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The Importance of Fiber Content

There are three main fiber groups used to classify the type of fiber in textiles and thread. These groups include natural fibers, regenerated fibers and synthetic fibers. Below is a brief description of some important characteristics of each fiber group.

1. Natural Fibers

Natural fibers are considered a renewable resource which does not require chemical processing before use. Natural fibers can be divided into two categories: protein (animal) and cellulose (plant). The most common protein fibers include wool and silk. The most common cellulose fibers include cotton and linen. Natural fibers are typically short (staple) fibers which will create a less durable thread and textile than long (filament) fibers. The only type of natural fiber that has the potential for being a long (filament) fiber is silk. While each fiber has specific characteristics that are associated with it, generally natural fibers will accept dye more easily, have a higher cost and be less durable than synthetic fibers. The fibers are spun or twisted together to produce a continuous strand of thread/yarn created by interlocked fibers. These continuous strands are then knitted, woven or felted together to produce a textile. 

2. Regenerated Fibers

Regenerated fibers are one of two groups that are considered man-made. Regenerated fibers are made by using natural resources, typically cellulose fibers such as wood pulp or cotton waste, that are reformed or regenerated by chemical manufacturing. This category was created by the desire to have a low-cost alternative for silk. These fibers include viscose rayon, acetate, lyocell, bamboo and more. These fibers can be short (staple) or long (filament) fibers depending on the process while regenerating the fiber. Typically these fibers have great moisture absorbency, drape beautifully and feel very soft. On the negative side, these fibers are weak with low durability, have poor sunlight resistance and easily wrinkle or distort. After the fibers the have been regenerated, they will be spun or twisted into yarn/thread with a similar process as natural fibers. The thread is then woven or knitted to create a textile.

3. Synthetic Fibers

Synthetic fibers are considered the second group of man-made fibers. Unlike regenerated fibers, synthetic fibers are made entirely by chemical synthesis and are usually derived from by-products from petroleum or natural gas. Polyester, created from petroleum products, has become the most popular textile and has overtaken cotton in popularity. The most common synthetic fibers include polyester, nylon, acrylic and elastomeri (spandex). This type of fiber is produced in long continuous strands referred to as filament fibers. Filament fibers are stronger and create less lint than short (staple) fibers. Typically synthetic fibers will be stronger than natural and regenerated fibers, be resistant to shrinkage and distortion, wash and dry easily while also being wrinkle and mildew resistant. These fibers are also spun or twisted together to create thread/yarn which is then woven, knit or felted together to create a textile.