Fibre is the starting point of the textile chain. First of all, fibre is obtained from the source, which is then spun into yarn. Yarn is then woven or knitted into fabric. Fibres can be classified into 2 main categories: natural and synthetic. Natural fibres are obtained from natural sources such as animals and plants, while those which are not obtained from natural sources are called synthetic fibres. This article mainly aims at studying plant and animal fibres - the traditional sources as well as the recently developed ones.
The following are some of the popular fibres used in the textile industry:
1) Cotton: Cotton fibre is obtained from the cotton plant. It is one of the traditional fibres used in the textile industry. It is one of the most preferable fibres because the cloth made from it is durable, at the same time having a good drape. Moreover, it is moisture-absorbent and smooth to the touch. One of the other qualities of cotton fabric is that it takes time to dry. It also creases easily, requiring regular ironing.
2) Linen: Linen fabric is obtained from the flax plant. It is a fibre that has been used in the textile industry since ages. The properties of linen fabric are very much similar to cotton fabric. Like cotton, linen fabric is also highly moisture-absorbent and durable. It creases easily and requires ironing. However, it is stiffer as compared to cotton. Linen is usually used in the manufacture of summer clothes and home linen.
3) Jute: Jute is a natural fibre that has been used in the textile industry since centuries. It is obtained from the jute plant and is popularly known as Golden fibre on account of the golden sheen that it possesses. On account of its high strength, it is perfect for use in packaging material. Jute is sometimes blended with other fabrics or even used individually in the production of apparel. However, it does not have as good a drape as cotton and creases easily. Bangladesh in India is one of the major sources of jute in India.
4) Silk: Silk, again, is a natural fibre used in the textile industry since ages. It is obtained from silk worms. The most popular kind of silk is obtained from the mulberry silk worm. The silk that is obtained from other varieties of silk worms is called wild silk. China, India, Nepal and Europe have been traditional producers of good quality silk on a large scale. Silk fibre has a unique sheen. It is very smooth to the touch, at the same time being strong. These qualities made it the fabric of choice for sarees and dress materials. Apart from this, silk is also used for nightwear, bed linen, underwear as well as home furnishings.
5) Wool: Wool is a fibre that has traditionally been used in the textile industry, commonly obtained from sheep. Wool fabric is soft to the touch and provides warmth to the weather, due to which it is the preferred choice for winter apparel. Wool has other features such as elasticity and good drape. Moreover, it can be easily dyed in different colors, thus making it suitable for use in fashionable winter apparel.
The common type of wool used for the production of apparel is Merino wool, obtained from the Merino sheep. Merino wool is the softest wool in the world.
The wool industry in the world is largely spread out in Australia, China and New Zealand. Australia contributes nearly 25% of the world's wool production.
6) Corn fibre: Corn fibre is a comparatively new innovation in the textile industry. Cargill Inc. and The Dow Chemicals joined together to form Cargill Dow Polymers LLC, which developed corn fibre.
The fabric made from corn fibre is easy to care for, cheap and very comfortable to wear. Moreover, it is stain-resistant and UV resistant. This fabric can be used for several applications such as readymade apparel, diapers, bedding, carpets and upholstery. Moreover, the production of this fabric requires the use of less fuel, and is hence environment-friendly as well.
7) Spider silk: Silk is commonly obtained from silkworms. However, in recent times, scientists have come up with an innovation wherein silk is produced from spiders. As opposed to silkworms, spiders produce silk at normal temperature, due to which the process is environment-friendly as well. Spider silk is useful for the production of light-weight apparel.
8) Coir fibre: Coir fibre is a natural fibre that is obtained from the coconut tree. Coir fibre is thick and strong and is hence ideal for use in rugs, sacks and brushes. If the coir is harvested while the coconuts are tender, the fibre is white in color; however, it is brown-colored if harvested on maturity. The coir industry in India is largely concentrated in Kerala. Apart from India, Sri Lanka is a major producer of coir fibre.
9) Yak fibre: The yak is an animal that is largely found in the Himalayas in India and Tibet. The hair of the yak is very useful in the production of warm clothes, mats and sacks. This is because of its qualities such as warmth and strength. Yak fibre is usually found in black and piebald. In rare cases, white yak hair is also obtained. This fibre has been used in the textile industry since long.