Textile fibers refer to filaments or threads which are woven, knitted, matted or bound to be used to make fabrics for different purposes. To put it in perspective, Fabric is made from yarns and yarn is made from fibers.
Textile fibers are generally classified as natural textile fibers and man-made fibers. 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.
General Category Types of fibers Vegetable Fibers Bast Fibers
Seed & fruit fibers
Animal fibers Wool fibers
Mineral fibers Asbestos Regenerated Fibers Rayon fibers
Semi Synthetic fibers Acetate fibers
Tri acetate fibers
Synthetic fibers Polyester Fibers
Polyvinyl Chloride Fibers
Inorganic fibers Glass 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 is 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. More details on animal fibers and animal fabrics can be found here.
More detailed posts : Natural Fibers; 20 best Animal Fibers and the animal fabrics that are made from them.
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
4 Inorganic 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
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
This is a combination of man made and synthetic rubber.
5 Regenerated 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
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
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
These are fibers to which more acetic acid is combined than to acetate fibers
These are manmade/synthetic fibers made from naturally occurring proteins like milk, soy and eggs .
7 Synthetic 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
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.
Related post : What is Nylon ?.
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
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 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.
Related posts : 20 quality checks for buying good fabric.