Fiber is a rope or string used as component of composite materials or matted into sheets to make products such as paper or felt.

Fibers are most often used in the manufacture of other materials.

A fiber must be at least 100 times longer than it is wide.

A spun fiber is called a yarn.

Weaving yarns together produces a textile.

Until the 19th century, only plant and animal fibers were used to make clothes and textiles.

Half the products produced today are artificially produced.

Fibers are either:

  1. natural (e.g. wool, cotton)
  2. synthetic (e.g. nylon, polyester, acrylic)

Natural Fibers

Natural fibers include those produced by plants, animals, and geological processes. They are biodegradable over time. They can be classified according to their origin:

  1. animal (hair, fur, wool, silk)
  2. plant (cotton, flax, jute)
  3. mineral (asbestos, glass fiber)


Alpaca Hair


Angora hair or Angora fiber refers to the downy coat produced by the Angora rabbit.

Camel Hair


Silk is an animal textile made from the fibers of the cocoon of the Chinese silkworm which is spun into a smooth fabric prized for its softness.

There are two main types of the silk: ‘mulberry silk’ produced by the Bombyx Mori, and ‘wild silk’ such as Tussah silk. Silkworm larvae produce the first type if cultivated in habitats with fresh mulberry leaves for consumption, while Tussah silk is produced by silkworms feeding purely on oak leaves. Around four-fifths of the world’s silk production consists of cultivated silk.

  • soft
  • lightweight
  • adds luster


Wool refers to the hair of the domestic goat or sheep, which is distinguished from other types of animal hair in that the individual strands are coated with scales and tightly crimped, and the wool as a whole is coated with a wax mixture known as lanolin (sometimes called wool grease), which is waterproof and dirtproof

> The quality of wool is determined by its fiber diameter, crimp, yield, color, and staple strength. Fiber diameter is the single most important wool characteristic determining quality and price.

  • warm
  • study
  • durable

Wool is commonly used for warm clothing. Cashmere, the hair of the Indian cashmere goat, and mohair, the hair of the North African angora goat, are types of wool known for their softness.

##### Cashmere

Cashmere is obtained from shearing cashmere goats.

The word cashmere derives from an old spelling of Kashmir.

  • fine in texture
  • strong
  • light
  • soft
  • warm

##### Merino Wool

Merino wool does not strictly apply to wool only from Merino sheep. The term now applies to the softest, finest wool - known for breathability and being almost itch-free. The result is a fabric that is thin, soft and luxurious.

  • Merino wool is less than 24.5 micrometres (microns) in diameter.
  • Fine merino wool is less than 21.5 µm in diameter.
  • Extra-fine merino is under 19.5 µm in diameter.

##### Mohair

Mohair usually refers to a silk-like fabric or yarn made from the hair of the Angora goat.

##### Pashmina

Pashmina refers to a type of fine cashmere wool and the textiles made from it.

Pashmina was first invented in India.





Cotton is a soft, bluffly staple fiber.

Cotton is the most widely used natural fiber cloth in clothing today.


  • soft
  • warm
  • high moisture absorbency
  • breathable
  • shock absorbency


  • bath towels and robes
  • denims for blue jeans
  • corduroy
  • seersuck
  • twill
  • socks, underward, t-shirts
  • bed sheets
  • knitting


There are four commercial grown species of cotton:

##### Upland cotton

  • 90% of world production
  • native to Central America

##### Extra long staple cotton

Some types of ELS cotton are American Pima, Egyptian Giza, Indian Suvin, Chinese Xinjiang, Sudanese Barakat, and Russian Tonkovoloknistyi.

The term Egyptian cotton is usually applied to the extra long staple cotton produced in Egypt.

Pima cotton, also called extra long staple (ELS), is a type of cotton grown primarily in Peru, the southwestern United States and Australia.

Pima cotton is considered to be one of the superior blends of cotton and is extremely durable and absorbent.

This type of cotton is named after the Pima, a group of American Indians who first cultivated the plant in the U.S., but the cotton’s origins are its cultivation in Peru.

  • 8% of world production
  • native to tropical South American

##### Tree cotton

  • <2% of world production
  • native to India

##### Levant cotton

  • <2% of world production
  • native to Africa


  • Two to three times as strong as cotton
  • Naturally smooth and straight
  • Was used for cloth until 19th century when cotton overtook flax




  • strong
  • durable
  • lightweight
  • high moisture absorbency

Linen is most often added to socks to increase their strength.


Piña is a fiber made from the leaves of a pineapple plant and is commonly used in the Philippines. It is sometimes combined with silk or polyester to create a textile fabric. Piña’s name comes from the Spanish word piña which literally means pineapple.


Ramie is one of the strongest natural fibers. It exhibits even greater strength when wet. Ramie fiber is known especially for its ability to hold shape, reduce wrinkling, and introduce a silky lustre to the fabric appearance. It is not as durable as other fibers, and so is usually used as a blend with other fibers such as cotton or wool. It is similar to linen in absorbency, density and microscopic appearance. However it will not dye as well as cotton. Because of its high molecular crystallinity, ramie is stiff and brittle and will break if folded repeatedly in the same place; it lacks resiliency and is low in elasticity and elongation potential.


Sisal is an agave that yields a stiff fiber traditionally used in making twine and rope, and also dartboards.

Synthetic Fibers

Synthetic fibers can often be produced very cheaply and in large amounts compared to natural fibers,


Acrylic is a fiber used to imitate wools, including cashmere, and is often used in replacement of them.

  • warm
  • lightweight
  • keeps shape well
  • wicks perspiration from foot
  • soft
  • easy care
  • minimal shrinkage
  • rich coloration

Acrylic is cheap relative to wool.


Aramid fiber (e.g. Twaron) is used for flame-retardant clothing, cut-protection, and armor.


Ingeo is a polylactide fiber blended with other fibers such as cotton and used in clothing. It is more hydrophilic than most other synthetics, allowing it to wick away perspiration.


Developed at DuPont in 1965.

Currently, Kevlar has many applications, ranging from bicycle tires and racing sails to body armor because of its high tensile strength-to-weight ratio; by this measure it is 5 times stronger than steel on an equal weight basis.


Lurex is a metallic fiber used in clothing embellishment.


Nylon is a fiber used to imitate silk; it is used in the production of pantyhose. Thicker nylon fibers are used in rope and outdoor clothing.

  • strong
  • abrasion resistance
  • soft
  • dimensional stability
  • elasticity
  • easy-washing
  • quick drying

It is used in men’s dress socks, and as reinforcement with other fibers.

It is a durable, shrink-resistant fiber often used in blends to add stretch and strength to socks.


Olefin fiber is a fiber used in activewear, linings, and warm clothing. Olefins are hydrophobic, allowing them to dry quickly. A sintered felt of olefin fibers is sold under the trade name Tyvek.


Fabrics woven or knitted from polyester thread or yarn are used extensively in apparel and home furnishings, from shirts and pants to jackets and hats, bed sheets, blankets, upholstered furniture and computer mouse mats.

While synthetic clothing in general is perceived by many as having a less natural feel compared to fabrics woven from natural fibers (such as cotton and wool)[citation needed], polyester fabrics can provide specific advantages over natural fabrics, such as improved wrinkle resistance, durability and high color retention. As a result, polyester fibers are sometimes spun together with natural fibers to produce a cloth with blended properties. Synthetic fibers also can create materials with superior water, wind and environmental resistance compared to plant-derived fibers, and are sometimes renamed so as to suggest their similarity or even superiority to natural fibers (for example, China silk, which is a term in the textiles industry for a 100% polyester fiber woven to resemble the sheet and durability of insect-derived silk).


  • soft
  • high moisture absorbency
  • washable
  • easily dyed


Spandex (trade name Lycra) is a polyurethane product that can be made tight-fitting without impeding movement.

A synthetic fiber made from polyurethane. It is lightweight, highly elastic, strong, durable and non-absorbent to water and oils. A great alternative for people allergic to latex.

Used to make:

  • activewear
  • bras
  • swimsuits

Elastane is another name for spandex.

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