A wide variety of natural fibers are used in traditional handloom or textiles. Natural fibers can be defined as substances that are obtained from plants, animals, minerals or from geological processes, which are biodegradable over time. They can be spun into filaments, threads or ropes and can be woven, knitted, matted or bound. The commercially important natural fibers are those cellulosic fibers obtained from the seed hairs, stems, and leaves of plants; protein fibers obtained from the hair, fur, or cocoons of animals and the crystalline mineral asbestos.
There are definite advantages in using natural fibers over synthetic ones even though they are slightly more expensive and shrink with time. Natural fibers are resistant to fire and does not cause skin irritations.
A few common fibers and the processes involved in making them are listed below:
Jute is also called ‘Golden fiber’ because of its color and key role in the fiber industry. Jute is one of the strongest natural fibers and ranks second only to cotton in terms of global production. Jute fiber is commonly known for its usage in making gunny bags and sacks. Jute is also used for making clothes to wrapping bales of cotton, twine, rope, matting, curtains, chair coverings, carpets, geo-textiles and backing for linoleum flooring.
Cotton fiber is known to human kind for almost 5,000 years. It is made up of pure cellulose with softness and breathability. It absorbs moisture readily, provides natural comfort, is eco-friendly and also improves biodiversity and biological cycles. Cotton is commonly used in textile industry, apart from this they are used in making fishnets, coffee filters, gun powder, cotton paper and fire proof apparel and gauze bandages.
Silk is a natural fibre made by the silk worm larvae. Silk is often used to make cloth. The cloth can be made into clothes, rugs, bedding, or can be used to write or paint on. Silk fibres are very strong. In the past, silk was used to make parachutes.
Wool fibre is the natural hair grown on sheep and is composed of protein substance called keratin. Wool has been used for blankets, horse rugs, saddle cloths, carpeting, felt and upholstery.