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Gauze is a thin, lightweight fabric with an open weave that makes it appear transparent. This fabric is generally made from natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and silk, but can also be made from synthetic fibers. It is a versatile fabric used for a variety of reasons due to its durability and absorbency. It is said that gauze fabric originated sometime during the 13th century in Gaza, a center for weaving in Palestine, and was made primarily from silk. In fact, the name gauze is derived from the Spanish word “gasa,” which means silk.
Gauze fabric may be manufactured through one of two methods: the simple leno weave and the plain weave. The process most commonly used in the manufacture of gauze is the leno weave. Through this process, the threads of the fabric cross over one another, interlacing with one or more filler threads to give the fabric a sheer appearance while making it stronger. This type of weave makes the fabric lightweight and stronger while still allowing light and air to pass through it freely.
Less commonly used in the manufacture of gauze fabric is the plain weave. This form of weave is created on a loom by interlacing the warp threads tightly with the weft threads. The woven fibers of this weave produce a flat, tight surface suitable for printing and other finishes. The plain weave is the simplest to produce, making it the least expensive.
Silk and linen gauze fabrics have many uses, but the most common are for clothing or home decorating. Silk gauze is similar to chiffon, but is lighter in weight than chiffon. It is an extremely sheer, delicate fabric with a drape that appears to float, is soft to the touch, and dyes easily with excellent color retention. Silk gauze is easy to paint on, holds color and dyes well. During the Ming dynasty, the Chinese used gauze to make painted cloth dolls, and ancient Egyptians used it as ceremonial wrappings for mummified bodies.
In the medical field, cotton gauze fabric is used for medical sponges, surgical dressings, and bandages. Cotton gauze fabric will not stick or adhere to open cuts, especially when woven with poly-blend fibers. For this reason, it is a popular fabric for wrapping wounds. The bleached cotton cloth may be treated with zinc oxide or calamine lotion to promote healing. Due to the absorbency of the fabric, it is used during surgical procedures to soak up fluids.