NATURAL FIBRES, Main Characteristics

By Be Quality | Comments: 0 | August 24, 2023

Natural Fibres are in use since thousands of years. There are archaeological remains of fabrics and garments from at least 6000 years b.c.

As we saw on our previous article, Natural Fibres are fibres we can find in nature, without any manipulation or transformation by men. What men have been doing until now, is extracting them from the plants or animals and then transforming them into yarns, fabrics and clothes. The natural fibres have always had an important usage for covering and protecting our bodies. But they also had an important role in fishing, agriculture, sailing, etc.

On ancient times, until the last century, every textile product was meant to last for lifetime. And they had to be, as the fibre cultivation and its processing is complex and requires a huge amount of work and natural resources. Remember it was all handmade. The introduction of modern machinery started with the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. This certainly made these processes faster and easier. However it remains long and complex to harvest or produce the fibres until obtaining the finished garment.

Fibre (in latin: fibra) is a natural or artificial substance which is significantly longer than it is wide.

Hemp, Linen & Wool were the first natural fibres in use. Afterwards, Cotton became a material widely used. This is because Cotton fibres are easier to extract than Linen & Hemp. Later, around 2640 b.c., the silk was discovered in China. At the beginning it was a restricted monopoly: only the emperor and his family could use it!

Natural fibres are available all around the world. In Perú, for example, the old traditional textiles are made from Cotton fibres, Alpaca or Lama hairs, as they grow naturally in these lands.


Natural fibres we use in textiles are classified according to their origin. This is very important as there are common characteristics between fibres belonging to one class.

Vegetal Fibres:

The main component of these fibres is the cellulose. Some important characteristics of the cellulosic fibres are:

* it has high transportation properties. This means that the cellulose transports easily the heat and transpiration our body produces to the exterior. As a result, our body keeps fresher. This is the main reason why cellulosic fibres are the best choice in the warm seasons.

* except in rare cases, the plant fibres are all analergic.

The vegetal fibres may come from different parts of the plant. Below find some examples:

  • Fibres extracted from the seeds & fruit are Cotton & Kapoc.
  • From the plant stems we obtain Hemp & Linen.
  • Fibres we obtain from the leaves are Sisal, Agave & Abaca, among others.

Animal Fibres:

The main component of these fibres is protein. Some important characteristics of the animal fibres are:

* they have isolation properties thanks to the morphology (shape) of the fibres. In other words, they keep the warmth produced by our body. This is why we use them mostly in the cold seasons.

* animal fibres are more resilient than vegetal fibres. This means that they recover easier from wrinkling.

* animal hairs have the capacity to felt in warm water and/or steam. This is an excellent method known since ancient times to make warm garments (coats, hats, shoes, etc.) and other thicker fabrics to protect from the cold weather.

* the wool fibres can cause allergies, specially when the lanolin covering the fibres is not cleaned properly.

The animal fibres are mainly animal hairs. Depending on the animal from which they come from they have different designations:

  • Wool is the hair of the sheep.
  • Alpaca is the hair of the alpaca.
  • Mohair is the hair of the Angora goat.
  • Cashmere is the hair of the Cashmere goat.
  • Silk is the only animal fibre that doesn’t come from animal hairs. It is a yarn the caterpillar produces to build its cocoon, where the metamorphosis of Bombix Mori moth will happen.

Mineral Fibres on textiles are not common, so we will not cover it.

Some General Facts for Natural Fibres:

Natural Fibres have a natural humidity absorbance. This brings comfort to our body, as it absorbs the natural transpiration our body produces. On the other hand, when these fibres are wet, the drying takes a longer time.

As a consequence of the humidity absorbance, it does exchange electric ions. In few words: there is no ‘static electricity’ accumulation on any garment with natural fibres.

Almost all natural fibres tend to yellow upon exposure to sunlight and moisture, and extended exposure results in loss of strength. This applies also to many artificial and synthetic fibres.

One key point we should all consider is that all natural fibres are biodegradable. This means, they all suffer microbial decomposition and afterwards are reintegrated into the environment in a positive way. Moreover, some insects can attack them: as the silverfish or moth. This means that natural fibres become ‘food’ for many other organisms, making it a circular fashion product.

One excellent idea could be to put garments we do not use any more on the compost instead of throwing them away.

It is interesting to note that cotton or any cellulosic fibre can decompose in some weeks to few months (less than 6 months). This obviously depends on the temperature & humidity conditions. In comparison, animal fibres take a bit longer to decompose: from 3 months to 18 months. This is a very interesting fact when you apply this to cultivation land. As in both cases, animal and vegetal fibres become very good nutrients for the plants.

Key Advantages of Natural Fibres:

We find them in nature as fibre already.

As per their natural composition (cellulose & protein) they provide comfort and healthy effects on our skin and bodies. This is not the case for artificial or synthetic fibres.

One of the most important keys in these times is that all natural fibres are biodegradable. This reduces the environmental pollution and ‘enriches’ the lands where they are composted.

When we choose high quality products in natural fibres, they can really last for a lifetime. This is what the slowfashion lifestyle promotes. I know, this today is not easy to find. But like B.e Quality, there are other (small) brands choosing to work only with high quality materials.

These are all very good reasons why to choose natural fibres in our garments.

B.e the Change you Want to See


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