Natural fabrics are derived from the fibres of animal coats, plant seeds, stems and leaves, and silkworm cocoons. They are soft and breathable and UV light does not cause discoloration.
Coir is a natural fabric which is obtained from the fibrous husk of a coconut. It is stress resistant, bio-degradable and buoyant. Coir is used to make sacking, twine, doormats and items such as bags and ropes. Coir can also be used in construction and to improve clays. It is a good fabric to control soil erosion.
Cotton is one of the best-known natural fabrics. The fibre grows around the seeds of the cotton plant and cotton has been used since about 3000 BC. Cotton is soft, strong, flame retardant, hypo-allergenic and easy to wash. It is the most popular natural fabric used in making clothing. It is also used to make home furniture, bags and medical products. Heavyweight cotton fabric can be used to make items such as shoes and tents.
Hemp is quite unusual in that it is both very soft and durable. It can be used for many things from work clothing to home decoration such as table linens, dish towels and sheets. It has a great luster and dyes easily.
Another widely used natural fabric is jute. It is economical and strong, reusable and repairable. Jute fabric comes in a number of varieties including Hessian, CBC, sacking, a heavy fabric variety, jute yarn, webbing and non-woven felt. It is a good insulator of electricity and heat. Examples of items made from jute fabric include fashion apparel, soft luggage, backing for carpets, inner spring webbing for car seats and bags or sacks for packing.
A natural fabric with interesting natural textures is leather. Leather is elastic and soft and very comfortable to wear. It does not pick up the surrounding temperature so is comfortable in heat or cold. As well as being made into clothing and shoes, is also used for belts, sofas, harnesses, wallets and many other things. Various types of leather include suede, nubuck, embossed leather and aniline leather which shows all the natural textures and scars.
Linen is hypo-allergenic and protects against sun radiation. It has been used for over 10,000 years and is luxurious and comfortable. Linen is obtained from the flax plant. It is strong and can absorb up to 20 times its own weight in liquid. It is used for rugs, painting canvases and apparel.
Ramie is stronger than linen or cotton. It is obtained from the ramie plant. Ramie is strong, absorbent and can be dyed easily. Its uses include clothing, pillow cases, tablecloths, sacks and cable insulation.
The strongest natural fabric in the world is silk, which is obtained from the cocoons of silk worms. Silk is luxurious, beautiful and keeps you warm in the cold or cool in the heat. Silk is used in clothing, medical textiles and home furnishings.
Another very durable yet soft fabric is wool. Wool comes from sheep, goats and even Angora rabbits. It has been used in clothing for over 12,000 years. There are various types of wool such as chenille, flannel, felt, tweed and melton. Wool is warm and absorbs moisture well. Wool is used in blankets, carpets and clothing.
Fabric blends are made of different types of fibres twisted together. This can result in an item that is easier to clean, care for or more comfortable. Polyester blended with cotton is very common. Silk can be blended with wool to result in a subtle texture, for example in making ties. Ramie blended with acrylic results in a softer fabric which is easier to care for.
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