Wool is a natural fibre that possesses many organically occurring properties which makes it ideal for use in clothing. Wool is capable of moisture absorption, moisture wicking, it is water repellent, highly durable, fire retarding, is good for temperature management and is non-allergenic.
Never has there been a fibre with such qualities. The natural three-dimensional structure of wool, which could never be reproduced synthetically, creates millions of air pockets to provide soothing support while regulating temperature and humidity. Wool keeps you warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and wicks away moisture. In fact, wool can absorb up to 30% of its own weight without feeling damp or clammy.
Wool is naturally stronger than any other fibre, it can bend back on itself 20,000 times without breaking; compare this to cotton at 3200 times, silk at 1800, and rayon at only 75 times.
Cotton is a natural fibre and similarly to wool, possesses its own organically occurring properties. Cotton is proficient in moisture absorption, dust mite resistance, it is hypoallergenic and can endure high temperatures. Cotton is the only fibre that becomes stronger when wet, and it’s the preferred choice in hospitals, since it can endure high temperatures and can be sterilized.
Silk moths lay eggs on specially prepared paper. The eggs hatch and the caterpillars (silkworms) are fed on fresh Mulberry leaves. After about 35 days and 4 molting’s, the caterpillars are 10,000 times heavier than when hatched and are ready to begin spinning a cocoon. A straw frame is placed over the tray of caterpillars, and each caterpillar begins spinning a cocoon by moving its head in a pattern. Two glands produce liquid silk and force it through openings in the head called spinnerets. Liquid silk is coated in sericin, a water-soluble protective gum, and solidifies on contact with the air. Within 2–3 days, the caterpillar spins about 1 mile of filament and is completely encased in a cocoon. The harvested cocoons are then soaked in boiling water to soften the sericin holding the silk fibers together in a cocoon shape. The fibers are then unwound to produce a continuous thread. Since a single thread is too fine and fragile for commercial use, anywhere from three to ten strands are spun together to form a single thread of silk
Silk has a smooth, soft texture that is not slippery, unlike many synthetic fibers. Silk is one of the strongest natural fibers, but it loses up to 20% of its strength when wet. It has a good moisture regain of 11%. Its elasticity is moderate to poor and if elongated even a small amount it remains stretched. It can weakened if exposed to too much sunlight.
Man Made Fibres
Nylon is a thermoplastic, silky material, first used commercially in a nylon-bristled toothbrush (1938), followed more famously by women’s stockings (“nylons”; 1940) after being introduced as a fabric at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
Nylon is made of repeating units linked by amide bonds and is frequently referred to as polyamide (PA). Nylon was the first commercially successful synthetic thermoplastic polymer.
There are two common ways of making nylon for fiber applications. In one approach, molecules with an acid (-COOH) group on each end are reacted with molecules containing amine (-NH2) groups on each end. The resulting nylon is named based on the number of carbon atoms separating the two acid groups and the two amines. Nylon is commonly used to give garments strength.
(poly-1, 4-cyclohexylene-dimethylene terephthalate)
Polyester is a synthetic fibre derived from coal, air, water, and petroleum. The principle ingredient used in the manufacture of polyester is ethylene, which is derived from petroleum. Developed in a 20th-century laboratory, polyester fibres are formed from a chemical reaction between an acid and alcohol. In this reaction, two or more molecules combine to make a large molecule whose structure repeats throughout its length.
Polyester fibres can form very long molecules that are very stable and strong. Generally found in the production of clothing, home furnishings, industrial fabrics and electrical insulators polyester is strong and resilient, does not absorb moisture but will absorb oil, is naturally resistant to staining.
Coolmax is a manmade fibre extruded from a polymer compound. COOLMAX® is the brand name for a type of polyester (see above) that is specially designed to wick moisture away from the body. The polyester is extruded in a way that a channel is created within the fibre, the channel collects the moisture and channels it away from the skin to the outer surface of the garment. Coolmax relies heavily on air flow to complete the moisture wicking process. Coolmax was originally designed for sport outer wear products such as tops and shorts.
Acrylic is a manmade fibre. Acrylic is, by definition, a man-made, synthetic fibre which is comprised of at least 85% acrylonitrile, which is a toxic chemical that the EPA warns is a probable cancer-causing substance.
Contrary to common public belief Bamboo is not a natural fiber. Bamboo Fiber is a regenerated cellulose fiber, which is produced from raw materials of bamboo pulp. When harvested they are taken to mills where they are crushed and submersed in a strong solution of sodium hydroxide which dissolves the bamboo cellulose. With the addition of carbon disulphide it solidifies and renders the mix ready to regenerate the fibre which is then drawn off or extruded through spinnerets, similar to the ones used in the production of polyester and nylon, it is then washed and bleached to a bright white colour and dried. It is usually not made from the fibers of the plant, but is a synthetic viscose made from bamboo cellulose.