• Written By Ankita Sahay
  • Last Modified 10-11-2022

Fibres: Definition, Classification and Advantages


Fibres: Clothing is one of the three basic needs of humans apart from food and shelter. Since the prehistoric era, there has been constant change, advancements, and modifications in all these basic needs of human beings to make our lives comfortable and easy. Thus, clothing is another sector that has experienced a drastic advancement over the years.

There are two types of fibres based on origin: natural and synthetic. Cotton, wool, and silk are natural fibres as they are directly extracted from plants and animals. At the same time, nylon, rayon, etc., are synthetic fibres as they are manmade fibres with several repeating units manufactured in laboratories by various chemical processes using petroleum products, also known as petrochemicals as raw materials.

Types of Fibres: Variety of Clothing Fibres

Based on the chemical origin, Clothing fibres are classified into two types: Natural fibres and Synthetic fibres. Let’s learn about them in detail.

Natural Fibres

Natural Fibres
  1. Fibres obtained from natural sources, i.e., Plants and animals that can be spun into thin filament, long thread or rope, are termed as ‘Natural fibres’. They are further woven, knitted or matted to form fabrics. Most natural fibres are widely used to make soft and comfortable clothing.

Natural fibres are of two types:

  1. Plant Fibres
  2. Animal Fibres

Plant Fibres

Fibres obtained from plants are known as plant fibres. Some examples of plant fibres are:

(a) Cotton

Cotton fibre is almost pure cellulose that is harvested as cotton balls that are separated from the seeds. Harvesting is done by handpicking the cotton balls. This process is carried out by separating the cotton fibre from seeds is called ‘ginning’. Since cotton fibres absorb moisture very easily, it is the best choice as a fabric for clothes.

(b) Jute

The jute fibres are extracted from the stem and ribbon (outer skin) of the jute plant. The fibres are extracted by immersing them in slow running water for a long time by the process known as retting. Once retting is over, stripping begins to make long jute fibres. Mostly, jute fibres are used for making handlooms, bags, carpets, etc.

(c) Flax

Stems of flax plants are widely used to extract fibres, popularly known as linen, used extensively in the textile industry.

(d) Coir

Coir, also known as coconut fibre, is a natural fibre extracted from the outer husk of coconut and used in manufacturing floor mats, doormats, mattresses, brushes, etc.


Animal Fibres

Fibres that are obtained from animals are known as animal fibres. They are mostly extracted from the skin, furs, and hairs of animals that mostly consist of proteins. Some examples of animal fibres are:

(a) Wool

Wool is obtained from the hairs of sheep, goats or camels. They are made from shearing sheep that are sorted on the basis of quality and are later prepared for spinning. In this process, the wool fibres are spun into long strands that are then woven into a fabric. Since wool is a great thermal insulator, they are extensively used for making woollen clothes such as sweaters, shawls, etc.

(b) Silk

Silk is one of the most popular, fine, strong, soft, shining, and expensive animal fibres obtained from silkworms. Silk fibres are produced by silkworms while making their cocoons. The rearing of silkworms for obtaining silk or, in short, silk farming is called sericulture.


Synthetic Fibres

Synthetic Fibres

Synthetic fibres are made artificially by linking monomers, forming a polymer by the process known as polymerisation. They are made by chemical synthesis by using various reagents and chemicals. They are mostly synthesised from a raw material called Petrochemicals. Some examples of synthetic fibres used in the textile industry are elastane, nylon, acrylic, polyester and P.U. leather.

Different examples of synthetic fibres are:

1. Acrylic – Acrylic may also be called a cheaper version of wool. They are not actually wool, but they are Polyacrylonitrile. Acrylic is used for making sweaters, blankets, etc.

2. Nylon – Nylon is a synthetic fibre completely made up of polymerisation of chemical compounds such as adipic acid and hexamethylenediamine as monomers. Different types of nylon fibres are nylon-\(6\) and nylon-\(6.6\). It is strong, elastic, lustrous, and easy to wash fibre. It is used for making ropes used in rock climbing, fishing nets, carpets, and clothing materials due to its strength and durability.


3. Polyester – Polyester is a synthetic polymer made up of repeating units of ester groups to form polymers. Polyester is mixed with cotton to form poly-cot fabrics; wool is combined to form poly-wool. PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is another form of polyester used for making bottles, utensils, and many other substances.

Semi-Synthetic Fibres

Rayon – Rayon is a synthetic fibre made artificially from cellulose extracted from wood pulp and other agricultural products. Thus, rayon is a semi-synthetic fibre, as it is derived from natural fibre. It is also called artificial silk due to its thin fibres and lightweight. It is used in manufacturing clothes, carpets, curtains, blankets, etc.

Process of Making Yarn From Fibres

Process Of Making Yarn From Fibers

Yarns are defined as long and continuous fibres that are twisted or interlocked. They are used to make fabrics by knitting, weaving, sewing, etc. Once fibres are extracted from their sources, they are very thin and entangled. Yarns are made up of thin fibre strands called fibres. The process of making yarn from fibres is known as spinning. During this process, a mass of cotton or wool is pulled out and twisted. This brings the fibres together to form yarn.

Natural Fibres vs Synthetic Fibres: Advantages and Disadvantages

Natural Fibres versus Synthetic Fibres
  1. Natural fibres are biodegradable, while synthetic fibres are non-biodegradable.
  2. Natural fibres are more porous, breathable and good absorbent than synthetic fibres, which makes them more comfortable to wear for those with sensitive skin or for allergic people.
  3. Natural fibres are harder to care for as compared to synthetic fibres that remain smooth and crisp even after washing. It means natural fibres need more maintenance.
  4. Natural fibres are less durable as compared to synthetic fibres.
  5. Synthetic fibres are cheaper than natural fibres as they are synthesised in laboratories using chemicals.
  6. Instead of natural fibres, synthetic fibres are used to make raincoats and jackets as they are waterproof.

Dietary Fibre

A Dietary Fibre is a component which our body cannot digest or absorb. Soluble fibre is the kind of fibre that dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance. Many food items contain fibre, for example, the fibre in a banana is 2.6 grams. Flax fibres are another type of plant fibre that is used by us in linen fabrics, lace and sheets.

Summary on the Types of Fibres

In a nutshell, it can be said that fibres are of utmost use in all facets of life, including the manufacture of clothing, packaging, ropes, bottles, special types of utensils, and many more. Thus, fibres are thin threads of natural or synthetic origin mostly used in the textile industry.

Fibres that are obtained from plants and animals are known as natural fibres while fibres that are synthesised from chemicals are known as synthetic fibres.

Some examples of natural fibres include cotton, jute, coir, linen, etc. On the other hand, examples of synthetic fibres include nylon, acrylic, polystyrene, rayon, etc.

As natural fibres are more comfortable due to their high absorbance capacity, they are mostly used in textile industries. For example, during summers we like to wear cotton clothes as they are a good absorber of moisture, and during winters we opt for woollen clothes as they are good insulators of heat and keep our body warm.

In contrast to this, synthetic fibres are more durable than natural fibres. Hence, they are used in making ropes to withstand the large weight.

As we know that natural fibres are biodegradable and synthetic fibres are non-biodegradable. We should go for a more sustainable resource.

FAQs on Fibres

Below are the most frequently asked questions on Fibres:

Q.1: What is synthetic fibre?
Fibre that is fully made using chemicals and reagents is known as synthetic fibre such as Nylon and Acrylic fibres, etc.

Q.2: Which crop is known as golden fibre?
Jute is the crop known as golden fibre because of its yellow colour and high-cost value. Jute fibre is used for making bags, gunny clothes, carpets, etc. In India, jute is considered to be one of the most useful and affordable natural fibres after cotton.

Q.3: Among jute, cotton, acrylic, and wool, which of the following is not a natural fibre?
Among jute, cotton, acrylic, and wool, acrylic is not a natural fibre. It is a synthetic fibre because it is made up of Polyacrylonitrile. Acrylic is used for making sweaters, blankets, etc. Natural fibres are those, which are extracted from plants and animals. Thus, jute, cotton, and wool are natural fibres.

Q.4: How many types of fibres are there?
Fibres are of two types based on origin: natural and synthetic. Cotton, wool, and silk are natural fibres as they are directly extracted from plants and animals, while nylon, rayon, etc., are synthetic fibres as they are manmade fibres with several repeating units manufactured in laboratories by various chemical processes.

Q.5: Which is the first fully synthetic fibre?
Nylon is the first fully synthetic fibre developed in the \(1930\)s, during World War II by Wallace Carothers, an American researcher at the chemical firm DuPont. Nylon was synthesised from coal, water and air.

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