A fiber (from Latin fibra, "a fiber; entrails") is a rope_ or string that is at least 100 times longer than it is wide. For example, cotton, nylon, polyester, or silk.


1   Form

A spun fiber is called a yarn. Weaving yarns together produces a textile.

2   Classification

2.1   Natural & Synthetic

Fibers are either natural (e.g. cotton or wool) or synthetic (e.g. acrylic, nylon, or polyester).

Natural fibers include those produced by plants, animals, and geological processes. They are biodegradable over time. They can be classified according to their origin: animal (hair, fur_, wool, silk), plant (cotton, flax, jute), or mineral (asbestos_, glass fiber)

Synthetic fibers can often be produced very cheaply and in large amounts compared to natural fibers,

3   Kinds

3.2   Angora

Angora hair refers to the downy coat produced by the Angora rabbit.

3.4   Silk

Silk is an animal textile made from the fibers of the cocoon of the Chinese silkworm which is spun into a smooth shiny fabric prized for its softness.

There are two main types of the silk: 'mulberry silk' produced by the Bombyx Mori, and 'wild silk' such as Tussah silk. Silkworm larvae produce the first type if cultivated in habitats with fresh mulberry leaves for consumption, while Tussah silk is produced by silkworms feeding purely on oak leaves. Around four-fifths of the world's silk production consists of cultivated silk.

  • soft
  • lightweight
  • adds luster

Silk: made from the cocoons of silkworms, exceptionally smooth and shiny, regulates temperature extremely well, fades in direct sunlight, high tensile strength, great absorbency, quick drying, magnificent sheen.


Silk is used in a variety of different garments, from dresses to underwear. It is weaker when wet, but does not pill easily, and is very resilient and elastic.

There are also different types of silks, and the silkworm has been used in tons of cool genetic engineering projects. As clothing, though, the differences are pretty negligible and most manufacturers don't even tell you what silk it is. I've only ever seen silk differentiated by type when sold to hobbyists (spinners, sewers, etc.), actually. [2]

Mulberry silk is produced by the Bombyx Mori, which is fed only mulberry leaves. This is the "traditional" silk and it is highly sought after, being the softest, shiniest, and smoothest of all silks. [2]

Tussah or wild silk is produced by any combination of silkworms, often fed oak leaves instead. This nontraditional silk is slightly coarser and when unbleached, it can be a honey colour. The final fabric will reflect the thread, being coarser and more textured. However, it is still a beautiful silk.

3.5   Bamboo

Bamboo is a natural fiber.

Bamboo fibers come from the bamboo plant, which grows naturally, free of chemicals and irrigation. All it needs to grow is a little sunshine and rain, and even after being cut and used, the bamboo plant will continue growing and thriving underground. This property of the bamboo plant makes it very similar to eucalyptus_, the source of Tencel fibers.

And like Tencel, bamboo fibers are eco-friendly and processed into fibers in a closed-loop process. However, unlike Tencel, which is processed without the use of toxins, bamboo fibers generally require the use of carbon disulfide, an environmentally hazardous chemical that can affect the human nervous system, when processed. Fortunately, because bamboo is processed in a closed-loop process, these toxins are recovered and recycled throughout the process before ultimately being dispelled of in an environmentally sound and safe approach.

And the product of this environmentally sound practice is...the bamboo fiber. And this bamboo fiber is pretty special. For one thing, bamboo contains bamboo kun, a natural agent that stops bacteria and fungus from growing on it, making it essentially an anti-bacterial fiber. On top of that, bamboo fibers have cross sections filled with micro-gaps and holes that allow it to breathe and regulate temperature, both hot and cold, more effectively than cotton. Thus, you stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Finally, the bamboo fiber is naturally tough and has a high resistance to abrasion, while also being super, super soft and comfortable.

3.7   Flax

  • Two to three times as strong as cotton
  • Naturally smooth and straight
  • Was used for cloth until 19th century when cotton overtook flax

3.8   Hemp

Hemp is a fiber made from cannabis_ plant stalks. It is similar to linen. It is durable, biodegradable and environmentally friendly, relatively low elasticity, breathes well. [1]

  • It is also water resistant.
  • It's a pretty hippie-trendy fabric, since it's touted as organic, fast growing, etc. and also the whole lol marijuana thing.

All hemp is currently imported. [2]

3.10   Linen

Linen: derived from flax plant fibers, incredibly strong, potentially high shrinkage, becomes softer with wear, unparalleled breathability, wrinkles quickly and easily. [1]

Linen is made from flax. The staple is very long, and linen has a high natural lustre. It also absorbs water very well, dries quickly, and is also stronger when wet. It is a very nice summer fabric as it feels cool to the touch and gets softer the more that it is washed, but is not very stretchy and will break easily if ironed and folded in the same spot constantly. [2]

  • strong
  • durable
  • lightweight
  • high moisture absorbency

Linen is most often added to socks to increase their strength.

Flax is one of the oldest fibers in the world (dyed flax fibers found in a cave in Dzudzuana have been dated to 30,000 years ago), and along with wool, the most familiar and intimate. Local production was widespread as recently as a century ago, with a field set aside for flax for the farmer's wife and daughters to spin and weave into cloth for their own use and for sale. [3]

There were larger operations as well, but linen as a cottage industry and winter occupation didn't end until the industrial revolution, when it couldn't compete with cheap cotton grown by slaves. [3]

Domestic production died out (attended by a lot of hardship in rural Europe), and linen became a luxury product, although young women still created the basis of their household by making, embroidering and collecting bedding and table linens before they were married. [3]

Linen continued to be valued over cotton for its stamina, luster and wonderful 'handle', but its democratic roots were long forgotten, and it became a high-maintenance starched, ironed and decorated symbol of class and status. Cotton came into common use by virtue of its low cost and ease of ironing. [3]

3.11   Pina

Piña is a fiber made from the leaves of a pineapple plant and is commonly used in the Philippines. It is sometimes combined with silk or polyester to create a textile fabric. Piña's name comes from the Spanish word piña which literally means pineapple.

3.12   Ramie

Ramie is one of the strongest natural fibers. It exhibits even greater strength when wet. Ramie fiber is known especially for its ability to hold shape, reduce wrinkling, and introduce a silky lustre to the fabric appearance. It is not as durable as other fibers, and so is usually used as a blend with other fibers such as cotton or wool. It is similar to linen in absorbency, density and microscopic appearance. However it will not dye as well as cotton. Because of its high molecular crystallinity, ramie is stiff and brittle and will break if folded repeatedly in the same place; it lacks resiliency and is low in elasticity and elongation potential.

3.13   Sisal

Sisal is an agave that yields a stiff fiber traditionally used in making twine and rope, and also dartboards.

3.14   Acrylic

Acrylic is a fiber used to imitate wool and is often used in replacement of them.

  • warm
  • lightweight
  • keeps shape well
  • wicks perspiration from foot
  • soft
  • easy care
  • minimal shrinkage
  • rich coloration

Acrylic is cheap relative to wool.

3.15   Aramid

Aramid fiber (e.g. Twaron) is used for flame-retardant clothing, cut-protection, and armor.

3.16   Ingeo

Ingeo is a polylactide fiber blended with other fibers such as cotton and used in clothing. It is more hydrophilic than most other synthetics, allowing it to wick away perspiration.

3.17   Kevlar

Developed at DuPont in 1965.

Currently, Kevlar has many applications, ranging from bicycle tires and racing sails to body armor because of its high tensile strength-to-weight ratio; by this measure it is 5 times stronger than steel on an equal weight basis.

3.18   Lurex

Lurex is a metallic fiber used in clothing embellishment.

3.19   Nylon


Watch straps made of nylon.

Nylon is a fiber made from a family of synthetic polymers known as polyamides. Nylon was invented in September 1931 at DuPont_. It was the first fiber to by completely synthesized from petrochemicals_.

Nylon is a manufactured fiber in which the fiber-forming substance (polyamide) is characterized by recurring amide groups as an integral part of the polymer chain. The two principal types of nylon fiber used in rope production are type 66 and type 6. The number six in the type designation is indicative of the number of carbon atoms contained in the reactants for the polymerization reaction. [9]

Nylon is manufactured as a liquid, and the mechanically spun and dried into individual fibers.

Used for `dental floss`_.

Nylon is used to imitate silk. It is used in the production of pantyhose, watch straps, socks, rope, parachutes, and outdoor clothing. It is often blended with natural fibers to increase strength and elasticity.

  • strong
  • abrasion resistance
  • soft
  • dimensional stability
  • elastic
  • easy-washing
  • quick drying
  • shiny

It is a durable, shrink-resistant fiber.

However, nylon pills easily, and collects static electricity. [2]


420D HT Nylon Classic (Parapack)

Originally developed for the military for use in parachute backpacks.k You can think of 420 denier Parapack fabric as the little brother of 1050 denier Ballistic. Like 1050 Ballistic, 420 Parapack fabric is densely woven of high tenacity, filament nylon yarns. Both are also type 6,6 nylon, as opposed to the more common type 6. Type 6,6 has greater tensile strength than type 6, and very importantly type 6,6's melting temperature is higher by 40°C (70°F). [4]

Like 1050 HT Ballistic cloth, 420d HT Parapack is relatively hard to dye and can sometimes have a heathery appearance. [4]

210D HT Ballistic Nylon
Though it is 1/3 the weight of original 1050 Ballistic (5.8 oz per sq yard / 195 grams per square meter), it’s made with the same construction of two yarns woven side-by-side in a basket pattern. It’s basically the little sibling of our 525 denier HT Ballistic nylon, and features similarly twisted yarns.
525 Denier HT Ballistic Nylon
Our 525 denier HT Ballistic nylon is a lighter weight version of our 1050 HT Ballistic nylon with a twist. Literally, it’s the same construction of two yarns woven side-by-side in a basket pattern (which is what has come to define a “ballistic” weave), but with the added feature of the individual yarns being twisted as they are laid down. This twisting mitigates the potential effects of abrasion by sending any broken filaments on the surface of the fabric back into the weave, instead of leaving a broken filament lying loose on the surface. [4]
1050D HT Ballistic Nylon

U.S.- made 1050 denier high-tenacity (type 6,6) nylon ballistic fabric was originally developed for use in flak jackets and bullet proof vests, hence the name "ballistic." [4]

In the 1980s ballistic nylon was replaced by Kevlar fabric for use in personal armor; fabric mills began offering it to the outdoor and luggage industries. The luggage industry adopted it for use in soft bags as it did not abrade clothing, particularly women's nylon stockings. [4]

1050 denier Ballistic is woven with two plies of 1050 woven as one, which gives it its sheen and substantial feel. [4]

3.19.1   Cordura

Cordura is a textile that was developed by DuPont_. It is used in luggage, backpack, military wear, and motorcycle jackets.

The most trusted brand of nylon is Cordura, made by Invista.

There are different kinds of Cordura:

500 denier Cordura
A slightly lighter version of 1000 denier Cordura.
1000 denier Cordura
Originally developed as a fiber to incorporate into automobiles tires and belting. In the 1960s, DuPont introduced introduced it to the outdoor industry as a fabric for backpacks and other gear. Prior to the introduction of 1000D cordura, most backpacks were made of 420D HT nylon Classica Parapack. Because it isn't high tenacity like 420 denier HT nylon Classic Parapack or our 1050d US HT ballistic nylon, Cordura® is relatively easy to dye, and is available off-the-shelf in a wide variety of colors. [4]
1680D Cordura

3.20   Olefin

Olefin fiber is a fiber used in activewear, linings, and warm clothing. Olefins are hydrophobic, allowing them to dry quickly. A sintered felt of olefin fibers is sold under the trade name Tyvek.

3.21   Polyester

A manufactured fiber in which the fiber-forming substance (polyester) is characterized by a long chain polymer having 85% by weight of an ester of a substituted aromatic carboxylic acid. The most frequently used acid is terephthalic acid in the presence of ethylene glycol. [9]

3.22   Rayon (Viscose)

Rayon (= vicose rayon = artificial silk) is a manufactured regenerated cellulose fiber that is made from purified cellulose, primarily from wood pulp, which is chemically converted into a soluble compound.

Rayon can mimic the feel and texture of silk, wool, cotton, and linen. [2]

Ray is soft,

  • soft
  • high moisture absorbency
  • washable
  • easily dyed

Rayon / Viscose: semi-synthetic construction (made from repurposed wood pulp), high shine, excellent breathability, wrinkle-resistant, naturally absorbent and quick drying, easily stretchable, highly durable. [1]

It is smooth, soft, cool, and absorbs water well. It also resists pilling and static electricity. However, it does not insulate well, nor is it very elastic. It is also much weaker when wet, wrinkles easily, and may shrink. Although it is a synthetic, is actually biodegrades faster than cotton. Rayon can be mercerized like cotton to increase strength and lustre. [2]

3.22.1   Modal

Modal is a type of rayon that is decently common on clothing labels. It is extremely water absorbent and resists shrinking, but stretches and pills easily. It is smoother and softer than mercerized cotton, and often blended with cotton. It's typically made with beech trees. [2]

Modal is made using reconstructed cellulose from beech trees. It has great absorbency, excellent breathability, and resists pilling and general degradation. [1]

3.22.2   Tencel

Tencel or lyocell is also a type of rayon, but the process is sufficiently different that it counts as a different type of fibre. It is typically made from hardwoods. Tencel is very soft, absorbent, strong when wet and dry, and resistant to wrinkles. It also drapes well. However, some tencels tend to pill. [2]

Tencel is an eco-friendly fabric that doesn't require designers, manufacturers, or consumers to make any sacrifices.

Tencel is a branded version of lyocell, a biodegradable fiber made of wood pulp. In the case of Tencel, this pulp is most often harvested from the wood of eucalyptus trees.

The Tencel production process begins when wood pulp from eucalyptus trees is treated to form a cardstock, paper-like substance, which is subsequently sent to a fabric production factory. At the factory, this substance is dissolved in a hot, amine oxide solvent to yield a clear, viscous solution. This solution is then filtered and spun through a spinneret, a stainless steel device with tiny holes in it, and in the process, forms long fibers that are placed in a bath with a dilute version of amine oxide solvent. After this treatment, the fibers are washed, dried, and lubricated, before being spun into yarn for use by itself, or in combination with other materials (i.e. cottons).

But what makes Tencel appealing to the tree hugger in all of us?

Unlike in the production of other fibers, no toxins are used in the production of Tencel. The eucalyptus wood pulp is dissolved in a toxin free and organic solution. The whole production process is a “closed loop process,” meaning that the non-toxic solvent is recycled. This allows for minimal emissions to the environment and a greater conservation of the Earth's resources. In fact, more than 99% of the solvent is recovered and reused. This closed looped system captures and purifies all water and air used in the process before returning them to the environment. The eucalyptus trees used in the production process are grown in forests that are socially and environmentally responsible, earning certification and endorsement from the Forest Stewardship Council.

Tencel fibers have the highest tenacity rating of all man-made cellulose fibers. And how does this matter?

Well, for starters, it means that Tencel retains its original dye or hue exceptionally well, whether wet or dry. In fact, it does so better than all of its competitors and it does so to the extent that it is virtually immune to the typical fading and color loss experienced after laundering.

This tenacity, or strength, also means that garments made with Tencel fibers won't have the light colored stripes that appear after washing or ironing garments made of other fibers.

And from a designer's perspective, Tencel's ability to retain original hue makes it particularly attractive for the purposes of blending. Using as little as 30% Tencel in a garment gives the garment an evenly dyed appearance with dye characteristics similar to those of a 100% Tencel garment. As a result, Tencel is often blended with natural fabrics like cotton and wool.

Tencel fibers, which, as detailed above, can be traced back to eucalyptus trees, benefit from the absorption properties of these trees. Unlike synthetic materials, fibers made from wood pulp from trees pull in moisture from the body and release it, eliminating bacteria growth, enhancing breathability, and reducing BO. Furthermore, Tencel's tiny fibrils optimize moisture transportation, leaving the space between one's body and their garments dry, and giving Tencel ideal thermo regulating properties. So those summertime pit stains will no longer haunt you.

Finally, Tencel is versatile and feels good. Its nanofibrils make it a uniquely easy fiber to be altered to create denim, silk, or suede and it is particularly smooth and soft, comparable to soft cottons and silks. These attributes, coupled with its moisture management system, and lack of chemicals and skin irritants, combine to make the powerhouse that is, Tencel.

A trademark name owned by Lenzing for a type of lyocell, a type of fiber primarily processed from wood pulp. The material is valued for its ability to absorb sweat and bring it to the surface easily, thus allowing the perspiration to evaporate and letting the wearer stay dry and odor free.

3.23   Sorona

Sorona is a polymer that was developed by DuPont. It is made using non-edible plant glucose starch extract (currently, sugar extracted from feed corn is the primary source of glucose). The polymer contains 37% annually renewable plant based ingredients and because of these natural ingredients and the highly scientific approach to the production of Sorona, it is highly engineered to be the Übermensch of the textile world.

The result: a "smart" polymer. A polymer that combines characteristics of polyester and nylon into one; one that gives fibers and fabrics a softness, stretch, elasticity, and bright and rich color; one that is easily dyeable; one that is chlorine, UV, and stain resistant; and one that is easy to use alongside other fibers and fabrics in the textile industry.

3.24   Spandex

Spandex (an anagram for "expands", = elastane, trade name Lycra) is a polyurethane product that can be made tight-fitting without impeding movement.

Spandex is used for its amazing elasticity - it can be stretched over 500% of its original length without breaking, and does not fatigue easily. It is resistant to body oils, perspiration, and the beach in general. Spandex is also very strong and durable, in addition to being light and soft. It is most often blended with other fibres to improve fit and comfort. [2]

A synthetic fiber made from polyurethane. It is lightweight, highly elastic, strong, durable and non-absorbent to water and oils. A great alternative for people allergic to latex.

Used to make activewear, bras, and swimsuits.

4   Function

Fibers are most often used in the manufacture of other materials, particularly textiles.

5   History

Until the 19th century, only plant and animal fibers were used to make clothes and textiles.

6   Grading


When discussing fibres, there are "staple" fibres and "filament" fibres. Staple fibres are those that are shorter fibres. "Staple length" is often used to discuss the quality - the longer the staple (relative to staple lengths in the same fibre), the better the fibre. Filament fibres are one continuous strand.

Another indicator of quality in textiles is the diameter of the fibre itself. In general, the smaller the diameter, the better a fibre is. This is because the diameter of the fibre affects how a fibre feels - larger diameter fibres will be rougher and coarser feeling than thinner fibres. But of course, the downside to being so fine and thin is that it is subject to breakage easily - thus requiring gentler care.

7   Market

According to diffen:

Name Volume Total share Polyester 21M tons 58% Nylon 3.9M tons 11%

8   Further reading

9   References

[1](1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) Jedibrad. Materials.
[2](1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15) SuperStellar. A Primer of Materials.
[3](1, 2, 3, 4) Rough Linen. my flax is grown in europe.
[4](1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) Tom Bihn. Materials Glossary. Accessed Aug 25, 2018.
[9](1, 2) Cordage Institute. Terminoloy for Fiber Rope. Accessed Aug 25, 2018.


Bamboo is the same as viscose or visco.

Viscose = rayon. Viscose rayon and rayon are old terms it seems. Lyocell is a specific version of viscose and the trademark is owned by a specific company (Tencel I think). I can do some deeper reasarch into their differences later, but generally the biggest difference is in lyocell's ability to mimic other materials (suede, silk).


Plant fibres are, as you can guess, fibres produced by plants. This does not include plants that are processed to make a cellulose fibre - they are under the synthetics heading. Plant fibres encompass a wide variety of common garment materials, and have fewer-to-nonexistent subsections because there are not many differences between plant varieties past their staple lengths - the processing makes a larger difference. Plant fibres tend to wrinkle very easily.

Cotton is a very common fibre in the clothing world, being a relatively cheap and plentiful natural fibre. The staple length of cotton is quite short. Cotton is used to make a variety of different cloths (terry, Oxford cloth, denim, corduroy, etc.) and can be mercerized to increase strength and lustre. It is a very flammable fabric, but absorbs water well (if unmercerized), is stronger when wet, and does not easily pill. It does not keep you warm while wet though, so most outdoors people frown on cotton. However, it's available in most fast fashion stores and is typically a good choice when in a fast fashion store.


Cellulose is actually a naturally occuring fibre, but in the synthetic world, it means that it is a fibre derived from plants. Typically, these synthetics come from wood pulp. Technically, most cellulose fibres are semisymthetics, being made from a natural base.

Bamboo is often marketed as a natural fibre, but it is very heavily processed and is actually a rayon. This is because while bamboo is a bast, its staple length is extremely short - around 3 mm - which makes it extremely difficult to spin (and it is also very rough). Bamboo rayon is pretty much rayon - nothing wrong with that, but don't be fooled into thinking it is a natural fibre. Unless it specifically says it is from bamboo fibres (e.g. bamboo bast, Litrax) and feels closer to linen or hemp, it's likely rayon and you should consider why you're buying bamboo in the first place.

Acetate is the acetate ester of cellulose. It drapes extremely well, is soft and smooth,and has a high lustre. However, it rips easily and is not resistant to abrasion, although it resists pilling and wrinkling. This stradles the line between cellulose and petrochemical, actually.


Petrochemical fibres are truly the most synthetic of synthetics. They are made from petroleum based chemicals. These materials are truly the most diverse, and are synthesized for specific purposes. Generally, these synthetics are cheaper that natural fibres. They also tend to share some properties, such as melting before burning and low moisture absorbency. Most characteristics listed below are indicative of the typical encounter with the fibre - as a synthetic, many properties can be altered. Additionally, impurities introduced into the synthetic during processing (typically in cheaper clothing) will compromise the integrity of the fibre, which is how synthetics got their poor reputation.

Acrylic is made from polyacrylonitrile, a polymer. It is a lightweight, soft, and warm wool replacement that can be machine washed. However, it can also be spun to replicate cotton. Acrylics do not readily absorb moisture, tends to shrink, and pills easily. It resists most forms of damage and wrinkles, and dries quickly.

Modacrylic is a type of acrylic that is used in fleece and faux fur. They are also flame retardant - the fibres are hard to ignite and will self-extinguish. Modacrylic is also quite durable and warm, but will pill and matt easily.

Polyester is a polymer that contains an ester functional group in the main chain. It most typically refers to polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Polyester is durable, easy to care for, and has good shape retention, in addition to being lightweight and elastic. It is strong, crisp and resilient when wet or dry, resists wrinkles, dries quickly. However, polyester does not absorb moisture well, pills easily, and and attracts smoke and other odours. It is difficult to press and iron, but it doesn't frequently require pressing anyway. Some polyesters also do not breathe. However, newer and higher quality polyesters will resist pilling, wicks away moisture, and emulates silk.

Thinsulate is a polymer primarily made from PET that was created by 3M. It is used in many different applications for its amazing insulative properties, at 1.5 times the insulation of duck down. It is also less water-absorbent and moisture resistant, breathable, and resistant to crushing. There are also different types of Thinsultate that can be hydrophobic, effective when damp, flame resistant, and quick drying.