Fibres Fibers

    Natural Fibres


    Man Made Fibres

  • Regenerated Fibres
  • Synthetic Fibres


Natural Fibres are fibres which exist naturally, and come from animal, vegetable or mineral sources. Examples of natural fibres are Coco, Cotton, Flax, Camel Hair, Cashmere, Mohair, Hemp, Jute, Sisal, Silk, Tampico, Wool, Asbestos, Glass, Bassalt.

Coco Fibre is harvested from the husk of the Coconut from Cocos Nucifera, a variety found principally in Sri Lanka.
Interestingly, although Coconut Palms grow in many other parts of the world, it is only here that the fibre which surround the nut is long enough to be of use in the brush-making industry.
Having been stripped from the outside of the nut, the fibre goes through a process known as "retting". This is done by first soaking the husk until the outer layer begins to break down, and then hackling, or combing the fibre by hand.
Coco Fibre is a very lightweight material, making it suitable for softer sweeping brooms. Its low cost makes it the best choice for economical domestic brushware.
It has good liquid carrying properties, and is resistant to many chemicals and solvents thanks to its natural oil content.
Apart from its use for the manufacture of brushware, this fibre is useful to model makers, who find it an ideal material to reproduce thatching on model cottages etc.
It also makes perfect nesting material for breeders of Finches and other exotic birds.

The soft, white, downy fibers surrounding oil-rich seeds from any of various shrubby plants of the genus Gossypium, having showy flowers and grown for the fibre, which is used in making textiles and other products. The fibres are attached to the seeds which are grown in the Boll.

Cotton is a relatively inexpensive fibre, and can be used to produce fabrics which have a pleasant crisp handle, wear well, absorb moisture and withstand repeated washing. Ideal for clothing, cotton is often Blended with other fibres, including rayon, polyester and acrylic fibres. Cotton yarns gain increased strength considerably when moist.
 To find out more about cotton, visit Textile Fibres and Terminology Cotton [PDF 1.08MB]

Palmyra Fibre, or Bassine as it is more commonly known, comes from the Palmyra Palm Borassus Flabelliformis which is found in parts of India. The best material is to be found in Tuticorin, a region of southern India which gives it's name to this grade of Palmyra Fibre. Other grades available are Cochin and Kakinada which tend to be much coarser.
Palmyra Fibre is very strong and hard-wearing, making it ideally suitable for semi-stiff sweeping brooms. It is also suited to the manufacture of scrubbing brushes. However, its properties can be markedly improved by the addition of a second material, either Mexican Tampico Fibre to produce a completely natural filling material, or PVC/Polypropylene to create a semi-synthetic Union Mixture.
The addition of Tampico Fibre increases the liquid carrying properties of Palmyra Fibre quite dramatically.
Palmyra Fibre is very light in density, and is relatively low cost making it the perfect choice for low cost domestic brushware. It is degrades completely naturally, with no harm to the environment, and is harvested from a renewable source, making it one of the "greenest" fibres available. It has good resistance to friction and heat, and will withstand many chemicals and solvents.

Tampico Fibre, or Mexican Fibre as it is more commonly known, must surely be one of the most remarkable natural fibres. It grows in only one region of northern Mexico in the form of a cactus of the species Agave Lecheguilla.
This cactus grows completely naturally, and cannot be cultivated, and therefore although it is farmed and harvested commercially, the rest must be left completely to nature.
It thrives in the hot, dry climate of the highlands of northern Mexico. Harvesting is done traditionally by hand, as is most of the processing. Only the final dressing takes place by machinery.
Examined under a microscope, the fibre has a series of tiny hooks or barbs, which gives the fibre a natural slightly abrasive quality. This makes the fibre the ideal choice for applications such as the manufacture of mops for metal polishing. This characteristic also enables the fibre to carry polishing compounds extremely well. This is also true for other liquids. Tampico fibre is excellent for carrying and retaining water with minimal loss of rigidity, which makes it the ideal choice for the manufacture of nail brushes and body and bath brushes where a completely natural product is required. It is also very suitable for the manufacture of distemper and masonry paint brushes.
The fibre is extremely strong and hardwearing, and is resistant to attack by many chemical solutions and solvents.
Being a natural fibre it has excellent anti-static properties, degrades completely naturally with no harm to the environment and is harvested from a completely renewable source.

Wool fibre is the dense, soft, often curly hair forming the coat of sheep and certain other mammals, such as the goat and alpaca, consisting of cylindrical fibers of keratin covered by minute overlapping scales and much valued as a textile fabric. The fact that the fibres are crimped and resilient means that they hold together well, and trap air, a good thermal insulator, between them which makes this fibre ideal for soft and warm clothing, rugs and blankets. It also absorbs moisture well, and does not accumulate static. Wool is not readily washable, although technical developments in treatments have made some garments machine washable.

The yarn is loosely spun to make knitting wools, and by increasing the twist in the yarn, it is possible to make stong yarns such as worsteds for suiting.

 To find out more about wool, visit Textile Fibres and Terminology Wool [PDF 1.08MB]

The Silk Worm spins the silk thread to wrap round itself in a cocoon in which it changes into a chrysalis. Silk is expensive, difficult to produce and is regarded as a luxury fibre. It has a soft beautiful handle and an attractive appearance. The material is mainly used in fashion articles, like dresses, scarves and wraps.
 To find out more about silk, visit Textile Fibres and Terminology


The two classes of man made fibres are as follows:

Regenerated Fibres are made by transforming existing raw materials by chemical treatment. eg. wood pulp in the case of cellulose fibres.

Synthetic Fibres are new chemical products in themselves made by building up a new molecular structure.  They are mainly derived from oil products or coal tar.

Production processes

All man made fibres are made by extruding a viscous liquid chemical through fine holes in a nozzle known as a spinneret. The resulting extrusion is treated chemically in a variety of ways depending on properties to be built in to the surface reflection, texture and elasticity of the fibre.
This process of spinning mimics the action of the silk worm in spinning silk.
The three methods of spinning are as follows: WET SPINNING, DRY SPINNING and MELT SPINNING.

Wet spinning consists of feeding the fibre forming chemical from the spinneret and coagulating the fillaments in a bath of diluted acid or other chemical.

Dry spinning is a process whereby the fibre forming chemical is dissolved in a solvent which evaporates in warm air after the fillaments leave the spinneret.

Melt spinning processing involves melting thermoplastic chemical which having been forced through the spinneret cool and solidify.

Yarn thickness can be varied by the number of filaments twisted together or the size of the holes in the spinneret and speed of forcing.

The two kinds of yarn produced are:  CONTINUOUS AND STAPLE

Continuous filament yarn consists of an unending stream of filaments twisted together to make continuous lustrous yarn used for taffetas, satins etc.

Staple yarn begins as tow, (a bunch if filaments) a thicker filament yarn then is cut or broken by stretching the tow into short lengths as staple and spun  in the same way a cotton or wool. The staple cutting produces a dull yarn as the result of the numerous short fibres used.

The six main groups of man made fibres are as follows:

VISCOSE (Wet spun rayons)
NYLON (POLYAMIDE) (melt spun)  
POLYESTER (melt spun)  
ACRYLICS AND MODACRYLICS (usually wet spun)  

Rayon is made from cellulose either extracted from spruce trees or eucalyptus plants. The processed raw material is formed into sheets known as regenerated cellulose.

There are two main types :
VISCOSE RAYON - (Avicso, Alastra, Darelle, Danufil, Deslustra, Durafil, Evlan, Fibro, Fibrenka, Sarille, Viloft.)
General clothing, blended for suitings, furnishings, carpets, medical, popular for linings material.

CUPRAMMONIUM - (Bemburg, Cupioni, Cuprama, Cupresa, Tusson)
Fine chiffons, satins, nets and sheer fabrics. Popular for warp knit underwear, dress fabrics, linings and hosiery.

VISCOSE was the first man made fibre and is now mainly produced in UK by Courtaulds.
A British discovery patented in 1892 by three paper technology chemists, Cross, Bevan and Beadle.

Production Process:
1. Raw material softened and pressed into sheets.
2. Sheets ground into a white mass called 'crumbs' (alkali cellulose)
3. Crumbs disolved in caustic soda.
4. Carbon disulphide added to form sodium cellulose xanthate.
5. Xanthate solution dissolved in caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) to form VISCOSE.
6. Viscose rippened by storage for two or three days.
7. Viscose filtered then extruded through spinneret into a sulphuric acid and salt coagulating bath which neutralised alkali and regenerates cellulose into continuous filaments.
8. A number of filaments drawn together for filament yarn, or into a tow from several larger jets. Filaments are stretched to give strength.
9. Staple fibre - a tow cut into short lenghts as required between 1 1/2 - 5 inches.
10. Continuous filament yarns wound onto cheeses.
11. Filament and staple yarns or fibres are washed and dried.
12. Yarn woven or knitted. Staple spun into yarn.

Trade names:  Sarille, Vincel, Evlan, Fibro, Viloft

SARILLE - a crimped rayon staple which produces bulky warm handling fabrics with wool like texture.
VINCEL - good washability often mixed with cotton for rainwear.
EVLAN - tougher rayon for carpets.

Cheap and mixes well with other fibres (silk, nylon, cotton)
Dyes well and accepts finishes
Wears not as well as cotton or nylon, frays and creases unless treated.

ACETATE - (formerly known as acetate rayon)

Trade names:  Alon, Dicel, Rhodia, Tencel, Xtol.

Applications: Lingerie, pyjamas, shirts, ties, swimwear.  In staple form, blended into suitings, sportswear, knitting yarns, househild textiles, carpets, cable insulations

1. Drapes well - more resistant to creasing than viscose.
2. Rich and lustrous appearance makes suitable for brocades.
3. not attacked by moth or mildew.
4. Dyes well with the appropriate dyestuff and remains colourfast and bright.
5. Frays badly and slippery to handle.
6. Needs care when washing and ironing and only at mild temperature.

First produced in 1921 and formerly grouped with rayon although a cellulose fibre it has a different compound from either viscose or cuprammonium - the nearest fibre to silk.

Production process
1. Celulose obtained from cotton linters and wood pulp.
2. cellulose pretreated with three chemicals, to form a syrupy viscosity known as cellulose triacetate.
3. Ripened solution dissolved in acetone to create di-acetate.
4. Water added to precipitate white flakes which are then washed and stored.
5. flakes dissolved in acetone and extruded through a spinneret into warm air wihich evaporates acetone and solidifies the filaments.
6. Filaments drawn and twisted together and wound on bobbin, or tow produced from several jets which are crimped and cut into staple lengths.

DICEL - produced by British Celanese Ltd a filament yarn which can be bright or dull and drapes well when a chemical flame proofing added known as LO-FLAM.

Elastomerics - stretch fabrics and fibres - Lycra. (Du Pont trademark)

© 2019 David W. Holdsworth  

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