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In this post you can read  an introduction to fibres and fabrics or use the quick links to jump to detailed posts:

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Textiles and ultimately clothing start with fibres
Natural fibres
Coarse Fibres Are used for rope, string, sacking and industrial uses.Read more HEREFibres used for finer fabrics and yarnRead more HERE
Synthetic fibresRead more HERE
Regenerated FibresRead more HERE

Yarns and threads See links to plastic free products yarns HERE

Fabrics
Which fabric – why I prefer natural fabrics over synthetics here.
All about fabrics HERE
Buy FabricsHERE
Read all textile & wardrobe related posts HERE.

Introduction To Fibres, Yarns & Fabrics

Fibres (and then yarns and ultimately fabrics) can be can be natural, synthetic or chemically produced hybrid called regenerated fibres.

Definitions
Fibres are short fine hairs.
Fibres can be can be natural, synthetic or chemically produced hybrid called regenerated fibres.
Fibres can be twisted or spun into longer thread or yarn.
Threads can be woven or knitted into fabric.

Know Your Fibres

Natural Fibres
These are plant or animal derived.
They biodegrade

Synthetic fibres
These are man-made from chemicals many of which are petroleum derived.
Most are derived from oil and coal.
Most do not biodegrade.

Regenerated Fibres
The base material is cellulose that can be obtained from a range of sources including wood, paper, cotton fiber, or  bamboo. It is then converted through a chemical process into a fiber.
Some it is claimed are biodegradable. Some are not.

which Fibres

Why I prefer natural fabrics over synthetics here.

Yarns and threads

and what they are used for….
Yarns and threads usually take the name from the fibre in which they are spun.
they can be used as
string for tying
Thread for sewing
Yarn for knitting
See links to plastic free products HERE

Natural Yarn
Coarse Fibres Are used for rope, string, sacking and industrial uses.

they include:
Abaca can be used for rope,
coir from coconuts has a wide range of applications,
jute is used for sack cloth and
sisal for string.
As well as these traditional uses there are many new applications.
Read more HERE

Fibres used for finer fabrics and yarn include
Cotton used to make cotton
Flax is used to make linen. It is one of the strongest vegetable fibres.
Wools include
Sheep’s wool in a range of weights and qualities
Alpaca wool used to make high-end luxury fabrics.
Angora wool -The silky white wool of the Angora rabbit is very fine and soft, and used in high quality knitwear
Mohair also from the Angora goat.
Cashmere wool comes from cashmere goats and has great insulation properties without being bulky
Silk is strong and light weight.

Synthetic 
These are man-made from chemicals many of which are petroleum derived.
Acrylic, nylon and polyester come from oil and coal.
Most do not biodegrade.
Acrylic fibre resembles wool and so is used to replace that natural fibre.
Nylon is used as a silk substitute. It is a very fine and strong fibre so can be used to make ladies tights.
Polyester is one of the most popular man-made fibres. It is the same  Polyethylene terephthalat, (frequently shortened to PET or PETE and was formerly called PETP or PET-P), that is used to make bottles and a lot of other plastic stuff.

 

Regenerated 
The base material is cellulose that can be obtained from a range of sources including wood, paper, cotton fiber, or  bamboo. It is then converted through a chemical process into a fiber. One such in bamboo. Most bamboo fabric  is made using  chemical solvents such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH – also known as caustic soda or lye) and carbon disulfide  combined with multi-phase bleaching. Both sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide have been linked to serious health problems. Others are looking extremely promising and are biodegradable.
They usually go under the trade names
Rayon
Bamboo Rayon
Viscose,
Modal
Tencel (lyocell)

Regenerated Fibres & fabrics  a very basic introduction

Fabrics

Threads can be woven or knitted into fabric.
They may be named after then yarn type. So cotton can be the fibre the yarn or the fabric. They may be named after the trade name like Modal.
See above for some fibre and yarn names.
But fabrics can also be subdivided into a huge number of additional categories. For example cotton fabric can be described as denim, lawn or muslin.
Woollen fabrics could be called tweed or
Silk comes under any number of of luscious sounding names including Charmeuse, Chiffon and Crepe de Chine.

Fabric may also be described by the technique used to make it. So jersey is a knitted fabric that could be made from cotton, silk or polyester.

Read more about

Clothing

Clothes are then made out of woven/knitted fabrics or knitted yarn.

More

Fibre Production

fibre pie chart

2013 figures

Global 2013 fibre production estimated at 85.5 million tons

• Global 2013 synthetic fibre production estimated at 55.8 million tons (i.e. excluding cotton, cellulosics and wool)

Natural Fibres
Cotton 25 million tons
wool production is around 2.1 million tonnes.
Silk 150 000 tonnes in 2006
Linen 147 000 tonnes of flax fibre 2007,
Alpaca 6 500 tonnes
Cashmere” after scouring and dehairing 6 500 tonnes
Mohair is estimated at around 5 000 tonnes a year, down from a high of 25 000 tonnes in the 1990s,
Angora is estimated at 2 500 to 3 000 tonnes
2009 figures  only – google let me down!

Carbon footprint

A study done by the Stockholm Environment Institute on behalf of the BioRegional Development Group  concludes that the energy used (and therefore the CO2 emitted) to create 1 ton of spun fiber is much higher for synthetics than for hemp or cotton:
KG of CO2 emissions per ton of spun fiber:

KG of CO2 emissions per ton of spun fiber:

crop cultivation

fiber production

TOTAL

polyester USA

0.00

9.52

9.52

cotton, conventional, USA

4.20

1.70

5.90

hemp, conventional

1.90

2.15

4.05

cotton, organic, India

2.00

1.80

3.80

cotton, organic, USA

0.90

1.45

2.35

Lots more great info on the carbon footprint of fabrics can be found here on this great blog.

More Information

Lots of outrageous statistics HERE

Read all our fabrics, apparel and yarn related posts HERE.

4 thoughts on “Fabrics, Fibres & Yarns Index

  1. Absolutely. And you can get some amazing woollen fabrics still made in the uk. Bloody expensive though. If I can ever afford to make a skirt I will be keeping it forever!

  2. I have been grappling with the ethics of different fibres for a while now (for example http://wp.me/p2mlPL-5r). Here in the UK I think wool may be our best option but it’s not always appropriate. Cotton, unless organic has all sorts of issues associated with pesticide and water use, not to mention human exploitation. As always, the best thing to do is reduce consumption and make what we do have last as long as possible.

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