Fabric Spreading: Types, Requirements and Methods

What is Fabric Spreading?
Spreading is a preparatory process for cutting and consists of laying plies of cloth one on top of the other in a predetermined direction and relationship between the right and wrong sides of the cloth. The composition of each spread i.e. the number of plies of each color is obtained from the cut order plan. The length is determined by the shape, size, and number of the components to be cut from it. The number of plies in a spread is dependent on the number of articles required and the technical limits of the fabric spreading and cutting processes. Spreading process may be either manual or automated.

fabric spreading
Fig: Fabric spreading

Number of plies depends on:

  1. Capacity of the cutting machine
  2. Volume of production
  3. Type of fabric itself (rough or slippery)
  4. Thickness of fabric

Spreading fabric for cutting may be done in a variety of ways. These spreading modes describe the way in which the face of the fabric will be oriented, and what the nap direction is from ply to ply. The choice of spreading mode will affect the cost of spreading and the quality of the finished product (the result of the cutting).

Spreading quality is achieved when any flaws in the face of the fabric can be identified by the spreader (even if the fabric was pre-inspected), and removed (either during the process of spreading or marked for removal after spreading). The highest levels of spreading quality are, therefore, achieved with spreading modes that permit the face of the fabric to be ‘up’ and visible to the spreader at all times.

Types of Fabric Spreading:
The spreads can be of two basic types:

  1. Flat spreads: All plies are of the same length.
  2. Stepped spreads: This as the name suggests, is built up in steps, with all the plies in one step having the same length. A stepped spread is generally used when the quantities to be cut precludes the use of a flat spread. The cut order plan details the colors and ply lengths for a stepped spread, if it is needed.

Requirements of Spreading Process:

  1. Alignment of plies in both length and width direction: Length and width of fabric must be at least equal to marker length and width.
  2. Elimination of fabric defects/flaws: Any faults identified on the incoming fabrics will be tagged and will be avoided.
  3. Correct ply direction (especially for asymmetrically printed fabrics): All faces up, all faces down, face to face etc.
  4. Correct ply tension: Ply tension must be uniform and as much less as possible.
  5. Avoidance of distortion in the spread during cutting: Polythene sheets are used under the bottom ply to resist friction of the bottom ply with the base plate of the knife.
  6. Fabrics must be flat and free from any crinkle & crease: These cause defect in garments due to variation in dimension.
  7. Elimination of static electricity: In spreading plies of fabric containing man made fibers, friction may increase the charge of static electricity in the fabric.
  8. Checks and stripes should be matched.
  9. Easy separation of the cut lay into bundles: Identification marks are used into plies due to color or shade variation of fabric or other cases.

Methods of Fabric Spreading:
Primarily there are two methods of fabric spreading; Manual spreading and Automated spreading. But if you deeply explain then you will find numerous methods of fabric spreading. Such as table spreading, flip spreading semi-automatic, fully automatic, one-way spreading, face-to-face spreading, zigzag spreading, tubular spreading, stepped spreading, reversible spreading etc. In this article I will discuss only manual and automatic spreading process.

You may also like: Flow Chart of Garment Manufacturing Process

a) Manual spreading process:
The manual spreading process is suitable for small-scale production. Manual spreading may be used for all kind of fabrics, including those with complex structures and intricate patterns. In large-scale production, manual cutting is often used for working with intricately patterned and high-cut pile fabrics. When compared to automated spreading, the cost of technical equipment in manual spreading is low, but the productivity is poor.

During manual spreading, two workers move the fabric plies over the spreading table, ensuring the correct placement of each ply in a spread. As they do so, they look for faults in the fabric and make the decision to leave or cut them out. They also count the plies required and cut the fabric at the end of the spread. If the fabric has an intricate pattern, they ensure the pattern matches in all the fabric plies in the spread.

Spreading speed and quality are dependent on the properties of a fabric and the skills and experience of the workers. There is no need for special equipment in manual spreading. All kinds of fabric may be laid, but the process is both skilled and time-consuming. Manual spreading is used in small enterprises or where, in the case of larger enterprises, there is a need to spread fabrics with different kinds of intricate patterns.

b) Automated spreading process:
Automated spreading systems have significantly increased the productivity of the spreading process, but have not altered its main work principles. Automated spreading is performed using a special spreading machine that unrolls a roll of fabric, lays the fabric ply on the spreading table, cuts and counts the plies, and ensures the correct placement of each ply on the top of another to complete a spread.

Different kinds of spreading machines are used. Their design and application depend on a spread fabric qualities and the parameters of the fabric rolls processed. The fabric feeding system is the most important part of a spreading machine. It ensures qualitative laying of the fabric ply on the spreading table. Spreading can be performed in semiautomated or fully automated way.

Automatic Programmable Spreading Machines:
Spreading is performed by spreading machines, which provide fabric feeding and transportation, ensure tension free spreading and material cutting in needed length pieces. All the requirements of spreading process can be fulfilled by fully automatic spreading machines. Their features include:

  • Automatic loading/unloading and threading/rewinding device for fabric rolls.
  • Automatic roll turning arrangement for face to back lay.
  • Automatic leveling device for fabric edge alignment.
  • Automatic cutting device (one way or two way cutoff) at the end of a run.
  • Automatic tensioning device to control fabric tension.
  • Automatic lay height sensing elevator.
  • Programmable lay length, ply height and step-laying.
  • Spreading seeds up to 140 m/min.

The main aim of the spreading process is to lay the several fabric plies essential for the production process to the marker length without any tension on the fabric. Fabric spreading is the most important steps influencing the quality of the final garment. Any mistakes during these steps are directly translated to the garment, which can lead to quality concerns or even rejections. During spreading, different types of fabrics are spread on flat tables manually or automatically. It is important to take care of the fabric grain direction, type of spread (one-way, both-ways) and the fault present in the fabric. The important factor during spreading is avoiding lot mixing of fabrics.


  1. Apparel Machinery and Equipments By R. Rathinamoorthy and R. Surjit
  2. Industrial Cutting of Textile Materials (Second Edition) By I. Viļumsone-Nemes
  3. Garment Manufacturing Technology Edited by Rajkishore Nayak and Rajiv Padhye
  4. Apparel Manufacturing Technology by T. Karthik, P. Ganesan, and D. Gopalakrishnan

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