Hey, Is this Natural?

While it may seem obvious whether a certain fiber is considered natural or synthetic, for the uninformed, some might not be so clear cut. Here’s a quick guide to what’s what:

NATURAL FIBERS

  • Wool – Fiber obtained from sheep, including the Merino. It is sometimes also used as an umbrella term for textiles obtained from other animals, such as  cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen and angora from rabbits
  • Alpaca – A light, strong, and insulated fiber obtained from either the Suri alpaca or the Huacaya alpaca, both domesticated species of  a South American camelid
  • Cashmere – Originating from Mongolia, Nepal and the Kashmir region in India, it is a highly prized animal fiber obtained from cashmere goats
  • Cotton – A staple fiber procured and spun from the cotton plant native to tropical and subtropical regions including the Americas, Africa and India
  • Bamboo – A cellulose fiber extracted from bamboo, one of the fastest growing plants in the world. Bamboo fibers are breathable, naturally anti-bacterial and biodegradable
  • Hemp – Fiber refined from high growing varieties of the Cannibis plant, hemp has a texture similar to linen
  • Silk – Originating from China, silk is a shiny, soft and hypoallergenic protein fiber obtained from the cocoons of silkworm larvae
  • Camel – Produced mostly in Mongolia and China, the best quality camel yarn is obtained from the Bactrian (double hump) camel and is spun using drop spindles
  • Llama – A soft and lanolin-free fiber obtained from the llama, a domesticated South American camelid. Llama fibers come in a wide range of colors, from white or grey to reddish brown, dark brown and black
  • Flax – Flax fibers are obtained the Linum usitatissimum plant and is mostly used to create linen fabrics
  • Angora – Not to be confused with fibers spun from the angora goat, angora rabbits are prized for its long, soft fibers that are removed by shearing, combing, or plucking
  • Mohair – Fibers made from the hair of the Angora goat, mohair is a silk-like fabric that is durable and resilient

 

SYNTHETIC FIBERS

  • Acrylic – Strong and warm fibers made from a polymer (polyacrylonitrile) and first developed by DuPont in 1941
  • Microfiber – A general term for synthetic fibers smaller than the diameter of a strand of silk and can be made from polyesters, polyamides, or polypropylene
  • Nylon – First developed as a replacement for silk and hemp, nylon is a general term for synthetic polymers that can be used in commercial applications
  • Rayon – A man-made cellulose fiber from wood pulp that includes viscose, modal and lyocell
  • Bamboo viscose –  In the U.S, the Federal Trade Commission notes the difference between yarns made directly from bamboo fiber and “mechanically processed bamboo”, a synthetic made from bamboo cellulose
  • Polyester – The most common type of polyester fiber is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the same material used in soft drink bottles
  • Elastine – Invented in 1958, elastane is a polyester-polyurethane copolymer known for its elasticity
  • Acetate – A man-made fiber based on cotton or tree pulp cellulose
  • Metallic – Manufactured fibers comprised of metal, metal-coated plastic, plastic-coated metal, or all covered in metal
  • Tencel – A type of rayon consisting of regenerated cellulose fibers made from bleached wood pulp
  • Polyamide – Man-made polyamide fibers that are synthesized to create materials such as nylons, aramids, and aspartate

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