Centuries ago, men living around the valley of the River Nile discovered how certain plants and animal skins can be adapted to form clothing, albeit crudely woven, for personal needs.
And today, because of the inherent durability, and aesthetic qualities of those textiles of ancient times, they still remain the basics for the textile industry today.
Classic fabrics and textiles are made from natural fibres which include:
Cotton fabrics are made from a vegetable fibre and are one of the most important fibres cultivated from the bolls of the cotton plant which grows prolifically in warm regions.
Cotton responds positively to dyes, and it possesses an unlimited styling potential. Cotton fabrics have a ‘soft hand’ and will not fuzz or pill. It blends well with other fibres in a textile, and is the most versatile of all fibres.
Wool is a very important animal fibre that comes from the fleece of sheep. But fibres from camels, goat, alpaca and the llama are also treated as textile wool. However, wool fibres from sheep are soft, resilient, springy, kinky and very durable. Naturally, wool vary in colour, from the neutral pale hues to the darker browns, but when wool is bleached, it can be readily dyed and the dyed wool fabrics will retain its dye for a very long period of time. Wool fibres can be blended with other fibres.
With a marvellous and natural sheen and lustre, silk fibres are undeniably the most beautiful of natural fibres. Silk as a classic luxury fabric was coveted in ancient days, and was considered the ‘gold standard’ in the trade by barter business.
The process of converting silk into a luxury fabric follows a gradual process of growing of the tree, the rearing of the silkworms and the worms making of the cocoon, un-reeling of the cocoon filaments (silk fibre),and the manufacture of the yarn. In terms of fabric strength, silk is only surpassed by nylon, a man made fabric.
Flax is another vegetable fibre that was traditionally made to produce linen, a fabric used extensively in the prehistoric times, and mummies found in Egyptian tombs were carefully wrapped in linen cloth made from flax. The plant is found in most regions in Europe, the northern areas of the United States, and in Argentina. Flax fibres can be used alone or combined with other fibres, either during the yarn spinning process, or the weaving process.
Jute fabric is made from a fibre that resembles flax. It is also a vegetable fibre textile and is extensively used for twine, burlap bags, webbing for furniture upholstery, bindings and backings of carpets and rugs, because of its dimensionally stable fibre. In modern times, jute has been successfully woven with aesthetic success into upholstery fabrics.
Hemp fibres are found in a plant that grows extensively in temperate zones. Its coarse fibre makes it a great material for use in fabrics, gunny sacks, and ropes. It is not to be confused with the Indian hemp plant.
The trade name of metal fibres is Lurex. They come in form of gold, silver or copper threads woven intricately into luxury fabrics and are used mainly for sparkle, giving a light glitter to fabrics constructed using other man-made or natural yarns. The fibres are composed of either metal, metal covered plastic, plastic coated metal, or a core covered with metal. Today, more often than not, the metal fibres are made with aluminium foil.