Types of Textile Fibers – Natural & Man-Made

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If you want to know about fabrics then you should learn a thing or two about the types of textile fibers. If you don`t, you`re in the right place. The textile industry has continued to flourish with an encouraging advancement in textile technology. Thus, the industry has seen an influx of different fibers that are now being used for different applications. In this article, you`ll learn about the different types of textile fibers, their properties, and what they are used for. 

Types of Textile FibersPinTypes of Textile Fibers


What Are Textile Fibers?Types of Textile FibersNatural FibersMan-Made Types of Textile FibersTypes of Textile Fibers – In Conclusion

What Are Textile Fibers?

Textile fibers are filaments that can be knitted, woven, bound, or matted to create fabrics. Basically, fibers are used to create the yarns that fabrics are made from. Currently, there are many fibers out there. But they can all be classified under two major groups which are natural and man-made fibers. 

Textile fibers are used for making shirts, dresses, underwear, socks, shoes, belts, suits, curtains, bags, and a host of other fashion products. 

As earlier mentioned, there are two classes of fibers. They are:

Types of Textile Fibers

Natural Fibers

Natural fibers are further subdivided into 3 classes. They are vegetable fibers, animal fibers, and mineral fibers. 

Natural Fibers Examples
Vegetable Fibers Cotton, Linen, Jute, Hemp, kapok, Ramie, Pina, Coir, Sisal
Animal Fibers Wool, Hair, Silk
Mineral Fibers Asbestos

Types of Textile Fibers – Natural

Here`s a selection of some of the most popular natural fibers in the textile industry.

Linen Types of Textile Fibers

It is one of the most expensive natural fibers and for good reasons. Linen production is labor-intensive and as such, only a small quantity is produced at a time.

Also, linen fabric is known to be one of the best fabrics to wear in hot weather due to its freshness. High quality meets low production and you can understand why linen is quite expensive. 

Properties Of Linen

It is highly absorbentLinen is the strongest vegetable fibreIts poor elasticity means it shrinks easilyIt`s quite smooth and becomes even softer when washedConducts heat wellCan be damaged when exposed to bleach, meadow, and perspiration.

 Usesof Linen

It is used to make industrial products like canvas and luggage.Used for making different clothes like shirts, dresses, suits, and skirts.Furniture items like dish towels, table cloths, bedsheets, window treatments, and wallpaper. 

Cotton Types of Textile Fibers

It is one of the world`s largest cash crops and tops the list for non-food cash crops. Known for being breathable, washable, and absorbent, cotton is used to create apparels that are comfy and easy to maintain. Hence, it is one of the most popular fibers in the textile industry. 

Propertiesof Cotton

Good conductor of heatSlight elasticityGood absorbentSusceptible to wrinklingComfy and is soft when feltCan easily be damaged by mildew, insects, moths, and rotFairly strong

Uses of Cotton

Used for making knitted and woven clothesCan be combined with other fibers like rayon and polyester. Used for making industrial products and homewards

Silk Types of Textile Fibers

Silk is a continuous strand that is removed from a moth caterpillar`s cocoon. The caterpillar is known as a silkworm. The silk fiber has a figure that appears like a triangular prism. The figure gives it a shiny look and enables clothes made with silk to refract the light at different angles.

Silk can be dyed, knitted, or woven. It also has wicking and thermal features which makes it a great choice for base layers and underwear. 

Properties of Silk

Silk has little or no elasticity. Hence, it remains stretched when elongatedIt becomes weakened when exposed to too much sunlight. Can be damaged by insects when left uncleanIt is both strong and lightweight. Silk is smooth, lustrous, and has a soft texture.

Uses of Silk

Used for creating wall hangings, wall covers, and upholsteryMany ties, shirts, blouses, and dresses are made with silk.Used for making lingerie, robes, and pyjamas.

Wool Types of Textile Fibers

Wool grows from the skin of sheep. The raw wool is called fleece. It is shaved off, cleaned, and scoured to eliminate impurities. The fibers are then untangled using a metal tooth in a process called carding.

The fiber`s appearance differs depending on the sheep breed. Fibers with full fleece usually have lots of smooth scales. They are soft, warm, and of fine quality. However, the sheep with brighter fleece is known to possess rough scales that are of lesser quality. 

Properties of Wool

It is considerably elasticWool is resistant to static electricityIt requires a higher temperature for ignition compared to cotton.Wool is hygroscopic. This means it readily retains water. 

Usesof Wool

It is used for making saddle cloths and horse rugsUsed for carpets, blankets and upholsteryUsed for apparel like sweaters, trousers, hats, suits, and jackets

Man-Made Types of Textile Fibers

Man-Made fibers are subdivided into cellulosic, non-cellulosic, protein fibers, and mineral fibers.

Man-Made Fiber Examples
Cellulosic Rayon, acetate, Tri-acetate, 
Non-Cellulosic Polymer fibers, Polyester, Nylon, Acrylic, Spandex, 
Protein Fibre Non that is commercially successful
Mineral Fibre Glass

Types of Textile Fibers – Man-Made

Below are some of the more popular man-made types of textile fibers. 

Rayon Types of Textile Fibers Fibers

Rayon is produced with regenerated cellulose from natural sources like wood pulp and other agricultural products. Thus, it`s neither a truly natural or synthetic fiber. Rayon exists in three forms; viscose rayon, modal, and lyocell.

Rayon is highly versatile and has been referred to by many as the shapeshifting fabric. This is due to its ability to imitate other fabrics. Rayon can take on the properties of fabrics like wool, silk, cotton, and others. Hence, it can be used to make different kinds of apparel. 

Properties of Rayon

Highly absorbentViscous rayon is normally weak, but Modal and lyocell are stronger, more durable, and able to retain appearance.Rayon is smooth, soft, and comfyHigh lustreLow shape retention and durability

Uses of Rayon

Tye cord, medical surgery products, and other industrial applicationsUpholstery, bed sheet, bedspreads, and other furniture applicationsApparels like jackets, lining, blouses, dresses, and neckties.Diapers and towels.

Polyester Types of Textile Fibers

 In 2002, Polyester upstaged cotton as the world`s most commonly used fabric. This was due in no small part to the fabric`s cheapness, lightweight, strength, and being wrinkle-free. Polyester can be knitted, woven, or combined with other fibers. 

Unfortunately, the story is not all smooth sailing with polyester. Despite its cheapness, the process of producing Polyester consumes a lot of energy and releases noxious pollutants sulfur oxide, and nitrogen into the air. 

Properties of Polyester

LightweightStrong and wrinkle freeHydrophobic

Uses of Polyester

Used for making safety belts, conveyor belts, and other industrial applicationsUsed for home furnishing like bed sheets, cushioning material, and upholstery furnitureApparels like shirts, hats, jackets, and pants. 

Spandex Types of Textile Fibers

 Also, know as Lycra or elastane, Spandex is a synthetic fiber that`s known for its elasticity. It is mostly used for making the stretchy sportswear you see on your favorite athletes. The name Spandex is an anagram for the word “expands” which is a tribute to the fiber`s exceptional elasticity.

This fiber can be produced through solution dry spinning, reaction spinning, solution wet spinning, or melt extrusion. Spandex is made by first reactions monomers to create a prepolymer. Once formed, the prepolymer is reacted further and drawn out to create the fiber.

Properties of Spandex

Highly elasticDurableShape retentionComfortable

Note: While Spandex can stretch up to 7 times its normal length and return to its original shape, it`s still far too fragile to be used as a standalone fibre. Hence, it`s always combined with other fibers.

Uses of Spandex

Used for shaped garments like bra cupSocks, leggings, and lingerieUsed for making sportswearSpandex is used to create stretchy superhero costumes including Superman and your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman! 

Nylon Types of Textile Fibers

Nylon is the name used to describe any synthetic polymer that contains polyamides. There are many such polymers, but nylon is the generic name used to describe them. It is one of the strongest known fibers in the textile industry, even stronger than polyester. It is also more durable and water-resistant than the aforementioned fiber.

Nylon is resistant to oil and damage from many chemicals. It will neither stretch nor shrink, but it is abrasion and wrinkle resistant. Nylon is also flammable. It melts and then begins to burn rapidly. Due to the cost of production, nylon is more expensive than most synthetic fibers. 

Properties of Nylon

It is durable and weather resistant It is strong and flame retardantMelts then burns quicklyIt is soft, warm, light-weight, and quick dryingResistant to abrasion, oil, and most chemicalsIt has a low moisture absorbency

Uses of Nylon

It is used for airbags, ropes, hoses, parachutes, and other industrial applicationsUsed for raincoats, leggings, windbreakers stocking, swimwear pantyhose, and other apparelsUsed for home furnishing

Types of Textile Fibers – In Conclusion

Whether natural or synthetic, industry professionals have made a lot of progress in creating quality types of textile fibers. With many fibers able to combine with others, we will continue to see the production of top-quality fabrics in the textile industry. 

Without fibers, there would be no fabrics and that means we wouldn`t have a use for wardrobes or own any clothes. Unfortunately, some fibers are created through processes that release dangerous chemicals that hurt the environment. With humans becoming more aware of sustainability, there`s bound to be some changes in fiber production in years to come. 

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