Natural fibers have been in existence since the beginning of time – probably even before dinosaurs infiltrated the earth. Today, they are even more popular than ever, with many European and American clothing brands using these natural materials to produce high-quality apparel. But why have natural fibers become so popular that we had to write an entire article about them? Well, it’s simple. In today’s world, more and more consumers are realizing the environmental benefits of using organic and natural fibers and as such, have increased their demand for it. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about natural fibers – from their history to the benefits of using them in clothing.
What Are Natural Fibres?
The term “natural fibers” is more than just a cool slang used by clothing companies trying to market their new cashmere sweater or cotton crop top. Rather, it is an umbrella term used to describe any kind of fiber obtained from animals or plants.
This type of fiber is known for its ability to easily absorb sweat and just about any type of liquid. They can also be used to produce a wide range of textures and fabrics to meet consumer demands.
History of Natural Fibres
Natural fibers have always been used in all cultures of the world for several purposes. In the past, this material was used to meet the basic requirements of storage, clothing, and building. In some cases, the locals also utilized the fibers of native species to craft items for daily use such as fishing nets and ropes.
The first composite material known to man reared its head in Egypt about 3000 years ago. It was made with clay and straw and was majorly used to build walls.
In 2800 BC, Hemp was cultivated in China, and alongside linen, was used to produce fabric products and sails.
Today, many clothing companies make use of natural fabrics made from cotton, wool, or silk to produce apparel for consumers.
Although natural fibers may have evolved over the years, their significance in the textile industry still remains the same. This brings us to the big questions that need to be answered. How can these fibers be used in clothing? What are the benefits of using natural fibers to make clothing materials? Read on to find out.
How are Natural Fabrics Made?
In today’s world, natural fibers are often used to make – you guessed it – natural fabrics. But how exactly is it done? Even though natural fibers have good PR, the production process is a tedious, labor-intensive one that involves a lot of steps.
To begin with, you will need to rear the animals or cultivate the crops until the fiber is ready to be harvested. However, the harvested fibers are nowhere near being ready for use. They still have to be cleaned thoroughly and bleached for a pristine look.
After this, the fibers are taken to specific mills to be made into different colorful yarns. The yarn will then be added to the final fabric by knitting or weaving.
Usually, the fabric production process involves a lot of chemicals such as bleach or harsh dyes. However, this does not make the natural fibers any less natural. Sure, it raises some environmental concerns but some people still prefer natural fabrics over synthetic ones due to their sheer luxuriousness and how comforting they feel against the skin.
In the long run, they remain a safer, better, and more comfortable choice for producing fabrics and apparel.
Natural Fibers Vs Synthetic Fibres
Although natural fibers are popular among textile companies and consumers, synthetic fibers are an equally popular choice. But how do they compare to natural fibers? Are they a better option?
The opposite of natural fibers of course is man-made or synthetic. Read more about:
Well, it is important to note that natural and synthetic fibers have glaring differences when placed side by side. To begin with, natural fibers are gotten from nature while synthetic fibers are clearly man-made fibers.
When compared to natural fibers, synthetic fabrics are not as comfortable to wear. They are quite hard to color and the coloring process often takes a long while. These fibers are also not an environmentally friendly option.
However, these synthetic fibers have an edge over natural ones: they are far more durable and as such, are a great choice for consumers who prioritize durability.
On the other hand, for consumers who prioritize their comfort and the safety of the environment over all other factors, natural fibers are the best option. Consumers can go even further and choose organic natural fibers such as organic cotton or wool.
Types of Natural Fibres In Fabrics
Natural fibers come from 5 main sources – cotton, wool from animals, silk, linen and coir which comes from coconuts.
Cotton is one of the softest, most comfortable, and popularly used textiles in the whole world. It is also quite cheap and affordable when compared to other natural fibers and fabrics. Cotton is made from fibers collected from inside the seed of the cotton plant.
Cotton is the most versatile of all fabrics and is best for curtain and upholstery projects or beddings. One great advantage of this natural fabric is that it is durable, hypoallergenic, and very resistant to dust mites. On the downside, it gets easily soiled and may crease easily.
Wool is yet another natural fabric but unlike cotton, it is made from animal fibers. It is produced from the coat of animals like sheep or goats. This natural fabric is very soft, warm, and has a luxurious feel to it. This protein-based fiber can easily be blended with synthetic fibers to make it easier to clean.
Wool is best used for upholstery or cushion covers and rugs. One perk of this natural fabric is that it comes with superb elasticity that lets it spring back into shape without compressing. It also resists tearing. On the downside, it can be really itchy and is easily affected by molds and moths.
Silk is crafted from natural fibers collected from the secretion of the silkworm. This fabric is sheer, soft, and has a beautiful natural luster that anyone would notice at first glance. It is a more expensive option than cotton but it is definitely worth the extra cost.
It is best used for drapery, beddings, or clothing apparel. This strong and durable fabric is a great choice because it drapes well and has a high natural luster. It is also hypoallergenic and very breathable. However, it is a bad choice for consumers living in temperate conditions as it is easily weakened by sunlight and moisture. It also turns yellow with sun exposure.
Linen is one of the world’s oldest known woven fabrics. It is produced from a fiber extracted from the stem of the flax plant. The longstanding popularity of this natural fabric stems from its durability and biodegradability.
Linen is a great choice for its resistance to sunlight, moths, dust, and stains. It doesn’t stretch and is easily washable or dry-cleanable. If you’re prone to allergies, this natural fabric is a great choice because it is non-allergenic and anti-static. On the downside, it wrinkles easily and is quite expensive.
This is basically fiber from the husks of coconuts. It is commonly used as a natural bedding material. It is non-toxic and as such, is a great choice for people who have allergies.
Benefits of Using Natural Fibres in Clothing
Natural fibers are quite beneficial when used to make clothing materials. Some of the benefits of making clothing fabrics with these fibers include:
It is a great investment
Who wants to wear clothing that wears out after just a few uses? Not anyone! This explains why natural fibers are a great investment. Sure, these materials are more expensive than synthetic fibers but they are durable and definitely worth every penny spent.
It feels comfortable on the skin
When choosing any clothing material, comfort should be your major priority. Fortunately, natural fibers have a highly comfortable feel on the skin. In fact, you may find that all your favorite clothing items are woven from natural fibers, rather than synthetic ones.
They are less toxic than synthetic fibers
Synthetic fibers such as polypropylene are not environmentally friendly because they are harmful and may give out a chemical smell when they come into contact with fire or get burnt. On the other hand, natural fibers are quite safer for both the environment and the consumers’ health.
They are often hypoallergenic
Most natural fabrics such as cotton, silk, and linen are hypoallergenic and come with anti-bacterial properties. As such, they are an advisable option for babies and adults with sensitive skin. On the other hand, synthetic fabrics may irritate sensitive skin or aggravate pre-existing health conditions.
Natural Fibers – In Conclusion
Natural fibers have been in existence for a long while and for good reasons. Not only are these fibers environmentally friendly, but they are also quite comfortable when used to make clothing materials. For people who are prone to allergies or have sensitive skin, these fibers are a safer and more lush option.
If you’ve been confused about what natural fibers are, we hope this article has answered any questions you may have and has been able to draw a clear distinction between natural and synthetic fibers.
More About Natural Fibers
Here are some more detailed articles about various natural fibers.
- What is Linen?
- What is Tencel? Fabric Explanation & Guide
- What is Burlap? Definition, Uses, Types & Crafting
- What is Twill Fabric? Fibers, Uses & Projects
- What is Batik? All about Batik
- What is Calico?
- What is Linen?
- What is Organic Cotton?
- What is Cheesecloth?
- What is Batik?
- What is Corduroy?
- What is Denim?
- What is Broadcloth?
- What is Cashmere?
- What is Flannel?