Natural Fibres include wool from sheep and fibre from alpaca, angora rabbits, cashmere and angora (mohair) goats, silk from insects (silkworms), and plant fibres such as cotton, flax and linen, nettle and hemp.
1. Animal fibres
2. Silk & silkworms
3. Plant fibres
Natural fibers are those that occur in fiber form in nature. Traditionally, natural fiber sources are broken down into animal, plant, or mineral. Fibers from plant or vegetable sources are more properly referred to as cellulose-based and can be further classified by plant source. They may be separated from the plant stalk, stem, leaf, or seed. Fibers from animal sources are more properly known as protein-based fibers. They are harvested from an animal or removed from a cocoon or web. Mineral fibers are those that are mined from the earth. Except for silk, all natural cellulose- and protein-based fibers are obtained in short lengths and are called staple fibers. Silk is a continuous filament fiber.
2.1.1 Cellulose-Based Fibers
Cellulose-based fibers consist of bast, leaf, and seed-hair fibers. Bast fibers come from the stem of the plant and include flax, hemp, jute, and ramie. Leaf fibers are stripped
from the leaves of the plant and include manila and sisal. Seed-hair fibers are collected from seeds or seed cases and include cotton and kapok.
2.1.2 Protein-Based Fibers
Protein-based fibers are from animal sources, most commonly the hair of the animal. Animal-hair fibers are long-staple fibers, ranging in length from 2.5 to 10 inches or more. Silk is a natural protein fiber extruded by the silk worm. With a length of over 500 yards, it is classified as a filament fiber.
Sheep-wool fiber can be sheared from the living animal or pulled from the hide after slaughtering. Sheared or clipped wool is superior to pulled wool. Sheep normally are sheared only once a year. Lamb’s wool is wool from sheep under 8 months of age. “Virgin wool” (or “new wool”) comes from the first shearing of the animal and is most highly prized. (The term “virgin wool” is also used to mean wool that has never previously been processed.)
2. Angora is the long, fine hair fiber from the Angora rabbit. It is not to be confused with the hair fiber of the Angora goat, the source of mohair. Angora rabbits are raised domestically. The fur is combed and clipped from the rabbit every three months. Camel hair comes from the Bactrian camel. The fiber is shed, and about 5 pounds (2.7 kilograms) is produced per camel. The underhairs are used in textiles, and the coarse
outer guard hairs are used in paint brushes and other non-apparel uses.
3. Cashmere is the soft hair fiber from the cashmere (kashmir) goat. The fiber is harvested by combing the animal. A single goat produces only about 4 ounces (114 grams) of fiber a year. Cashmere is considered a luxury fiber.
Llama hair fibers are shorn from the animal once a year. They are similar to alpaca fibers, but weaker.
4. Mohair is the long, straight, fine hair fiber from the Angora goat. The fiber is usually sheared from the animal twice a year.
5. Vicuña is the hair fiber from a small non-domesticated llama-like animal about the size of a dog. The animal lives at elevations above 16,000 feet in South America and has been
listed as endangered since 1969. Vicuña is the softest of the fleece fibers.
3. protein based
Silk is a natural protein secreted by the larvae of several moth species. The larvae use the filaments to construct a cocoon, from which the silk is extracted. Twin filaments of the
protein fibroin are secreted and bound together in a single strand with the protein gum sericin. During processing, the sericin is removed, leaving the fibroin protein. Cultivated
or cultured silk is produced in very controlled conditions of environment and diet. Tussah or wild silk is harvested from natural sources.