Ecology, one of the Biology Topics, examines the interactions between organisms and their environment.
Different Types of Fibres in Textile
We have all seen cotton (also called cotton wool) in our homes. Cotton is a white, soft and fluffy material. If we hold a piece of cotton between our hands and pull it apart, we will see a large number of very thin and tiny thread-like strands in it. These small and thin strands are called cotton fibres. A lump of cotton is a collection of a large number of fibres. Thus, cotton is a fibrous material or cotton is a fibre. We can now define fibres as follows : Fibres are very thin, thread-like strands from which fabrics (or cloth) is made. Some of the examples of fibres are : Cotton, Wool, Silk, Flax, Jute, Nylon, Polyester and Polyacrylic. The fibres are spun into yarn which can then be woven on a loom to make a fabric (or cloth).
Fibres are of two types :
- Natural fibres, and
- Synthetic fibres.
The fibres which are obtained from natural sources like plants and animals are called natural fibres. Natural fibres are a collection of tiny threads obtained from plants and animals. The examples of natural fibres are : Cotton, Wool, Silk, Flax, and Jute.
(a) Cotton, Flax and Jute are the natural fibres obtained from plants.
(b) Wool and Silk are the natural fibres obtained from animals.
Cotton, flax and jute fibres are obtained from their respective plants (having the same names as the fibres). Wool is most commonly obtained from sheep. The sheep’s hair constitute wool. Wool is also obtained from the hair of goat, rabbits, yak and camels. Silk fibre is obtained from silkworm. Silk fibre is drawn from the cocoon of silkworm (Cocoon is the silky case spun by the silkworm).
For thousands of years only natural fibres (like cotton, flax, wool, and silk, etc.) were available for making fabrics (or cloth). But in the last 100 years or so, fibres are also made from chemical substances which are not obtained from natural sources (like plants or animals). The fibres which are prepared from chemical substances in industry, are called synthetic fibres.
Some of the examples of synthetic fibres are : Nylon, Polyester (like Terylene), and Polyacrylic (like Orion). Synthetic fibres are also known as artificial fibres or manufactured fibres.
All the synthetic fibres are used for making fabrics (or cloth). These fabrics are then used for making our dresses and for other domestic purposes like curtains, etc. Synthetic fibres are also used for making carpets and ropes. The synthetic fibres are much more strong than natural fibres. The clothes made of synthetic fibres last for a much longer time. We can distinguish between the cotton, wool, silk and synthetic fabrics by performing the ‘burning test’ as follows.
Take a small piece of the fabric to be tested. Hold one end of the fabric with a pair of tongs and bring the other end of fabric over the flame of a burner.
- If the piece of fabric burns vigorously giving a smell of burning paper, then it is cotton fabric (Cotton does not melt or form beads on burning).
- If the piece of fabric burns giving a smell of burning hair, then it is woollen fabric (Wool does not melt or form beads on burning).
- If the piece of fabric burns giving the smell of charred meat, then it is silk fabric (Silk also does not melt or form beads on burning).
- If the piece of fabric burns slowly giving the smell of burning plastic, then it is a synthetic fabric (Synthetic fabrics melt and form small beads on burning).
Some Plant Fibres
Fibres like cotton, flax and jute are obtained from plants, so they are called plant fibres. We will now discuss all these plant fibres in a little more detail, one by one. Let us start with cotton.
Cotton is the most widely used natural fibre. Cotton fibre is also known as cotton wool. Cotton fibre comes from the cotton plants which are grown in the fields by the farmers. Cotton crop is usually grown at places having black soil and warm climate. In India, cotton is mainly grown in the states of Maharashtra, and parts of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
The fruits of cotton plants (called cotton bolls) are of the size of lemons. After maturing, the cotton bolls burst open to produce cotton seeds covered with white, soft cotton fibres. A field of cotton plants which is ready for picking cotton looks like a field covered with snow (because all the plants have white cotton fibres at their top) (see Figure).
Cotton is picked up from the plants in the fields usually by hand. The cotton fibres picked from the fields have cotton seeds in them. The cotton fibres are then separated from thse seeds. The process of separating cotton fibres from the seeds is called ginning (of cotton). Ginning was traditionally done by hands by using a comb-like device (see Figure). These days ginning is also done by using machines. Cotton is mainly used for making fabrics (or cloth). These fabrics are then used for making clothes, dresses, etc. Cotton is also used for filling pillows, mattresses and quilts. The wicks of oil lamps are also made of cotton.
Flax is also a plant that gives natural fibres. The fibres obtained from flax plant are called ‘flax fibres’ or just ‘flax’ (see Figure). The fibres are obtained from the stem of flax plant. The flax fibres are used for making fabric (or cloth). The cloth made of stem fibres of flax is called linen. Linen is used for making bed-sheets, etc. Thus, in addition to cotton, flax plants are also cultivated in fields to obtain fibres for making fabrics.
Jute fibre is obtained from the stem of a jute plant (see Figure). Jute is called ‘patsan’ in Hindi. In India, jute is mainly grown in West Bengal, Bihar and Assam. Jute crop is cultivated in the rainy season.
Jute fibre is obtained from the jute plants as follows : The jute plants are harvested from the fields when they are at flowering stage. The stems of the harvested jute plants are immersed in water for a few days. During this time, the stems rot and fibres are left behind. The jute fibres are separated from water by hand.
Jute is a rough fibre so it is not used for making the fabrics (or cloth) for making dresses. Jute is, however, a strong plant fibre. Jute fibre is used to make ropes and jute bags (or gunny bags). The jute bags (or gunny bags) are used as shopping bags as well as for storing foodgrains such as wheat, rice, etc.
The outer covering of coconut has also some fibres on it. These are called coconut fibres (see Figure). The coconut fibres are used for making ropes and mats. The common name of coconut fibres is ‘coir’. The fibres obtained from wood are used to make paper. Thus, paper is also made from plants.