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.

 

10) Camel fibre: Camel fibre has been traditionally used in the textile industry in the production of winter apparel. Usually, camel fibre is found in light brown, dark brown and reddish brown shades. It is soft to the touch and the apparel made from it is quite durable. Camel fibre from Mongolia is very popular.


11) Llama fibre: Llamas are animals typically found in South America. Since long, the soft hair of llamas is used for the production of apparel, while rougher hair is used in rugs and wall hangings. Llama fibre is normally available in white, black, grey, brown as well as reddish brown colors.


12) Alpaca fibre: Alpacas are small camel-like animals found largely in South America. Llamas and alpacas are very much similar to each other in appearance. However, the llama is larger in size and has a longer head as compared to an alpaca. Alpacas usually have the same color of hair throughout their bodies, while it might differ in case of llamas.


Alpaca fibre is used for the preparation of winter apparel. Alpaca wool is very much similar to sheep wool, but lighter in weight, warmer and softer to the touch. Generally, alpaca wool is available in white color; however, colors such as blackish blue, brown, silvery gray and blackish brown are also found.


Alpaca fibre has been used in the textile industry since centuries. The popularity of clothing made from alpaca fibre is rising since the last few years. This is mainly because raising alpaca has a lesser impact on the environment as compared to other wool-bearing animals.


Apparel producers sometimes make use of a blend of alpaca fibre and Merino wool to get the dual benefit of durability and warmth.


13) Ramie fibre: Ramie fibre refers to the fibre obtained from the Ramie plant. It has been in use since centuries in the textile industry. Legend has it that Ramie fibre was used in clothes for mummies in Egypt as long back as 5000-3300 BC. The fabric produced using Ramie fibre is strong, silky, shiny and does not crease easily. In spite of its strength, the use of Ramie fibre in the textile industry is not all that extensive, mainly on account of the labor, time and expenditure involved in the extraction and cleaning of the fibre. It is useful in the production of sewing thread, filter clothes, fishing nets and packaging material. Sometimes, it is used in the production of household fabrics and in apparel, usually in combination with some other fabric such as wool. China, Japan, Philippines and Brazil are the leading producers of Ramie fibre.


14) Sisal fibre: Sisal fibre refers to a natural fibre obtained from the Sisal plant. Usually, the fibre is creamy white in color and is silky to the touch after processing is done on it.


15) Angora fibre: Angora fibre refers to the fibre obtained from the Angora rabbit, commonly found in USA, Europe and China. The hair of the Angora rabbit is long and soft and is found in a variety of colors. Angora wool has been used in the production of sweaters and suits since long back. On account of its low elasticity, it is blended with wool for producing apparel.


16) Chiengora fibre: The hair of dogs is known as Chiengora fibre, which has been used in the textile industry since long. Typically, the hair of dogs such as the bearded collies, shepherd dogs, sheepdogs, poodles, terriers, Shih Tzus, dachshunds and wool hounds is used in the production of apparel. Chiengora hair, being warm and soft to the touch, is widely used in winter clothing and blankets. Sometimes, some other fibre such as wool is mixed with Chiengora fibre for the production of apparel or blankets.


17) Cashmere fibre: Cashmere fibre refers to the hair obtained from the Cashmere goat. It is also popularly known as Pashmina. This animal is largely found in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Iran, Mongolia and China. China has emerged as the largest producer of Cashmere fibre. Cashmere fibre is extremely soft, lightweight, fine and warm. Because of these qualities, it is very useful in the production of winter apparel, jackets, pants, blankets and scarves. Typically, Cashmere fibre is available in different shades of grey, white and black.


18) Mohair: The hair obtained from the Angora goat is called Mohair fibre. It possesses qualities such as warmth, light weight, crease resistance, durability and softness. It is useful in the production of winter apparel. Apart from this, it is also useful in the production of blankets, rugs and scarves. It is a traditional fibre used in the textile industry.


 

19) Soyabean fibre: Recently, experts have developed the concept of obtaining fibre from soyabean. It is lustrous and strong and dyes easily. Moreover, it is soft to the touch and lightweight. It is ideal for use in summer wear, underwear, sleepwear, sportswear, children's wear as well as home textiles.


20) Bamboo fibre: Bamboo fibre is a recent innovation in the textile industry. Obtained from the bamboo plant, it possesses several qualities such as smoothness and durability. It is environment-friendly as well, requiring fewer pesticides as compared to cotton cultivation. Bamboo fabric is emerging as the fabric of choice in the textile industry. It is largely used in the production of ready-made apparel and home textiles.


Apart from these natural fibres, experts are trying to develop fabrics from plants such as wheat, rice as well as beetroot among other sources.



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