Fibers are an extremely important part of the textile production process. In this and the next article we will analyze various types of textile fibers and set out the qualities of those that are suitable for the textile industry and the production of clothing and fashion.
As we know, the quality of a fabric is defined, in the largest proportion, by its composition; that is to say, by the kind of fiber that constitutes its fundamental raw material, the yarn. The fiber is the base of every fabric and it determines and defines almost all the properties and appearance of a finished fabric.
Textile fibers are divided into two main classes, natural textile fibers and synthetic or artificial textile fibers.
Natural textile fibers.
All those fibers that come from natural sources – animals, plants, minerals – and do not require formation or reform of their structure and content are classified as natural fibers.
Historically, natural plant and animal fibers have provided the raw materials to meet our fiber needs. Regardless of the climatic zone in which humans settled, they were able to use fibers from native species to make products such as clothing, buildings, and rope. The use and blending of materials dates back centuries and it all started with natural fibers.
While natural fibers are incredibly important for textile production, the first thing we need to know is that not all natural fibers are suitable for it. Natural fibers suitable for textile production are those that have properties that allow them to be spun into yarns or directly into fabric. This means that they must be strong enough to maintain their shape, flexible enough to form a yarn or be part of the structure of a fabric; elastic enough to stretch in different processes and resistant enough to last. In addition, they must have a minimum length in order to be spun.
Finally, it is important to remember that each fiber has a different quality and obviously, as we said, this will result in a particular type of fabric and quality. Just to give some examples, some fibers are soft and at the same time resistant, others can be very resistant, but lack softness. There are fibers that retain dyes better than others and there are those that offer a lot of comfort and versatility as opposed to others that may be less versatile, but retain heat or absorb water with greater capacity. Knowing their qualities and aptitudes is necessary to use the most appropriate fiber in each case.
Natural vegetable textile fibers.
In this and the next article we will analyze the natural vegetable fibers obtained from the various parts of plants.
These fibers are classified into three categories according to the part of the plant from which they are extracted. These three categories are: stem fibers – jute, mesta, banana, others -; leaf fibers – sisal, pineapple, pine, others -; seed fibers – cotton, coconut fiber, palm, others.
As we know many of the vegetable fibers are used as a resource for different industrial materials and are the raw material for the production of clothing and fashion accessories. The properties of natural fibers depend mainly on the nature and age of the plant, the place of cultivation and the method of extraction of the fiber used.
Stem and leaf natural vegetable fibers.
The fibers in the plants, both those of the stem and of the leaves, are an integral part of the structure of these and provide their strength and support. In cane-type plants, the fibers are next to the outer bark in the bast or phloem and help strengthen the stems. The fibers are in strands that run along the stem or between the joints. To separate the threads, the natural glue that joins them must be removed. This operation is called regrowth, which is basically a controlled rotting process. For most uses, particularly in textiles, this long fiber is used directly; however, when such fiber strands are depulped by chemical means, the strand is broken into much shorter, finer fibers, which will be ready for use.
The long leaf fibers contribute to strengthening the leaves of certain non-woody monocotyledonous plants. They extend lengthwise along the leaf and are buried in tissues of a parenchymal nature. The fibers closest to the leaf surface are the strongest. The fibers are separated from the pulp tissue by scraping because there is little bond between the fiber and pulp; this operation is called decortication. The fiber filaments of the leaves also have a multicellular structure.
Vegetable Textile Fibers vs. Synthetic Textile Fibers.
World vegetable fiber markets have been steadily declining in recent years, mainly as a result of the replacement of these by artificial fibers. I recommend you read this article where we analyze this incredible competition in the textile industry: Cotton Vs. Synthetic Fibers. Jute has traditionally been one of the main fibers sold on the world market; however, the sharp decline in jute exports from India indicates the decline in market demand for this fiber which has been of vital importance to the economies of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The main chemical component in the plants is cellulose, and therefore they are also known as cellulosic fibers. Fibers are normally bound by a natural phenolic polymer, lignin, which is also frequently present in the cell wall of the fiber; therefore, vegetable fibers are also often referred to as lignocellulosic fibers, with the exception of cotton, which does not contain lignin.
Cellulose is a biopolymer composed exclusively of β-glucose molecules and is the most abundant organic biomolecule as it forms most of the terrestrial biomass.
Cellulose is a fibrous material of plant origin and the basis of all natural and artificial cellulosic fibers. Natural cellulosic fibers include cotton, flax, hemp, jute and ramie. The strong intermolecular forces between chains, along with the high linearity of the cellulose molecule, explain the crystalline nature of cellulosic fibers. The main artificial cellulosic fiber is rayon, a fiber produced by the regeneration of dissolved forms of cellulose.
In the next article we analyze one by one the most used natural vegetable textile fibers for fashion production.