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Burning Characteristics of Fibers

The way a fabric burns depends partly on its fiber content. The Table below describes typical burning
characteristics of fibers, ranking them from the most to least hazardous.

Natural Cellulosic Fibers

Cotton/Linen Burn with a yellow flame, light smoke, and
have glowing embers. Cellulosic fibers do
not melt or draw away from flames.
Manufactured Cellulosic Fibers can burn quickly when
ignited, but they behave somewhat differently as they burn.
Rayon/Lyocell Burn similarly to cotton and linen, except
they may shrink up and become tighter.
Acetate Burns with a rapid flame and melts when
burning. May melt and pull away from small
flames without igniting. Melted area may drip
off clothing carrying flames with it. When
flames have died out, the hot, molten plastic
residue is difficult to remove.
Synthetics may catch fire quickly or shrink from the flame
initially, but ultimately, they will sputter, flame, and melt to the
skin or the flaming melt will drop to the floor.
Acrylic Burns similarly to acetate, except that it
burns with a very heavy dense black smoke.
It drips excessively.
Lastol, and

Burn slowly and melt when burning. May

melt and pull away from small flames without
igniting. Melted area may drip off clothing
carrying flames with it but not to the extent of
acetate and acrylic.

Protein fibers are difficult to ignite. They may self-extinguish,

but this varies depending on the closeness of the weave or
knit (fabric density) and other finish treatments.
Wool Burn slowly and are difficult to ignite. May
and Silk self extinguish
Flame Resistant Fabrics are difficult to ignite, burn slowly
and go out when the source of the flame is removed.
Modacrylic Burn very slowly with melting. May melt and
and Saran pull away from small flames without igniting.
Self extinguishes.
Aramid, Char but do not burn

and vinyon

Fabrics that are a blend of two or more fibers do not burn in the same way as either fiber. Sometimes,
blends are more dangerous than either fiber. For example, fabrics of 50 percent cotton and 50 percent
polyester tend to burn longer than a similar fabric of either cotton or polyester.
The way a fabric is made (knit, weave, lace, etc.) affects how it burns.

Heavy close structures ignite with difficulty and burn more slowly than light, thin, or open fabrics.

In general, summer weight clothing is more likely to catch fire than winter weight fabrics.
However, heavy weight fabrics burn longer when ignited, because there is more flammable
material present.

Fabrics with more of the fiber surface area exposed to air have more oxygen available to support
burning and therefore burn more easily. Thus, thin, gauzy fabrics, lace, or brushed fabrics can be
very flammable.

Fabrics with a napped or brushed surface of fine fibers can catch fire easily because of the
greater amount of fiber surface exposed to oxygen in the air

hoosing fabric for clothes is the most important step in sewing a garment. The
wrong choice can mean a very unsuccessful project! Fortunately, there are usually
a few right fabric options for any pattern, so its not too difficult to pair up a
fabric and pattern.

How to choose fabric for clothes:

When starting a sewing project, youll begin in one of two places: either
youll have fallen in love with a pattern and need fabric to make it out of,
or youll have fallen in love with a fabric and need to find a suitable pattern
to go with it.

Have a pattern?
Patterns will tell you which types of fabrics the pattern was designed for.
Although there are no sewing police to come arrest you if you deviate from
the suggested fabrics, beginning sewists especially will want to stick to the
list. The fabrics listed will have properties (in terms of weight, stretch and
drape) that complement the design of the pattern.

12 types of fabric commonly used for garment sewing:

Cotton voile: Voile is a lightweight, semi-sheer fabric with a great drape.

Cotton lawn: Lawn is very similar to cotton voile but is slightly crisper.

Rayon challis: Rayon challis is a smooth, lightweight fabric. It drapes well and is
slightly heavier than other lightweight fabrics, like cotton voile and cotton lawn.
Chambray: Chambray is another smooth, lightweight fabric. It doesnt drape as well as

rayon challis, cotton voile or cotton lawn.

Denim: Denim is a heavy-weight fabric with very little drape or stretch.

Double gauze: Double gauze is a unique fabric in that it is literally two layers of gauze
woven together. The double layer of fabric eradicates the main problem of sewing clothing
from gauze (the sheerness), while retaining the good qualities (extremely light and
Knit: In the knit fabric category, there are several types of knit, varying from

lightweight to medium weight. Knit fabric is your go-to for any garment that needs to have a
great deal of stretch. Patterns are designed for either woven fabric or knit fabric, and
patterns sized for knit fabric will often specify the degree of stretch needed in the fabric.
Silk: Silk is a lightweight, delicate fabric that drapes well. It has a slightly shimmery

appearance. Silk can be slippery and more difficult to work with. It also makes a great lining

Satin: Satin can vary from lightweight to heavyweight, depending on the type of satin.
Like silk, it has a glossy appearance.

Linen: Linen is a medium-weight fabric with little elasticity (hence the wrinkles). But
it conducts heat very well, which is why its a popular choice for warm-weather anything.

Wool: There are over 200 different types of wool, coming from 40 different breeds of
sheep, so the weight will vary depending on the type of wool. Wool is extremely hard-wearing
and versatile. Its also very warm and a good choice for colder weather garments.

Flannel: Flannel is a soft, lightweight fabric. It works well for colder-temperature

shirts, pants and jackets.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these fabric types are a good
place to start when shopping.
Have great fabric? Match your fabric to a garment and start pattern shopping:

Pants: Linen (for warmer weather); denim; flannel; and wool.

Shirts and blouses: Cotton voile; rayon challis; double gauze; knit; silk; chambray;
cotton lawn; linen; and flannel (for less drapey shirts and blouses).

Skirts: Cotton lawn; rayon challis; denim; knit; and linen.

Dresses: Cotton voile; cotton lawn; rayon challis; double gauze; knit; silk; satin; linen;
and wool (for colder weather).

The weight of the fabric can be a deciding factor when choosing a pattern; a
lightweight fabric will usually require a pattern suitable for warmer
weather. If you need more guidance on choosing fabric for clothes, see our
post on how to pair fabrics with sewing patterns.
If you have additional questions about these fabrics, please Google
them before sending me an email! (I don't know everything)

This DIY guide is for people who love to sew but don't know anything about
different fabrics. The more you know about fabric, the easier it will be to sew! I
have a lot of information on this page. If it's too much for you, just read #1
about different fabric weights and the first couple paragraphs of #2 about
different types of fabric and fibers.

1. Choosing the right fabrics for your DIY projects

Before I get into different types of fabrics, I'm going to explain why you should pay attention to fabric WEIGHT.
Thin fabrics will do better for tops and dresses. Heavy fabrics will do better for jackets, skirts, and pants. You
can always break these rules, but if you want to make something that will last a long time, try to follow them! A
lot of thin, lightweight fabrics can be used just fine for jackets and skirts, but for pants you will always be better
off with the heavy stuff.
Sometimes fabrics will be labeled by the weight.

Top-weight fabrics: shirts and dresses. Also called shirtings.

Bottom-weight fabrics: jackets, skirts, and pants.
Very light: Under one ounce per yard.
Light: 2-3 oz. per yard.
Medium: 5-7 oz. per yard.
Heavy: more than 7 oz. per yard.
Light and very light are good for shirts. Medium and heavy are good for pants.
Fabric won't always be labeled with the weight when you go to a fabric store, so feel the fabric and judge for
Also: if you are going to make patches, make sure to buy heavy-weight fabric!

2. Types of Fibers and Fabrics

Many fabrics are a mixture of two or more different fibers. (for example, 50% cotton 50% polyester) Pay
attention to the fiber content when you shop for fabrics, because it will affect how your clothes feel and behave.
The following list is seperated into 3 categories: natural fibers, manufactured fibers, andprotein fibers. Protein
fibers are those like silk and wool that are obtained from an animal and are not vegan friendly. Manufactured
fibers are usually made of chemicals. They will typically dry faster than natural fibers and can develop stubborn

Very cool, absorbent, and comfortable. Takes a long time to dry compared to other fibers. Will shrink when
you wash it. Medium strength. Ages well. Used in many things, for example t-shirts, jeans, underwear, and
upholstery. Combed cotton is softer and better quality than regular cotton.
Flax (linen)
Cool and absorbent, like cotton. Wrinkles badly, need a very hot iron to get rid of wrinkles. Shrinks in water,
dry cleaning is recommended. Usually used in summer clothing and home decor.
Similar to cotton and linen, but fairly expensive.
Does not wrinkle. Does not absorb water well. Dries quickly, doesn't shrink in water. Not very comfortable
when a tight fitting garment is 100% polyester. One of the cheapest fibers. Very strong. Also called terylene.
Similar to cotton: cool, absorbent, and comfortable. Wrinkles easily and has only fair strength. Also called
Strongest major fiber. Very stretchy. Not very absorbent, therefore not very comfortable.
Very cheap, not very strong. Dry-clean only. Feels silky and comfortable. Usually used in linings.
Very stretchy, will recover instantly to same size. Best used in small percentages to add comfort to a nonstretchy fabric. Also called lycra.

Doesn't wrinkle easily, good strength. Used as a cheaper, more washable substitute for wool and also in fake
Stretchy and waterproof. Usually one side of fabric will be PVC/polyurethane, the other side (backing) will be
another fiber like polyester. Doesn't breathe and is not very comfortable if used for an entire garment.
Comes from a silkworm. Comfortable, absorbent, wrinkles easily (especially when wet). Sometimes dryclean only. Very thin.
Comes from a sheared sheep. Strong, warm, dry, doesn't wrinkle easily. Can be coarse and itchy, but high
quality wool is soft. Dry-cleaning works best.
Comes from an angora goat. Softer and shinier than wool. Expensive.
Comes from dead animals. Strong and absorbent.
Best fabrics/fibers to use in DIY clothing:

Cotton- comfortable, strong, easy to wash.

Polyester Blends- cheaper, strong, doesn't wrinkle easily. But stay away from 100% polyester if the
garment is tight fitting or covers most of the body, because it might get hot and uncomfortable.
Anything with spandex- will add stretch to clothing so that you don't have to use elaborate
construction. Just 1% will add stretch to any fabric.
Fabrics/fibers to stay away from:

Acetate- not strong and dry-clean only.

Leather- very difficult to sew on a regular sewing machine.

3. Fabric Constructions
Three main types of fabric constructions:

Knit- yarns are interlooped in various ways. Usually stretches.

Woven- yarns are weaved into a pattern. Stretches only if made from a stretchy fiber, or if cut on the

Nonwoven- fabrics not produced by conventional methods of knitting or weaving.

For example: cotton band t-shirts are knits. Jeans are wovens. Top-weight fabrics can be knit or woven, while
bottom-weight fabrics are usually woven.
Common terms used for fabric construction:
Orange means knit, pink means woven, red means nonwoven.
Many of these terms signify a certain type of construction as well as a certain fabric finish or pattern. I listed
most of the basic types of fabrics you can find at a fabric store.

Double Knit- two faced, which means the back and front look exactly the same. stretches a lot, good
for t-shirts.
Interlock- similar to double knit. will fray at the edges.
Jersey- stretchy with a smooth face. will curl at the edges when stretched. many uses.
Rib Knit- very stretchy, has vertical parallel ridges running. used for tank tops, neck trim of t-shirts,
and sweatshirt cuffs.
Tricot- thin, made with fine yarns. good for lingerie and underwear.
Some of these woven fabrics can also be made as knits:

Broadcloth- tightly woven. used for skirts, blouses, dresses, and summer clothing.
Brocade- elaborate designs woven in. wide range of prices, usually used for formal clothing.

Canvas- heavyweight material. not good for clothes but you can use it to make patches.
Chiffon- sheer, fine, and limp, and has a slightly bumpy look. used for blouses, evening dresses and
Chino- lustrous twill weave. used for army uniforms and many other garments.
Corduroy- has pile (like velvet). make sure to cut all pattern pieces in the same direction, as light will
reflect differently depending on which way the pile goes. many uses (excluding shirts).
Crepe- lightweight with a crinkled or puckered surface. used for dresses and formalwear.
Denim- same as twill. weave has diagonal, parallel ridges. many uses.
Flannel- medium-weight with a soft, fuzzy surface. many uses, for example shirts and pajamas.
Fleece- can be knit or woven. made from wool. can be cheap or expensive, quality usually depends on
price. good for jackets and warm clothing.
Gingham- printed or dyed with a striped or checked pattern. variety of weights and uses.
Muslin- inexpensive medium weight fabric, used for fitting garments before real fabric is used. (a
Poplin- lustrous with a corded surface. many uses.
Satin- has a glossy surface, made in many different weights and varieties. used in dresses, linings,
formalwear, jackets, and more.
Sateen- satin that is made out of cotton.
Seersucker- medium to heavy weight with crinkles in the weave. many uses.
Taffeta- smooth, shiny, and stiff. used for formalwear.
Terry- has a looped pile. very absorbent, has many uses.
Tulle- thin, stiff, and fine. used for formalwear.
Tweed- medium to heavy weight twill fabric. many uses, mostly suits and coats. lighter weights used
for dresses.
Twill- has diagonal parallel ridges. if you don't know what this means, look at any pair of jeans. usually
a bottom-weight fabric.
Velour- woven (but sometimes knitted) fabric with uneven pile, which creates light and shaded areas.
woven used for formalwear, knit velour has many uses.
Velvet- woven with a thick pile. for best color/shade results, cut with pile running up. cheaper velvet
deteriorates after a few wearings. used mostly for formalwear.
Velveteen- like velvet, but with shorter pile.
Felt- many fibers fused together. poor quality unless it is wool felt.
Interfacing- stiff fabric used to support and add weight to garments. can be woven or knit.
Lace- usually made by machine. can be used for decoration on almost any garment. also can be
woven or knit.

Fabric Identification The Burn Test

Those who are related to textile in any way, need to know the process of Fabric Identification. A Textile
manufacturer, wholesaler or a retailer will have to know what fabric their prospective customers are going to buy
and how they will test the end product- the finished fabric. This will equip them to make a fabric having quality
that will pass the designated test for it. On the other hand, the customers who can be anyone- a fashion
designer, textile designers, tailor, garment manufacturer, manufacturer of other textile products or simply a
homemaker who wants to sew a dress at home, they all will need a particular type of fabric to make their ultimate
desired product. It is better for them to test the fabric before putting it to use which will save both time and
efforts in the long run.

Burn Test- Precautions and the Method

Burn test is the most accepted method for identifying the true nature of any fabric. This test is carried out to
know whether a fabric is made up of a natural fiber, man made fiber, or a blend of natural and man made fibers.

The burn test has to be carried out with great precaution. Arrangement of water near the site of test should be
made. The test should be done in a metal bucket, an old tuna tin or a glass ashtray. Plastic containers should
always be avoided. If the dish contains soda or even water at its bottom, its great.

The Method

To identify the fibers in an unknown piece of fabric, a snippet should be cut off from it. This specimen should be
about 1" long and a triangle at most 1/4" wide. The snippet of fabric should be held in a pair of tweezers over the
dish (which has already been made fireproof). With either a match or cigarette lighter, the snippet should be put
directly into the flame long enough for it to catch on fire.
Most of the fabrics burn and they have to be extinguished. There are other fabrics that burn until there is nothing
to burn, or they burn and go out on their own after a few seconds leaving remaining unburned fiber and are
therefore self-extinguishing. There are certain other fabrics that does not burn even with a flame held directly to
Fibers can also be identified through the smell of the smoke it gives off in burning, and the ash or melted bead
that remains after it has burned. Some of the fabrics are blends, and the blend of fibers may make the burn test
rather unreliable test for fiber content. Moreover, some fabrics have chemical finishes and sizings applied to them
that will change the way they burn, making the burn test further unreliable.
The fiber burn chart given below helps in identifying the nature of the fibers on the basis of their burning
characteristics and the smell and other properties of the remains such as smoke, ash etc.

Reaction of Fibers to the Burn Test


Is a cellulose fiber. It burns and may flare up when lit. No melted bead is left by it. After burning, it continues to
glow. It gives out smell like that of a burning paper. The smoke is gray or white. The ash is fine, soft that can be
easily crumbled.

A cellulose fiber, burns quickly with bright flame. It leaves no melted bead and after burning no sign of flame is
seen but it does not melts. It smells like burning leaves or wood. The ash is gray and smoke has no fume hazard.

Also a cellulose fiber, doesnt shrink from flame. Other characteristics are similar to those of hemp fabric.
Linen (Flax)

A cellulose fiber, it takes longer to ignite. It is easily extinguished by blowing on it. Other properties are similar to
hemp and jute.

Is a manufactured cellulose fiber. It burns without flame or melting and may flare up. Unless there is a fabric
finish, it doesn't leave any bead. After the flame is removed, it may glow a bit longer than cotton. It smells like
burning paper and leaves soft, gray ash. It's smoke is a little hazardous.

Is a protein fiber which burns slowly and curls away from the flame. It leaves dark bead which can be easily
crushed. It is self-extinguishing and leaves ash that is dark, gritty, fine powder. It smells like burned hair or
charred meat. It gives out a little or no smoke and the fume has no hazard.

Is a protein fiber which burns slowly. It sizzles and curls away from flame and may curl back onto fingernail. It
leaves beads that are brittle, dark, and easily crushed. It is self-extinguishing and leaves harsh ash from crushed
bead. It gives out a strong odor of burning hair or feathers. It gives out dark smoke and moderate fume.
Acetate, Triacetate

Is a protein fiber which burns quickly and can flare even after flame is removed. The bead is hard, brittle, and
can't be crushed. It melts into very hot bead and drips very dangerously. No ash is left by it and the smell is like

hot vinegar or burning pepper. It gives out black smoke and the fume is hazardous.
Nylon, Polymide

Are made from petroleum. Due to their fabric finish, they quickly burn and shrink to flame. The beads are hard,
grayish and uncrushable. After flame, they burn slowly and melt. They are self-extinguishing but drip dangerously.
Their odor is like celery and they leave no ash but the fume is very hazardous.

Is a polymer produced from coal, air, water, and petroleum products. It burns quickly and shrinks away from flame,
may also flare up. It leaves hard, dark, and round beads. After the flame, it burns slowly and is not always selfextinguishing. It has a slightly sweet chemical odor. It leaves no ash but its black smoke and fume are hazardous.
Acrylic, Modacrylic, Polyacrylic

Made from natural gas and petroleum, they flare up at match-touch, shrink from flame, burn rapidly with hot
sputtering flame and drip dangerously. Beads are hard, dark, and with irregular shapes. They continue melting
after flame is removed and are self-extinguishing. When burning, they give out strong acrid, fishy odor. Although
no ash is left but their black smoke and fume are hazardous.
As the procedure of fabric identification helps to ascertain the structure of the materials, it is essentially
undertaken by the weavers and other textile companies. The textile industry uses various machines, such as,
inspection machine, burn machine, fabric dyeing machine, fabric insulation machine and such other machines for
carrying out the burn tests of fabrics. The fashion industry is one of its most important aspect as they make
specific demands for special or usual cloth materials. The enormous reputations of many famous fashion designer
brands are regularly rising all over the world and their clothing lines have special labels declaring to have passed
fabric burn tests.
How to Identify Textile Fibers Based on How They Burn.

Identifying Criteria

Test Procedures



Criteria for Natural Fibers

Criteria for Manufactured Fibers

Identifying Criteria
The burning test is a somewhat subjective , but simple , test based on the knowledge of how particular fibers burn.
In the burning test, the following characteristics are noted:

Do the fibers melt and/or burn?

Do the fibers shrink from the flame?

What type of odor do the fumes have?

What is the characteristic s of any smoke?

What does the residue of the burned fibers look like?

The burning test is normally made on a small sample of yarns which are twisted together. Since the yarns used in
one direction of a fabric are not always comprised of the same fibers used in the other direction, warp and filling
yarns should be burned separately.
Return to Index

Test Procedures
Select a small sample of at least six to eight yarns about 4 inches long, and twist them together into about a 1/8
inch in diameter bundle. Hold one end of the bundle with tweezers or two coins. A sheet of aluminum foil about 10
to 12 inches square can be used as a protected working area. If the sample ignites it can be dropped on the foil
without damage. Either a candle or match can be used to provide the flame.

Return to Index

The characteristics observed during the burning test can be affected by several things. If the fabric /yarn contains
blends of fibers, identification of individual fibers can be difficult. Two or three different kinds of fibers burned
together in one yarn may also be difficult to distinguish. Finishes used on the fabric can also change the observed

Return to Index

Some fibers are slow in igniting, but then burn quickly. Others can burn hot and produce a painful burn if caution is
not maintained.. Care also must be exercised so that your hair is kept out of the flame.

Return to Index

Criteria For Identifying Fibers

Natural Fibers

Cotton: Burns, but does not melt. It has the odor of burning paper,

leaves, or wood. The residue is a fine, feathery, gray ash.

Hemp: Same as cotton

Linen: Same as cotton

Ramie : Same as cotton

Rayon : Same as cotton

Silk: Burns, but does not melt. It shrinks from the flame. It has the odor of charred meat. The residue is a
black, hollow irregular bead that can be easily to a gritty black powder. It is self-extinguishing, i.e., it
burns itself out.

Wool, and other Protein Fibers: Burns, but does not melt. It shrinks from the flame. It has a strong
odor of burning hair. The residue is a black, hollow irregular bead that can be easily crushed into a gritty
black powder. It is self-extinguishing, i.e., it burns itself out.
Return to Index

Manufactured Fibers
Most manufactured fibers both burn and melt, and also tend to shrink away from the flame. Other identifying
characteristics include:

Acetate: Has an odor similar to burning paper and vinegar. Its residue is a hard, dark, solid bead.

Acrylic: Has a fishy odor. The residue is a hard irregularly-shaped bead. It also gives off a black smoke
when burned

Nylon: Has an odor likened to celery. Its residue is initially a hard, cream-colored bead that becomes

Olefin/Polyolefin: Has a chemical type odor. The residue id a hard, tan-colored bead. The flames creates
black smoke.

Polyester: Has a somewhat sweet chemical odor. The residue is initially a hard cream-colored bead that
becomes darker. Flames gives off black smoke.

Spandex: It burns and melts, but does not shrink from the flame. It has a chemical type odor. Its residue
is a soft black ash

Fabric Burn Test Supplies

The fabric(s) you want to test

A flameproof container with walls -- try a large ashtray

Long matches or another source of a smallflame

Long tweezers or a hemostat

Perform the Burn Test


Cut small swatches of each fabric you want to test. Two-inch squares are fine.


Place a swatch in your fireproof container and ignite a corner of the fabric.


Pay attention to the odor of the smoke.

Cotton smells like burning paper.

An odor similar to burning hair or feathers indicates wool or silk fibers, but silk
doesn't always burn as easily as wool.
A darkish plume of smoke that smells like chemicals or burning plastic probably

means the fabric is a cotton/polyester blend.


Examine the ashes after they've cooled.

Cotton ashes are soft and fine. They turn to dust when touched.

Black, brittle remnants that crush between your fingers indicate wool fibers.

Hard lumps are the remains of melted synthetic fibers.


Take one more step. Unravel a clump of threads from another small swatch of the fabric.
Hold the clump with tweezers (over your flameproof container) and slowly move a small flame
towards the clump.

Cotton fibers ignite as the flame draws near.

Synthetic fibers curl away from the heat and tend to melt.

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To see exactly how each type of fabric reacts, perform experimental burn tests on fabrics you
know are made from cotton, cotton/polyester blends, wool and other fibers.

Fabrics Sometimes Mistaken for Cotton

Linen is similar to cotton but burns more slowly.

Rayon still burns after the flame is removed, and although it has an odor similar to cotton
or paper, it does not have an afterglow after removing it from the flame. Cotton produces an

If You Don't Think the Fabric is Cotton

Most of us make the majority of our quilts with 100-percent cotton fabrics, but there's no rule that
says you must sew with one type of fabric or another. Go ahead and use a fabric if you like it,

but do try to determine what type of fabric it is so that you'll know how to care for the quilt when
it's finished.
One bit of advice, most quilt block and fabric swaps do require that you use all-cotton fabrics.
Reserve fabrics made from other materials for your own use or for swaps that allow variations.

My first hypothesis was that cotton would burn the most completely. The results
indicate that my first hypothesis should be accepted, because cotton had the smallest
area unburned.
My second hypothesis was that cotton would burn the fastest. The results indicated
that my second hypothesis should be rejected because linen burned the fastest.
After thinking about the results of this experiment, I wonder if the way the cloth is
washed or the soap used would change the results of this experiment.
If I were to conduct this project again I would do more trials for each type of cloth and
I would use more types of cloth.

Clothing fires are very dangerous; they can cause serious injury or even death.
This is why highly flammable fabrics should be avoided. This is especially true
in household with young children, in tall hotels, and in places like hospitals or
nursing homes where people are less able to help themselves.
Cotton fibers come from around the cotton plants seeds. Cotton will hold 24-27
times its own weight in liquid and is stronger when wet than dry. Cotton will feel
damp after 15% of its own weight in water is absorbed. Cotton can bend back on
itself 3,200 times without breaking. Cotton is a valuable crop because only about
10% of the raw weight is lost during processing. Some authorities claim that it
was likely that cotton had been used by the Egyptians as early as 12,000 BC.
Evidence of cotton has been found in Mexican caves that dates back to
approximately 7,000 years ago. During the mediaeval times, cotton was known
as an imported fiber in northern Europe, without any knowledge of what it came
from other than it was a plant. Cotton is used for fishnets, coffee filters, tents,
bookbinding, and textile industries. The first Chinese paper was made from
cotton fiber, just like the modern US dollar bill and even fire hoses were once
made from cotton. The cottonseed that remains after the cotton is ginned is used
to make cottonseed oil, which can be consumed by humans like any other
vegetable oil, after refining.
Wool is flame resistant and will absorb 30% of its own weight in liquid without
feeling damp. Wool is very durable; it can withstand being bent 20,000 times.
Wool traps still air in the fibers to keep heat close to the body. Small amounts of
liquid such as small spills, light rain or snow will stay on the surface or run off of
the wool. Wool also takes moisture away from the skin. Wool resists wrinkles
and tearing. Wool is delivered from the hair of animals of the Caprinae family,
mainly sheep and goats. Wool is generally a creamy white color, but some sheep
produce black, brown, and grey. Wool contains a high level of grease called
lanolin when taken straight off the sheep. Wool is separated into five main
categories after shearing, fleece, pieces, bellies, crutchings, and locks. The
diameter of the fiber varies from 15 micrometers to 30 micrometers.
Silk, one of the oldest textile fibers known to man, was once sold for its weight in
gold. Silk is the strongest natural fiber. Steel filament of the same diameter will
break before silk. Silk is a fiber taken from the cocoon of the silk worm.
Chinese history credits Yuen Fei for the invention of silk fabric. Silk was
reserved first for the Emperors of China, but eventually spread through Chinese
culture socially and geographically. The average cocoon contains 300 to 400
meters of silk. About 5500 silkworms can produce 1 kg of raw silk. Silk was
estimated to be produced 4700 years ago. The shinny appearance of silk comes
from the fibers triangular prism-like structure; this allows silk cloth to refract
incoming light at different angles. Silk is used for parachutes, bicycle tires,
comforter filling, artillery gunpowder bags, and even early bulletproof vests,

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