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Textile Fibers – the building blocks of the textile industry

Characteristics of textile fibers and its properties

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Fiber is a hair-like strand of material. It is flexible and can be spun or twisted for weaving, braiding, knitting, crocheting, etc. to make desired products. Fibers can be obtained in natural form from plants and animals as well as in synthetic form. Man-made or synthetic fibers are either made up of chemicals or by processing natural fibers to create new fiber structures/properties.

Fiber is the fundamental component required for making textile yarns and fabrics. There are two types – natural and synthetic. Natural fibers come from animals (sheep, goats, camelids, etc.) or vegetable-based fibers (cotton, flax, linen, and other plant fibers). Mineral fibers (asbestos, etc) are also classified as natural fibers.

Synthetic fibers are man-made and manufactured from synthetic chemicals – (byproducts of the petrochemical industries) – nylon, polyester, acetates. The characteristics of fibers directly affect the properties of the fabric it is woven into.

The history of fibers is as old as human civilization. Traces of natural fibers have been located in ancient civilizations all over the globe. For many thousand years, the usage of fiber was limited by natural fibers such as flax, cotton, silk, wool, and plant fibers for different applications.

Fibers can be divided into natural fibers and man-made or chemical fibers. Flax is considered to be the oldest and the most used natural fiber since ancient times.

A unit of matter which is capable of being spun into a yarn or made into a fabric by bonding or by interlacing in a variety of methods including weaving, knitting, braiding, felting, twisting, or webbing, and which is the basic structural element of textile products.

It is the smallest textile component which is a microscopic hair-like substance that may be man-made or natural.

They have a length at least a hundred times that of their diameter or width.

Classification of Fibers

Comprehensive list of Textile Fibers
Type of fibers classified by fiber sources

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Textile Fibers - Summary

Types of Fibers

There are four types of fibers: natural, manufactured, synthetic, and minor miscellaneous types.

Natural fibers include Cotton, Linen, Flax, Wool (any form of animal hair including human hair; not just sheep wool as most associate with wool), and various other minor novelty fibers such as Hemp and Spun Cone. These fibers you can pick up and spin right into a fabric.

Manufactured fibers are types that come from cellulose and protein such as Rayon and Acetate. Rayon was the first manufactured fiber in 1949 and is also known as “artificial silk” since it was developed to mimic the costly silk fabrics of the time.

Many people consider Rayon a natural fiber but technically it is not. Rayon is spun from naturally occurring polymers that replicate a natural fiber.

Synthetic man-made fibers could take up a whole book along with the many styles and varieties. New fibers are developed all the time. Common fibers include Polyester, Microfiber, and Nylon to name a few.

Special use fibers are less common, but people may not realize that they come into contact with them on a daily basis. Surprisingly fibers such as rubber are used in Spandex. Metal such as stainless steel is used in carpets, and other metals such as silver and gold are woven into fabrics. New and innovative uses for fibers are being developed every day.

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