twisted together that can be woven or knitted to become fabric


The articles and activities used in this publication were written by theme team members of the ACS Committee on Community Activities under the leadership of Lori Stephan.

  • Meg A. Mole’s interview was written by Kara KasaKaitas.
  • Front cover illustration concept by Keith Krise.
  • Center spread illustration concept by Dave Heroux.
  • Translation for Celebrando la Química by ACSI Translations


The activities described in this publication are intended for children under the direct supervision of adults. The American Chemical Society cannot be responsible for any accidents or injuries that may result from conducting the activities without proper supervision, from not specifically following directions, or from ignoring the cautions contained in the text. 

National Chemistry Week logo
NCW 2022 Theme Team
  • Dave Heroux, NCW Chair
  • Keith Krise, 2022 Co-Chair
  • Sara Delgado Rivera, 2022 Co-Chair
  • Alex Madonik
  • Alexa Silva
  • An-Phong Le
  • Avrom Litin
  • Dave Heroux
  • Faith Yarberry
  • Jackie Trischman
  • Janet Asper
  • Juan Aponte-Santini
  • Neal Abrams
  • Oksana Love
  • Regina Malczewski
Production Team
  • Patti Galvan, Editor
  • Eric Stewart, Copyeditor
  • Rhonda Saunders, Designer
  • Jim Starr, Illustrator
Technical and Safety Review Team
  • Lynn Hogue, Consultant
  • Bettyann Howson, Safety Reviewer
  • Ashley Neybert, Accessibility Reviewer
  • Sara Delgado-Rivera, Translation Reviewer
Division of Education
  • Terri Chambers, Senior Director, Education Division
  • Nancy Bakowski, Director of Academic Engagement and Outreach
  • Lily Raines, Manager, Science Outreach
  • Patti Galvan, Program Manager, Science Outreach