Textile Fibres


Textiles have such an important bearing on our daily lives that everyone should know something about the basics of fibres and their properties.

Textile fibres are used for a wide range of applications such as covering, warmth, personal adornment and even to display personal wealth.

Textile technology has come a long way in meeting these requirements. A basic knowledge of textile fibres will facilitate an intelligent appraisal of fibre brands and types and help in identifying the right quality for the application.

This bulletin covers various textile fibres and the properties that are important for a suitable textile application.

Fibre Classification

Textile fibres can be broadly classified into two categories:

Natural fibres

Man-made fibres

Natural Fibers

Natural fibres are subdivided further, as outlined below, by their origin.

Table below when available.

Fibre nameSourceComposition
CottonCotton bollCellulose
KapokKapok treeCellulose
LinenFlax stalkCellulose
JuteJute stalkCellulose
HempHemp or Abaca Cellulose
RamieRhea and ChinaCellulose
SisalAgave leafCellulose
CoirCoconut huskCellulose
PinaPineapple leafCellulose
WoolSheep Protein 
Silk Silkworms Protein  
Hair Hair bearing animalsProtein  
AsbestosVarities of rockSilicate of Magnesium and Calcium

Man-made Fibres

Man-made fibres are subdivided as shown below with their various compositions and origin. 

Fibre NameSource
RayonCotton linters or wood
AcetateCotton linters or wood
Tri-acetateCotton linters or wood
Non-Cellulosic Polymers
NylonAliphatic polyamide
AramidAromatic polyamid
PolyesterDihydric alcohol and terephthalic acid
OlefinEthylene or propylene
VinyonVinyl chloride
SaranVinylidene chloride
NovoloidPhenol based navolac
PolycarbonateCarbonic acid (polyester derivative)
AzlonCorn, soybean, etc.
RubberNatural or synthetic rubber
MetalAluminum, silver, gold, stainless steel
GlassSilica sand, limestone, other minerals
CeramicAluminium, silica

1. Natural Fibers

CottonCotton plant

Cotton, the natural fibre most widely used in apparel, grows in a boll around the seeds of cotton plants. A single fibre is an elongated cell that is a flat, twisted, hollow, ribbon-like structure.


  • Fair to good strength
  • Very little elasticity
  • Less resilient and prone to wrinkling
  • Comfortable and soft feel
  • Good absorbency
  • Conducts heat well
  • Damaged by insects, mildew, rot and moths
  • Weakened by extended sunlight exposure


  • Widely used in number of textile products
  • Commonly used in woven and knitted apparel
  • Home textile – bath towels, bath robes, bed covers etc.
  • Used as a blend with other fibres as rayon, polyester, spandex etc.                      Cricket ball


Linen, one of the most expensive natural fibres, is made from the flax plant. It is labour-intensive to produce, hence produced in small quantities. However linen fabric is valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather.

It is composed of 70% cellulose and 30% pectin, ash, woody tissue and moisture.


  • Strongest vegetable fibre
  • Poor elasticity, hence wrinkles easily
  • Relatively smooth, becomes softer when washed
  • Highly absorbent
  • Good conductor of heat and feels cool
  • Lustrous
  • More brittle, constant creasing in the sharp folds, tends to break
  • Damaged by mildew, perspiration and bleach
  • Resistant to moths and carpet beetles


  • Apparel – suits, dresses, skirts, shirts etc.
  • Home and commercial furnishing items – table cloths, dish towels, bed sheets, wallpaper / wall coverings, window treatments etc.
  • Industrial products – luggage, canvas etc.
  • Used as blend with cotton