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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Diversity and Classification of Natural Textile Fibers

Natural Fibers:
Textile fibers are so important from among all fibers. There are two broad categories of textile fibers: natural fiber and synthetic or manmade fiber. Natural fibers are those that are available in nature. You can find them in nature. We have domesticated many of these fiber sources, but they're still naturally occurring. Natural fibers can come from one of three sources: plant fibers, animal fibers, and mineral fibers. Cotton, wool, silk, jute are some of the major natural fibers which have attained a commercial importance in the fiber world.

Natural fibers are facing stiff competition in the fiber market following the introduction of manmade fibers. Natural fibers are still holding their commercial status by virtue of some special characteristic properties which are not available with manmade fibres. Therefore, cotton fibre is still considered as ‘King of fibers, the queen being the silk’.

Cotton is known for its cool wear; silk for its elegance; wool for its resilience and warmth; jute for its cheapness and durability in storing and transporting goods. According to the historians India was the first country to grow cotton and weave cotton fabrics. The use of cotton for textiles was known to Indians from the time immemorial.

Wool was introduced in 80 AD in England. The art of manufacturing fi ne quality yarn and fabric was known to the people of Worstead – a village in England. Now the term worsted used in this trade is an adapted form of the word Worstead. Therefore, wool is the fiber, while worsted and woolen are the systems or the process of converting the wool fiber to the respective yarn, viz. woolen yarn (coarse), worsted yarn (fine).

Silk was known to China in 2640 BC. The Chinese monopolized the art for over 3000 years. But during the early period of Christian era the cultivation of the silk worm (or sericulture) gradually began to trickle out of China.

Classification of Natural Fibers:
Natural fibers are formed through a biological process, which determines the form and structure of the fiber. The abundance and variability of nature have given a range of fibrous materials that are readily formed into textiles; the major fiber forms and their groupings are listed in Figure. The key natural fibers by use and historic importance are cotton, wool, flax, and silk. These fibers are radically different in form and performance and generate drastically different textile designs and function.

Classification of natural fiber
Figure: Classification of natural fiber
In natural products, there is also the inevitability of variability that impacts greatly on the cost, appearance, and processing of these fibers. This inconsistency is often severe and most natural products undergo several stages of classification and sorting to increase uniformity and redirect poor quality fiber to an appropriate product stream. Although the fiber spinner and weaver often see material variability as a problem to be eliminated, the presence of stained or dead fibers can create a natural appearance effect that can add significant value to the cost of a garment or carpet.

Advantages of natural fibers:
The main advantage of natural fibers is that they are abundantly available in nature. Only the man has to cultivate the plants or rear the animals. They possess some unique fiber properties which make them superior to manmade fibers in certain respects. Some of the natural fibers are very cheap and easy to dye. They readily absorb moisture and perspiration, provide great bodily comfort, resist whole melting, generate no static charges during processing and produce no dermatological effect on human skin. It is easy to sew and the seams hold tight.

Disadvantages of natural fibers:
Unlike manmade fibers, natural fibers are not available in high tenacity (HT) and medium tenacity (MT). Natural fibers do not possess high degree of resiliency as compared to manmade fibers, hence the fabrics made out of them do get wrinkles from ‘baggy knees’, possess less crease recovery.

Production of natural fibers cannot be completely controlled by man, in so far as the quality and quantity of the fiber is concerned. Therefore, from year to year quantities of specific qualities vary and this tends to cause price fluctuations according to variations in demand which cannot be foreseen until the fibers have been produced. The availability of natural fibers is affected by natural calamities and vagaries of nature.

The production of natural fibers involves the use of land which is also required for growing the agro products. With the availability of limited amount of land on the surface of the earth, the demand for land for food and housing on one hand and that for the growth of natural fibers on the other is to be balanced. Variation in length, fineness, etc. of the natural fiber causes less regular and uniform yarn than that obtained from manmade fibers.

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