Textile Fibers : A list of Man made & Natural fibers

Textile fibers refer to filaments or threads which are woven, knitted, matted or bound to be used to make fabrics for different purposes.

Textile fibers are generally classified as natural textile fibers and man-made or synthetic fibers. But this is a very broad classification. As man advanced in textile technology he has discovered a variety of man-made as well as natural fibers which have been a boon to designers looking for different characteristics in the textiles they use to design their creations with.

textile fibers

General CategoryTypes of fibers
Vegetable FibersBast Fibers
Leaf fibers
Seed & fruit fibers
Animal fibersWool fibers
Filament fibers
Mineral fibersAsbestos
Regenerated FibersRayon fibers
Polynosic fibers
Cuprammonium fibers
Semi Synthetic fibersAcetate fibers
Tri acetate fibers
Promix fibers
Synthetic fibersPolyester Fibers
Acrylic Fibers
Modacrylic Fibers
Nylon Fibers
Vinylon Fibers
Polypropyrene Fibers
Polyurethane Fibers
Polyvinyl Chloride Fibers
Polyethylene Fibers
Vinylidene Fiber
Polychlal Fibers
Benzoate Fibers
Aramid Fibers
Inorganic fibersGlass Fibers
Metallic Fibers
Carbon Fibers

 

Natural Fibers

Natural fibers are fibers obtained from plants and animals; they are further classified as Vegetable fibers Animal fibers and Mineral fibers.

1 Vegetable Fibers

Bast Fibers  are strong, cellulosic fibers obtained from the outer/inner bark of plants . The most prominent are Jute, hemp (Abaca stalk), flax (Linen), kenaf, rattan, vine fibers and Ramie (Rhea and china grass)
Leaf fibers are Sisal leaf fibers (Agave leaf) and Manila leaf fibers, Pina (Pineapple leaf)
Seed & fruit fibers are cotton, kapok (Capok tree) and coir (Coconut husk)

 

2 Animal fibers (also called  protein fibers)

Hair fibers and wool fibers

Wool is the most popularly used animal fiber ; it is obtained from the skin of different breeds of sheep.

The major hair fibers used to make textiles are Mohair, Cashmere, Alpaca, Lhama, Vucna, Kasha, Camel’s hair, Rabbit hair, Horsehair,Chiengora fibre ( dog’s hair). Yak’s hair is a favourite for making clothes. Animal hair fibers are generally stiffer than woolen fibers, though some like camel’s hair are soft. Cat’s hair and cows hair are also used.

Silk is an animal fiber obtained as a filament mostly from the silkworm Bombyx mori. Other silkworm breeds, spider, a special kind of seashell also produce different types of silk. Check out the post on different types of silk for more details.

3 Mineral fibers 

These are fibers derived from natural mineral sources or are manufactured from inorganic and mineral salts. Asbestos is a mineral fiber (Silicate of Magnesium and Calcium)and cloth made of this fiber is mostly used for industrial purposes

Man-made fibers

4 Inorganic fibers

Metallic fibers

Aluminum, silver, gold, stainless steel are also used to make fibers.Metallic fibers are manufactured /man-made fibers with high luster composed of metal, plastic-coated metal or metal-coated plastic. They are used to make fabric as well as decorative yarn

Glass fibers

These are fine translucent man-made fibers with great tensile strength, excellent resistance to heat, and flame retardancy; they are mostly used to make home furnishing rather than clothing

Man-made rubber

This is a combination of man made and synthetic rubber.

5 Regenerated fibers

Rayon fibers

These are beautiful silk-like fibers made from cotton linters / wooden pulp (cellulose).  The drapeability of rayon fabrics make them a favorite in making clothes. The rayon fibers take dye very well and they have good water absorbency. Rayon fibers are used for clothing ( especially to make women’s clothing) and home furnishing; they are also used to make caps , hats, wet tissue etc . Check out the post on Rayon ( viscose) clothing – for more details on this fiber and its care

Polynosic Fibers

This fiber is very similar to Rayon fibers but the tenacity of this fiber is more than that of rayon.

Cuprammonium rayon fiber

Cuprammonium rayon fibers are made from cellulose dissolved in a cuprammonium solution (copper and ammonia). Fabric made of this fiber is very delicate and thin but of high quality

6 Semi-Synthetic fibers

Acetate fibers

This fiber also uses wooden pulp as a raw material, which is then treated with acetic acid. Acetate fibers are beautiful soft shiny fibers which are very strong

Triacetate fibers

These are fibers to which more acetic acid is combined than to acetate fibers

Azlon fibers

These are manmade/synthetic fibers made from naturally occurring proteins like milk, soy  and eggs .

7 Synthetic fibers

Polyester fibers

Polyester fibers are one of the most used of all synthetic fibers. They are extremely fine fibers and can be blended with other fibers like cotton and wool to create better fabrics with multiple advantages. They have very unique characteristics like stability, strength, resistance to wrinkling which make them great for dressmaking

Nylon fibers

This is one of the strongest of all textile fibers with qualities like resistance to abrasion, ease of maintenance, resistance to wrinkling, resistance to chemicals. Nylon fibers are used to make all kinds of clothing but it is especially used in making sportswear and lingerie

Polyurethane fibers

You will know these fibers by the name spandex. They are very stretchable fibers. Garments are made by blending the polyurethane fibers with other fibers; they are used to make swimwear, lingerie etc

Acrylic fibers

This is a textile fiber made from Acrylic a plastic component (85% acrylonitrile). The fiber is extremely soft, lightweight and very close to the characteristics of wool.  The quality of warmth retention makes it a favorite fiber to make fabric for sweaters and other winter wear. Moda acrylic is a superior kind of acrylic fiber. One disadvantage of acrylic fiber is that it does not absorb moisture

Olefin fibers

Olefin fiber is a very strong abrasion and stain resistant and colour fast synthetic fiber.It is a popular fiber for making fabrics for Activewear and sportswear

You now have a basic knowledge of what fibers make the fabrics which form such an important part of our lives. For more details check out the posts on different aspects of textiles and a comprehensive list of the different types of fabrics available