Hand feel

A baby wearing many items of soft winter clothing: headband, cap, fur-lined coat, scarf and sweater

Hand feel (Hand, Fabric hand, Fabric feel) is the property of fabrics related to the touch that express sensory comfort. It refers to the way fabrics feel against the skin or in the hand and conveys information about the cloth's softness and smoothness. Hand feel is an estimated and subjective property of different fabrics but nowadays, handfeel could be measured and assessed statistically.[1][2][3]


There are different terms in use for describing the softness of textile materials. Wool trade term for the same is ''Handle'' or ''A good handling''. The opposing term is ''A poor handling'' that suggests the material's poor or harsh hand feel.[4]


Hand feel (also called handle or drape[5]) is one of the basic characteristics that are necessary for sensory comfort that is related to tactile comfort.[6] It is related to the friction between the clothes and the body. It is associated with smoothness, roughness, softness, and stiffness of clothing material. The degree of tactile discomfort may vary with individuals. Some of the terms that describe the tactile sensations are clingy, sticky, scratchy, prickly, soft, stiff, heavy, light and hard.[7]


Fabrics during manufacturing becomes harsh that is undesirable hence they are made soft again for end users or useful input materials for subsequent processes.[8] The hand feel matters in selecting the fabrics for a particular category or line; for instance, Softer clothes are preferred for children. Ladies' clothes are designed with lighter and softer than men's cloth.[1]

Softening and stiffening

Softening finishes are aimed to make materials, soft, in against to that stiffening finishes are intended to make materials, stiff in order to prevent sagging. Stiffening adds crispiness to the light sheer fabrics. Stiffening involves the application of thermoplastic resins and polymers.[9]

More objectives of hand feel are:

Fabric drape

Drape (draping or fabric drape) is the property of different textile materials how they fold, fall, or hang along with a three-dimensional body. Draping depends upon the fiber characteristics and the flexibility, looseness, and softness of the material.Drape finishes can also alter the draping properties of clothes.[6][10][11] Draping clothes embrace feminine beauty.[12][13]


Hand feel adds compression resiliency; Soft fabrics tend to spring back to their original shape.[6]


Soft fabrics are more compatible in sewing. Softness improves the sewability of the fabrics.[14][15][16] Handfeel helps not only in selling the goods and comfort but also aid in sewing (avoids stitching holes).[17]


Hand feel may vary with the composition, various yarn parameters (such as hairiness, twist and yarn count), and gsm (fabric weight), and fabric construction.[1] Some undesired acid, alkaline, and temperature treatments can make certain fabrics harsher.[18]

The judgement of fabrics on the scale of soft to harsh is affected by the following parameters.

Fiber properties and yarn

The staple length and diameter of the constituting fibers affect the softness of the materials. More considerable fiber length needs less twisting, and loosely twisted yarns tend to have a softer hand feel. Examples are egyptian, and pima cotton is softer than cotton with shorter fibers. The same is with Silk, and synthetic fibers that have infinite length are softer.[19][20][1][21]

Fabric construction and thickness

The fabric construction and thickness of the cloth can present harsh or soft handfeel. Usually, the fine and lightweight structures with loose weave or knit constructions are more delicate until the twisted or textured yarns are not used. On the other hand, heavy, and thicker fabrics could be soft or harsh depending upon the after treatments and varied yarn forms.[22][23]


The feel of some fabrics like silk (satin), fine muslins (mulmul), rayon (modal or lyocell), nylon and microfibers' fabrics are naturally soft. Still, in large, it is manipulated with different processes and finishing techniques. Fabric softeners and certain surface finishes such as napping help improve the hand feel of fabrics.[24][25][26]

Surface finishes

Surface finishes are the treatments that alter the surface and feel of the textiles. They include several mechanical and chemical applications.



Napping or Raising produces a soft and fibrous surface, it is a mechanical finish. A machine equipped with metallic wires that breaks the yarns and create a fibrous surface on the surface.


Sueding is a similar finish to napping, but it's a delicate finish; the arrangements on the machine, such as bristles, are softer.[27][6]



Mercerizing improves the characteristic of the cellulosic materials and improves the feel and aesthetics of the treated fabrics.

Bio polishing

Bio polishing or Enzyme wash is applicable in cellulosic fibers; it is a cellulase enzyme treatment that helps cut protruding fibers and produce a clean, lustrous and softer material.[6][28]

Fabric softeners

Fabric softeners are the substances that can make the fabrics softer, loftier, and stretchable. There are various kinds of softeners, such as cationic, non-ionic, and amphoteric. In addition, different types of fibers need other kinds of softeners as per the user's requirement.

Functional finishes

Functional finishes add value other than handfeel and aesthetics.[6] Moisture wicking is an example of functional finish that enhance the wearer's comfort.


So far, the hand feel was a subjectively judged parameter by simply sensing it by manual touch. But now, there are hand feel testers that can evaluate the quality with parameters of bending, roughness, compression and friction.[29][30][31]


One of the instrumental test methods is  "AATCC TM 202:2014," which measures the "feels and looks" similar to manual sensory perceptions.[32]

Kawabata evaluation system

The Kawabata evaluation system predicts human responses and understands the perception of softness. Additionally, it can be used to determine the transient heat transfer properties associated with the sensation of coolness generated when fabrics come into contact with the skin while being worn.[33][34]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Fabric Hand - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics". www.sciencedirect.com. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  2. ^ Wilusz, E. (2008-05-21). Military Textiles. Elsevier. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-84569-451-7.
  3. ^ Purushothama, B. (2019-01-31). Handbook of Value Addition Processes for Fabrics. Woodhead Publishing India PVT. Limited. p. 380. ISBN 978-93-85059-92-6.
  4. ^ Hind, John Richard (1934). Woollen & Worsted Raw Materials: Covering the Syllabus of the City and Guilds of London Examinations in These Subjects. Ernest Benn. p. 40.
  5. ^ Wilson, Kax (1979). A history of textiles. Internet Archive. Boulder, Colo. : Westview Press. p. 346. ISBN 978-0-89158-491-9.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Kadolph, Sara J. (1998). Textiles. Internet Archive. Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Merrill. pp. 22, 23, 25, 392, 408, 407. ISBN 978-0-13-494592-7.
  7. ^ Song, Guowen (2011). Improving Comfort in Clothing. Woodhead Publishing. pp. 223, 235, 237, 427. ISBN 9780857090645.
  8. ^ Hummel, John James (1885). The dyeing of textile fabrics. p. 237.
  9. ^ Joseph, Marjory L. (1992). Joseph's introductory textile science. Internet Archive. Fort Worth : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers. p. 343. ISBN 978-0-03-050723-6.
  10. ^ Sinclair, Rose (2014-11-08). Textiles and Fashion: Materials, Design and Technology. Elsevier. p. 727. ISBN 978-0-85709-561-9.
  11. ^ Kadolph, Sara J. (1998). Textiles. Internet Archive. Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Merrill. p. 289. ISBN 978-0-13-494592-7.
  12. ^ Baines, Barbara Burman (1981). Fashion Revivals: From the Elizabethan Age to the Present Day. Batsford. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-7134-1929-0.
  13. ^ Shukla, Pravina (2008). The Grace of Four Moons: Dress, Adornment, and the Art of the Body in Modern India. Indiana University Press. p. 166. ISBN 978-0-253-34911-8.
  14. ^ Dyer, Elizabeth (1927). Textile Fabrics. Houghton Mifflin. p. 341.
  15. ^ Dooley, William Henry (1930). Clothing and Style: For Dressmakers, Milliners, Buyers, Designers, Students of Clothing, and Stylers. D. C. Heath. p. 284.
  16. ^ Mead, Marjorie Elaine; Siemen, Esther Ella; Sohn, Marjorie Ann (1975). Learning to Sew. Cooperative Extension Service, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. p. 21.
  17. ^ "Fabric Softness - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics". www.sciencedirect.com. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  18. ^ Army, United States Department of the (1972). Technical Manual: TM. p. 7.
  19. ^ Nielson, Karla J. (2007-07-10). Interior Textiles: Fabrics, Application, and Historic Style. John Wiley & Sons. p. 218. ISBN 978-0-471-60640-6.
  20. ^ Fourt, Lyman Edwin (1970). Clothing : comfort and function. Internet Archive. New York : M. Dekker. pp. 165–167. ISBN 978-0-8247-1214-3.
  21. ^ Hollen, Norma R.; Hollen, Norma R. Textiles (1988). Textiles. Internet Archive. New York : Macmillan. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-02-367530-0.
  22. ^ "Fabric Thickness - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics". www.sciencedirect.com. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  23. ^ Textile Asia. Business Press. 1993. p. 34.
  24. ^ Inc, Time (1952-03-10). LIFE. Time Inc. p. 143.
  25. ^ Knecht, Edmund (1911). "Finishing" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 10 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 378–382.
  26. ^ The Indian Textile Journal. Indian Textile Journal Limited. 2012. p. 98.
  27. ^ Choudhury, Asim Kumar Roy (2017-04-29). Principles of Textile Finishing. Woodhead Publishing. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-08-100661-0.
  28. ^ Kadolph, Sara J. (1998). Textiles. Internet Archive. Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Merrill. p. 297. ISBN 978-0-13-494592-7.
  29. ^ Intertek's High Performance Textile Testing - Fabric Touch Test (FTT), retrieved 2021-04-28
  30. ^ An analysis of fabric 'hand' and 'feel '
  31. ^ "Fabric Assurance by Simple Testing - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics". www.sciencedirect.com. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  32. ^ "AATCC Test Methods - Textile Testing Research and Development". AATCC. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  33. ^ Allerkamp, Dennis (2010-09-08). Tactile Perception of Textiles in a Virtual-Reality System. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 53. ISBN 978-3-642-13974-1.
  34. ^ Harwood, R. J.; Weedall, P. J.; Carr, C. (1990). "The use of the Kawabata Evaluation System for product development and quality control". Journal of the Society of Dyers and Colourists. 106 (2): 64–68. doi:10.1111/j.1478-4408.1990.tb01244.x. ISSN 1478-4408.

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A baby wearing many items of winter clothing: headband, cap, fur-lined coat, wool neckscarf and sweater.