Fibre Characteristics​

Common Natural Fibres



​Disadvantages ​Used In
  • A cellulose fibre derived from the fleecy bolls of the cotton plant
  • Absorbant fibre which makes it comfortable to wear, cool and good static resistance
  • Withstands washing, drying, ironing and steaming
  • Damaged by insects, mildew, rot and moths
  • Wrinkles
  • Shrinks when wet
  • Bedding, clothing, quilts, often blended with other fibres such as rayon, polyester, spandex etc.


​Disadvantages ​Used In
  • ​Made from the flax plant
  • Is a vegetable fibre
  • Very absorbant (contributes to comfort and static resistance) making it a perfect choice for dish towels as it does not easily produce lint
  • Lustrous
  • Good conductor of heat and allows body to feel cool
  • Becomes softer when washed
  • Often blended with cotton
  • Resistant to moths and carpet beetles


  • ​Expensive to produce and manufacture
  • Poor elasticity causes wrinkling
  • Damaged by mildew, perspiration and bleach
  • Fibre is brittle in fabric which can cause breakage when constantly creased


  • ​Apparel, table linens, table cloths, napkins, kitchen towels



​Used In
  • ​Made from filament strands spun by silk worms
  • Silk is a protein fibre
  • Valued for its lustre and ability to drape well
  • Good colour fastness when dyed
  • Silk can be treated to be machine washable
  • Raw or Tussah silk is rougher then cultured silk
  • Produced primarily in China, India and Japan


  • ​Expensive due to labour-intensive production
  • Weakened by sunlight (consider when selecting for drapery - will require a sun-resistant lining
  • Elasticity is poor
  • May require dry-cleaning
  • Affected by enzyme detergents and pre-treaters
  • ​​Formal and high fashion clothes and decor items including upholstery and carpeting


​Disadvantages ​Used In
  • ​Obtained from different breeds of sheep's hair
  • Fibre appearance will vary depending on the breed of sheep
  • Wool is a protein fibre
  • Warm, resilient fibre with great wrinkle recovery, durable and naturally flame resistant
  • Fibre absorbs moisture well and resists static electricity
  • ​Felting occurs when washing - shrinking and matting of fibre
  • May require dry-cleaning
  • Coarse wool can cause itching and sensitivities
  • Prone to insect problems (moth and carpet beetle)
  • Affected by enzyme detergents and pre-treaters
  • ​Suiting, jackets, men's wear, carpets

   Manufactured and Synthetic Fibres 

​Characteristics​ ​Disadvantages ​Used In

  • ​The oldest manufactured textile fibre
  • Manufactured from cellulose
  • Lustrous, soft and smooth to the touch, silk-like in appearance
  • Very absorbant so it is comfortable to wear
  • Good static resistance and a cool hand
  • Good heat resistance
  • After WWI, rayon replaced silk as the fibre used in women's stockings


  • ​Wrinkles
  • Shrinkes when wet
  • Weakened when wet
  • Not a good candidate for frequent washing
  • ​Apparel, bedspreads, blankets, linings, trims and drapery fabric
​​Characteristics​ ​​Disadvantages ​​Used In

  • ​A form of rayon developed on the 1990's
  • Very absorbant making it comfortable to wear
  • Good static resistance, good heat resistance, cool hand
  • Great ability to drape
  • Often blended with other fibres like cotton, polyester and wool
  • Has dry strength and better wet strength than the original rayon (can be repeatedly washed without weakening)
  • Will take a wet finishing process to increase it's resistance to wrinkling


  • ​Expensive to manufacture
  • May scorch with direct high heat of iron
  • ​Apparel, sportswear and bedding
​​Characteristics​ ​​Disadvantages ​​Used In

  • ​Modified cellulosic fibre with different characteristics to rayon
  • Low cost to manufacture
  • Thermoplastic; can be heat set
  • Excellent draping ability
  • Smooth, lustrous finish and resilient
  • Wicks moisture and dries quickly
  • Static resistant


  • ​Is damaged by acetone
  • Weak fibre and loses strength when wet; must be dry-cleaned
  • Poor abrasion resistance
  • Heat sensitive
  • Wrinkles
  • ​Apparel, linings, men's ties and in fabrics like satin, brocade and taffetta
​​Characteristics​ ​​​​Disadvantages ​​Used In

  • ​Resists shrinking and wrinkling
  • Maintains shape well, thus fibre can be pleated or creased and heat set to maintain shape
  • ​N/A
  • ​Clothing, often skirts and dresses due to its great pleat setting ability
​​Characteristics​ ​​Disadvantages ​​Used In

  • ​The first synthetic textile filament fibre developed by imitating the silk worm
  • Developed in the 1930's by a team of scientists working for DuPont
  • Used in many fabrications other than fabric
  • In its standard form it is the strongest fibre and is very durable
  • Used in place of silk in hosiery
  • Can be lustrous, semi-lustrous or matte
  • Good resiliency and elasticity - will stretch
  • Excellent abrasion resistance
  • Thermoplastic - strong heat capability which allows for heat-set fibre treatments
  • Quick drying due to low moisture absorbency
  • Resists insects and mildew


  • ​Piling since it is a strong fibre, must be shaved or cut off
  • Not an absorbent fibre, so not as comfortable to wear
  • Low absorbency property contributes to static build-up
  • ​Apparel, hosiery, sportswear, carpet
​​Characteristics​ ​​​​Disadvantages ​​Used In

  • ​One of the most commonly used synthetic fibres
  • Developed in England in 1941
  • Manufacturing process is more economical than that of nylon
  • A very strong fibre, abrasion resistant
  • Thermoplastic; will take heat-set finish, offering it greater versatility
  • Good resiliency and sun-light resistance
  • Wicks moisture better than nylon (however it is still low wicking compared to the natural fibres)
  • Dries fast and more pliable in cold conditions
  • Wrinkle-resistant, which makes it ideal in blends with other wrinkle prone fibres


  • ​Hold on to oily stains
  • Does not wick well in its natural form; not absorbant
  • Builds static due to low absorbancy characteristics
  • Strong fibre contributes to piling
  • ​Fiberfill in stuffing and batting
  • Clothing apparel, home decor and upholstery
​​Characteristics​ ​​​​Disadvantages ​​Used In

  • ​Developed through DuPont research and introduced in 1950
  • The most wool-like fibre of the synthetics
  • Warm, dry and soft hand
  • Good resilience and light-weight
  • Maintains it's shape well
  • Washable - does not 'felt' like natural wool
  • A form of acrylic, modacrylic, has excellent flame resistance properties and is thereore often used in home furnishing, draperies and carpeting


  • ​Low absorbancy contributes to static build-up
  • Can be sensitive to heat - a disadvantage with the dryer
  • ​Velvet, furnishings, carpeting and blankets
​​Characteristics​ ​​​​​Disadvantages ​​Used In

  • ​In fabric, it is commonly known as polypropylene
  • Very light-weight fibre, yet strong when both wet and dry
  • Economical to manufacture
  • Has good static resistance even though it has ow absorbancy, in fact it has the lowest static of all synthetic fibres
  • Good wicking ability, makes for comfortable wearing
  • Colour-fast when colour is added at fibre-forming stage
  • Resists abrasion, although piling can be a problem
  • Quick drying
  • Heat sets well and is resilient
  • Stain, oil and sunlight resistant
  • Insulating properties


  • Piling
  • Heat sensitive, dry, iron and steam at a low setting
  • Poor resilience, crushes and won't return to previous form; compresses in carpet
  • Oil-based stains are very difficult to treat
  • Shiny reflective surface sometimes evident


  • Home furnishings and carpet, sports wear
​​Characteristics​ ​​​​Disadvantages ​Used In

  • ​Formed from a long chain polymer filament fibre
  • Lycra is a common trade name for this fibre
  • Highly elastic and comfortable to wear
  • Excellent shape retention
  • Durable
  • ​Will degrade with heat; should not be put into dryer
  • ​Sportswear, lingerie and in apparel where comfort in desirable
  • Swimwear

  • Extremely fine filament fibre now available in most manufactured generic fibres, offering many options for the end use
  • Offers a luxurious hand and finish while maintaining strength and breathability
  • These fibres are very light weight and comfortable to wear
Last updated on January 18, 2019