Natural fibers are derived (obtained) from plants and animals. Plant fibers include seed hairs which cotton is made of; husk fibers that come from coconut; stem fibers such as flax and hemp; and leaf fibers which sisal is made from. Animal fibers come from wool, hair and secretions (substances produced from glands of caterpillars) which stem (originate) from silkworm silk.
Artificial and synthetic fibers, such as acrylic/nylon/polyester/polyolefin and rayon, are a result of scientists having the need to ‘improve’ animal and plant fibers. Synthetic fibers are made from polymers. Polymers include materials such as adhesives, coatings, plastics and rubbers. These synthetic fibers or polymers come from petroleum based chemicals or petrochemicals. Synthetic dyes only add to this toxic chemical cocktail. Nature has provided us with a natural way of living and this has been sorely compromised.
Abaca, also known as Manila hemp, is native to the Philippines and the Philippines being the Worlds leading Abaca producer. A member of the banana family, its stalks grow from a central root. The fiber is removed from the stem and not the leaf and then each stalk is cut into sheaths (bundles), then into strips (narrow lengths). Scraping the strips to remove the pulp (a soft wet mass of fiber flesh) is either done by hand or machine. Known since the 1820’s Manila hemp or Abaca as the Spanish call it, is widely used in the making of paper. The seeds of the Abaca are being used in cosmetics, skin care products and soap etc. The Cottage Industry, where products and services are operated from the producers/manufacturers home, makes use of Abaca fibers in the making of bags, footwear, rugs, curtains and placemats etc.
Coir is the stiff course fiber from the outer husk of a coconut. A coconut is actually a seed of the coconut palm tree. A fully ripened coconut produces strong dark brown coir which is mainly used for brush bristles, mats (as in coir mats) and padding for upholstery.
The husks of coconuts which have been harvested before they ripen produce softer light brown/white coir which is used for weaving mats and twisted into twine or rope. India and Sri Lanka are leading producers of coir.
You can purchase Coir Rugs from Triad Rugs on eBay.com; Coir Boot Scrapers are sold on Amazon.com; Amazon.co.uk sell Turtle Shaped Coir Boot Scrapers and Japanese Doll Designed Coir Mats colored with natural dyes sell on eBay.com.au
Cotton is the oldest plant fiber known to human beings. Dating back to 3000BC, cotton fiber is the seed-hair of the cotton plant. The cotton fiber is encased (enclosed) in the seed-pod of the (Gossypium plant) cotton plant. Once mature (around seven weeks of growth) the seed-pod (boll) opens, revealing the cotton fiber within which contains the seeds. Cotton is the most used of plant fibers for textiles (materials) and clothing in the World. China, Brazil, India, Pakistan and USA contribute more than 80% of the production of cotton.
Turkish Handmades, have a lovely collection of Turkish Pure Cotton Scarves which have been naturally colored. They offer Worldwide shipping from Istanbul, Turkey. These can be purchased from their store on eBay.com.au
Flax fiber, from the stem of the flax plant, is manufactured into linens such as tablecloths, towels and sheets etc. Today, clothing made from flax fiber is making a comeback. Stronger than cotton, flax fiber has been used for Centuries and a matter of fact, an Egyptian tomb wall painting shows Sennedjem and his wife Lyneferti harvesting flax plants. France, Belgium and The Netherlands are the main producers of flax. While browsing on eBay.com.au I came across a lovely Flax Linen Dress sold by ‘Water Sister’ which comes in Small, Medium and Large sizes. They ship Worldwide.
Hemp dates back as far as flax and the outer fibrous sheath (covering) of the hemp plant stem is being used to make canvas, clothing, paper, rope, and floor coverings such as mats. It’s being blended with cotton, flax, silk and wool to give the fabric a durable (long lasting) softer feel. Now hemp has made its way into the building industry.
The inner core fiber of the hemp plant stem is mixed with lime to make hemp batts called hempcrete and is being used for insulation in roofs, walls and ceilings; a much safer alternative than fibreglass batts etc. The chief producer of hemp is China. Smaller harvesting of hemp comes from Europe and Chile.
Jute fiber is mainly removed from the bark of the white jute plant. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s (around the time of the first and second Industrial Revolution) jute substituted (replaced) flax and hemp in sack cloth; they were also called Hessian bags. Jute threads and twines (strings) are woven into coverings for chairs, curtains and rugs etc. Some cushion covers, lamp shades, toys and shoes are the result of jute being blended with other natural fibers. Fabric made of jute is biodegradable, flexible and absorbs moisture; therefore it is being used to stop soil erosion and landslides as it has the ability to drain well. Today, Bangladesh and West Bengal in India are the main producers of jute.
Macrame d art Design sell their Jute Plant Hangers on their ebay store and ship Worldwide.
Ramie (known as Chinese grass) is a vegetable fiber and is quite tough. It’s part of the nettle family, is native to Asia and has been around for thousands of years. Its many uses include the manufacture of clothing, bed linen to making parachutes and fire hoses. Ramie has been blended with cotton, hemp and silk to give them a different look and textured (fabric) feel. The courser fiber of Ramie is used to make nets, twine and rope. The Ramie plant is mainly grown in China, Brazil and the Philippines. Importers of Ramie include Japan, Germany, France and United Kingdom.
Sisal comes from the Agave plant. It is a member of the cactus family. The sisal fiber is produced by crushing and beating the leaves. This can be done by hand or machine. Retting is a process of soaking the leaves in water to soften them and to separate the fibers. After retting, the fibers are scraped, by hand, to further separate them. Decortication (the crushing and beating of the leaves to separate the fibers) is done via a rotating wheel set with blunt knives. Sisal fiber being a stiff tough fiber is traditionally used to make twine and rope. Cultivated for its fiber, Sisal is grown in Brazil, China, Kenya, Madagascar and Mexico.
Natural Sisal Fiber Back Scrubbers are available from eBay seller Enchanted Waters. They ship from the U.S. and offer Worldwide shipping.
Alpaca fiber is also known as a fleece or type of wool. However, it does not leave a prickly feeling when worn as does with wool from sheep. Light in weight and warmer than sheep wool, Alpaca fiber comes from Alpacas which are camelids; mammals of the camel family. Related to llamas, Alpacas graze (eat) and breed in South America; high in the Andes Mountains in Peru as well as Bolivia and Chile. Naturally, they don (wear) coats of many different colors ranging from off-white through to browns, greys and black. Used to make yarns for knitwear, Alpaca fiber is woven into textiles (materials) for clothing and rugs. Cotton, silk and wool is now being blended with Alpaca fiber to make clothing; especially sports clothes because of the light weight warmth quality that Alpaca fiber possesses.
eBay seller Threads of Peru sell Natural Alpaca Pillow Cushion Covers which have been colored with natural dyes. They ship from Peru and offer Worldwide shipping.
Copper Moose and Spinning sell a lovely selection of Super Fine Alpaca Fibers and Baby Alpaca Fibers on eBay . They ship from Vermont and offer Worldwide Shipping.
Angora wool fiber from the Angora rabbit is being used for its therapeutic properties. It has been found to increase blood circulation to ones body wherever it has been worn as it prevents the loss of heat. This is good news for people who suffer from poor circulation and the need to relieve pain. This one big ‘powder puffs’ fibers are being made into sweaters, scarves, shawls, ponchos, socks and wrist bands. What’s in a name? The origin of the word Angora came about when long haired goats, of Ancyra/Ankara in Turkey, were named so. Today, Angora rabbit farms in China are populating millions of rabbits. Other producers of Angora rabbits are Argentina, Chile and Hungary.
You can find Pure White Angora Fiber sold by Art Thou Woolly on eBay. This seller ships WorldWide from the U.K.
Camel hair is gathered when the camels molt (lose hair) their winter coat in spring. The soft undercoat is used for clothing whilst the outer coat (or guard hair) is more course and used for making brushes. Camel hair is usually blended with wool for economical reasons. Would you like your camel with one hump or two? One humped camels are called dromedaries; two humped camels are called bactrians. Countries who mainly supply camel hair are Afghanistan, Australia, China, Iran, Mongolia and Russia. Nomadic (wandering) herdsmen from Mongolia, Siberia and Turkey use camel hair to make ‘Yurts’ (a round tent which is easily foldable).
‘Copper Moose Fibers and Spinning’ on eBay sell all natural camel hair fiber and ship Worldwide.
Cashmere is fine soft wool obtained from the Kashmir goat. In spring, the goats are combed or sheared to collect their fine undercoat. Native to the Himalayas, the Kashmir goats soft wooly fiber is used to make clothing; especially sweaters, scarves, shawls and babies clothing because of its warmth and softness. The course outer fibers of the Kashmir goats coat are used for making carpets and rugs. The World’s leading Cashmere producer is China. Producers of Cashmere on a smaller scale come from Australia, India, Iran, Pakistan, New Zealand, Turkey and the USA. The finest fibers of Cashmere come from Mongolia.
Yarn Buttons Etc on eBay sell Soft Mongolian Pure Cashmere (undyed) and ships from Los Angeles, California. Posts within the U.S.
Mohair is obtained from the Angora goat. Thought to have originated from Tibet, Angora goats are being bred in Turkey, USA and South Africa with South Africa being the major producer. Young Angora goats’ finer hair is used in yarns for knitting/crocheting, for the making of scarves/shawls and used in some clothing. The mature Angora goats’ hair is thicker, so is used in making coats, carpets and rugs. A blend of mohair and wool are manufactured into blankets.
Silk is made by the silkworm which has a diet consisting of mulberry leaves. Silkworms are actually caterpillars. The silkworm moth is an insect. The silk filament (thread) is what the silkworm spins its cocoon with. Once the silkworm is encased inside the cocoon, metamorphosis (changing shape) takes place. It transforms into a moth and emerges from the cocoon; the moth lays eggs then dies and within a few weeks the eggs hatch into very tiny furry black silkworms. As they grow and mature, they molt (shed their fur) and their color changes to a light yellow or an off-white. Then the process starts all over. On eBay.co.uk, Silk Unique Traditional sell 100% Mulberry Silk Yarn and ship Worldwide from Bangalore, India.
Copper Moose & Spinning sell 100% Mulberry Silk Fiber from ‘Peace of Yarn’ on eBay.com.au. They ship from Vermont, USA and offer Worldwide Shipping.
China is the main producer of silk while India, Italy and Japan are the main importers of raw silk. The soft sleek (smooth) feel of silk and the ability to hold the warmth in winter is the reason why it is favored for lingerie and underwear. Silk has been used in surgical sutures because it helps with the healing of the wound which has been stitched. The silkworm uses an enzyme (energized protein molecule necessary for life) which stops inflammation from occurring and helps to dissolve dead tissue.
Wool for garments is produced from Merino sheep. Once the sheep are shorn (clipped) the wool is then cleaned to remove dirt and its natural oils. The wool is then carded (separated and straightened), combed and then spun into yarn for making fabrics and knitted garments such as sweaters/cardigans etc. Carpets, rugs and blankets are being made from wool as well.
100% Wool Vegetable Dyed Decorative Place Rich Red & Midnight Blue Agra Area Rug sold by 1800 Get A Rug on eBay is stunning. You can view their full selection of natural wool rugs colored with vegetable dyes as well. They ship their natural wool rugs from New Jersey, USA and posts Worldwide.
It was first thought that a majority of people had allergies to wool but this is a fallacy (a mistaken belief). The real cause of the prickle and ‘itch’ is because those people have pain receptors (molecules that receive chemical signals) which are closest to the surface of their skin. The wools course stiff fibers and its shortness in length do not bend when pressed against the skin. When the garment is worn, it feels like pin pricks on the skin; whereas finer longer fibers of wool buckle (bend) when pressed against the skin and therefore do not cause that prickle ‘itch’ sensation.
Turkish Rug Store on eBay.co.uk have a lovely selection of Pure Wool Rugs which have been naturally dyed. They ship from Turkey and offer Worldwide postage.
The major suppliers of wool are Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Russia, United Kingdom and Uruguay.
Did you know?
Oakum: Loose hemp or jute fiber obtained by unravelling (undoing) old ropes. When saturated (soaked) with tar it was used to caulk (seal) seams and pack joints in wooden ships. Now I can understand where the term ‘old tar’ (meaning old sailor) comes from.
Tar use to be made from the roots and wood of pine trees. It’s a type of resin that is distilled until it’s a thick black liquid. However, we do not have to make tar as it is free from Mother Earth. It oozes up from the ground and spreads over the earth in tacky black pools and puddles.
Believe it Or Not!
Trust man to want to interfere with nature! Japanese scientists have injected spider genes into silkworms to make a much stronger “super silk”. What next……..a venomous eight legged silkworm on the rampage!
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