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Natural fibres are either from animals (sheep, goat, rabbit, silk-worm), mineral (asbestos), or from plants (cotton, flax, sisal). These vegetable fibres can come from the seed (cotton), the stem (known as bast fibres: flax, hemp, jute) or the leaf (sisal). Without exception, many processes are needed before a clean even staple is obtained – each with a specific name. With the exception of silk, each of these fibres is short, being only centimetres in length, and each has a rough surface that enables it to bond with similar staples.

Artificial fibres can be processed as long fibres or batched and cut so they can be processed like a natural fibre.




  • - are field crops grown for their fibres, which are traditionally used to make paper,[1] cloth, or rope. The fibers may be chemically modified, like in viscose (used to make rayon and cellophane). In recent years materials scientists have begun exploring further use of these fibers in composite materials.

Fiber crops are generally harvestable after a single growing season, as distinct from trees, which are typically grown for many years before being harvested for such materials as wood pulp fiber or lacebark. In specific circumstances, fiber crops can be superior to wood pulp fiber in terms of technical performance, environmental impact or cost.

There are a number of issues regarding the use of fiber crops to make pulp. One of these is seasonal availability. While trees can be harvested continuously, many field crops are harvested once during the year and must be stored such that the crop doesn't rot over a period of many months. Considering that many pulp mills require several thousand tonnes of fiber source per day, storage of the fiber source can be a major issue. Botanically, the fibers harvested from many of these plants are bast fibers; the fibers come from the phloem tissue of the plant. The other fiber crop fibers are seed padding, leaf fiber, or other parts of the plant.

  • - the living tissue that carries organic nutrients (known as photosynthate), in particular, sucrose, a sugar, to all parts of the plant where needed. In trees, the phloem is the innermost layer of the bark, hence the name, derived from the Greek word φλοιός (phloios) meaning "bark". The phloem is concerned mainly with the transport of soluble organic material made during photosynthesis. This process of transportation is called translocation

  • - plant fibre collected from the phloem (the "inner bark", sometimes called "skin") or bast surrounding the stem of certain dicotyledonous plants. They support the conductive cells of the phloem and provide strength to the stem. Some of the economically important bast fibres are obtained from herbs cultivated in agriculture, as for instance flax, hemp, or ramie, but also bast fibres from wild plants, as stinging nettle, and trees such as lime or linden, wisteria, and mulberry have been used in the past. Bast fibres are classified as soft fibres, and are flexible. Fibres from monocotyledonous plants, called "leaf fibre", are classified as hard fibres and are stiff.

Since the valuable fibres are located in the phloem, they must often be separated from the xylem material ("woody core"), and sometimes also from the epidermis. The process for this is called retting, and can be performed by micro-organisms either on land (nowadays the most important) or in water, or by chemicals (for instance high pH and chelating agents) or by pectinolytic enzymes. In the phloem, bast fibres occur in bundles that are glued together by pectin and calcium ions. More intense retting separates the fibre bundles into elementary fibres, that can be several centimetres long. Often bast fibres have higher tensile strength than other kinds, and are used in high-quality textiles (sometimes in blends with cotton or synthetic fibres), ropes, yarn, paper, composite materials and burlap. An important property of bast fibres is that they contain a special structure, the fibre node, that represents a weak point, and gives flexibility. Seed hairs, such as cotton, do not have nodes.


There are four commercially grown species of cotton, all domesticated in antiquity:

  • Gossypium hirsutum – upland cotton, native to Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean and southern Florida (90% of world production)
  • Gossypium barbadense – known as extra-long staple cotton, native to tropical South America (8% of world production)
  • Gossypium arboreum – tree cotton, native to India and Pakistan (less than 2%)
  • Gossypium herbaceum – Levant cotton, native to southern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula (less than 2%)


  • - a long, soft, shiny vegetable fiber that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. It is produced primarily from plants in the genus Corchorus, which was once classified with the family Tiliaceae, more recently with Malvaceae, and has now been reclassified as belonging to the family Sparrmanniaceae. The primary source of the fiber is Corchorus olitorius, but it is considered inferior to Corchorus capsularis. "Jute" is the name of the plant or fiber that is used to make burlap, hessian or gunny cloth. The word 'jute' is probably coined from the word jhuta or jota, an Oriya word.

Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibers and is second only to cotton in amount produced and variety of uses of vegetable fibers. Jute fibers are composed primarily of the plant materials cellulose and lignin. It falls into the bast fiber category (fiber collected from bast, the phloem of the plant, sometimes called the "skin") along with kenaf, industrial hemp, flax (linen), ramie, etc. The industrial term for jute fiber is raw jute. The fibers are off-white to brown, and 1–4 metres (3–13 feet) long. Jute is also called the golden fiber for its color and high cash value.




Man-made (artificial)


  • - fibers made with ether or esters of cellulose, which can be obtained from the bark, wood or leaves of plants, or from a plant-based material. Besides cellulose, these fibers are compound of hemicellulose and lignin, and different percentages of these components are responsible for different mechanical properties observed.

  • - or artificial silk any synthetic fiber which resembles silk, but typically costs less to produce. Frequently, "artificial silk" is just a synonym for rayon. When made out of bamboo viscose it is also sometimes called bamboo silk. A woman wearing a Utility rayon shirt dress with front-buttoning, 1943. The first successful artificial silks were developed in the 1890s of cellulose fiber and marketed as art silk or viscose, a trade name for a specific manufacturer. In 1924, the name of the fiber was officially changed in the U.S. to rayon, although the term viscose continued to be used in Europe. The material is commonly referred to in the industry as viscose rayon.

In 1931, Henry Ford hired chemists Robert Boyer and Frank Calvert to produce artificial silk made with soybean fibers. They succeeded in making a textile fiber of spun soy protein fibers, hardened or tanned in a formaldehyde bath, which was given the name Azlon. It was usable in the making of suits, felt hats, and overcoats. Though pilot production of Azlon reached 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) per day in 1940, it never reached the commercial market; DuPont's nylon was the winner in the quest to produce artificial silk. Although not sold under the name art silk initially, nylon, the first synthetic fiber, was developed in the United States in the late 1930s and used as a replacement for Japanese silk during World War II. Its properties are far superior to rayon and silk when wet, and so it was used for many military applications, such as parachutes. Although nylon is not a good substitute for silk fabric in appearance, it is a successful functional alternative. DuPont's original plans for nylon to become a cheaper and superior replacement for silk stockings were soon realized, then redirected for military use just two years later during World War II. Nylon became a prominent industrial fiber in a short time frame, permanently replacing silk in many applications.

In the present day, imitation silk may be made with rayon, mercerized cotton, polyester, a blend of these materials, or a blend of rayon and silk. Despite a generally similar appearance, genuine silk has unique features that are distinguishable from artificial silk. However, in some cases art silk can be passed off as real silk to unwary buyers. A number of tests are available to determine a fabric's basic fiber makeup, some of which can be performed prior to purchasing a fabric whose composition is questionable. Tests include rubbing the pile in your hand, burning a small piece of the fringe to smell the ash and smell the smoke and dissolving the pile by performing a chemical test.

  • - solution of cellulose xanthate made by treating a cellulose compound with sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide. viscose solution is used to spin the fiber viscose rayon, or rayon, a soft man-made fiber commonly used in dresses, linings, shirts, shorts, coats, jackets, and other outer wear. Viscose rayon is a fiber made from regenerated wood cellulose. Viscose rayon is structurally similar to cotton, which is almost pure cellulose.
  • - soft, absorbent, very strong when wet or dry, and resistant to wrinkles; lyocell fabric can be machine- or hand-washed or drycleaned, it drapes well, and it can be dyed many colors, and can simulate a variety of textures such as suede, leather, and silk
  • - used to make such products as industrial sewing thread, packing materials, fishing nets, and filter cloths. It is also made into fabrics for household furnishings (upholstery, canvas) and clothing, frequently in blends with other textile fibers


  • - made from purified cellulose, primarily from wood pulp, which is chemically converted into a soluble compound. It is then dissolved and forced through a spinneret to produce filaments which are chemically solidified, resulting in synthetic fibers of nearly pure cellulose. Because rayon is manufactured from naturally occurring polymers, it is considered a semi-synthetic fiber. Specific types of rayon include viscose, modal and lyocell, each of which differs in manufacturing process and properties of the finished product.







  • - or cloth. flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Textiles are formed by weaving, knitting, crocheting, knotting, or pressing fibres together (felt).

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Natural building

  • Natural Building Network is a not-for-profit membership association promoting natural building principles, materials and practitioners worldwide. We support ecological regeneration,

social justice, the building of community and economic opportunity, and the recognition of indigenous wisdom as essential in creating healthy, beautiful, and spiritually-uplifting habitation for everyone.

  • Cal-Earth - the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture, is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to providing solutions to the human need for shelter through research, development, and education in earth architecture. We envision a world in which every person is empowered to build a safe and sustainable home with their own hands, using the earth under their feet.
  • School of Natural Building (SNaB) - provides training in the use of these materials, both in design and in practice, and to provide a pool of natural builders who are recognised as having professional levels of skill, knowledge and experience.
  • - a natural building material made from subsoil, water, some kind of fibrous organic material (typically straw), and sometimes lime. The contents of subsoil naturally varies and if it does not contain the right mixture is can be modified with sand or clay. Cob is fireproof, resistant to seismic activity, and inexpensive. It can be used to create artistic, sculptural forms.
  • - Compressed earth block (CEB) or pressed earth block is a building material made primarily from damp soil compressed at high pressure to form blocks. If the blocks are stabilized with a chemical binder such as Portland cement they are called compressed stabilized earth block (CSEB) or stabilized earth block (SEB).
  • - the Spanish word for mud brick, and known as clay-lump and clay bat in Britain, is both a natural building material made from sand, clay, water and some kind of fibrous or organic material (sticks, straw or manure) and the bricks made with adobe material using molds and dried in the sun. Adobe buildings are similar to cob and rammed earth buildings, but cob and rammed earth are directly made into walls rather than bricks. These bricks were used to make pueblos in New Mexico. The Anasazi, Hopi and Zuni peoples used this.
  • Superadobe (sandbag and barbed wire) technology is a large, long adobe. It is a simple adobe, an instant and flexible line generator. It uses the materials of war for peaceful ends, integrating traditional earth architecture with contemporary global safety requirements. Long or short sandbags are filled with on-site earth and arranged in layers or long coils (compression) with strands of barbed wire placed between them to act as both mortar and reinforcement (tension). Stabilizers such as cement, lime, or asphalt emulsion may be added.
  • - or living roof is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. It may also include additional layers such as a root barrier and drainage and irrigation systems. Container gardens on roofs, where plants are maintained in pots, are not generally considered to be true green roofs, although this is debated. Rooftop ponds are another form of green roofs which are used to treat greywater.

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