Textile Dictionary 
 
Plant Fibres
 

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Abaca
Fibre:
Weave:
Characteristics: This vegetable leaf fibre is derived from the Musa textilis plant. It is mainly grown in the Philippines but is also found, in smaller amounts, in Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia and Costa Rica. The fibre is obtained from the outer layer of the leaf. Processing occurs when it is separated mechanically decorticated into lengths varying from 3 to 9 feet. Abaca is very strong and has great luster. It is very resistant to damage from salt water.
Uses: Cordage.
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Art Linen
Fibre: Linen.
Weave: Plain.
Characteristics: It is woven with even threads that are especially good for embroidery. It is very easy to "draw" the yarns for drawn thread work. Comes bleached, or coloured. Has a soft finish.
Uses: All kinds of needlework, lunch cloths, serviettes, etc.
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Coir
Fibre:
Weave:
Characteristics: This seed fibre is obtained from the husk of the coconut.
Uses:Brush-making, door mats, fish nets, cordage.
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Canvas
Fibre: Linen, cotton.
Weave: Plain.
Characteristics: Mostly rugged, heavy material made from plied yarns. Has body and strength. It is usually manufactured in the gray state but some is dyed for different uses. Almost the same as duck in heavier weights. Has an even weave. Ada or Java canvas used for yarn, needlework, almost like mesh.
Uses: Tents, sails, mail bags, sacks, covers, etc. Finer types used for embroidery and paintings. Hair canvas is an interfacing material in various weights.
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Crash
Fibre: Linen.
Weave: Plain.
Characteristics: It is very rugged and substantial in feel. Come in white or natural shades or could be dyed, printed, striped, or checked. The yarn is strong, irregular in diameter but smooth. Has a fairly good texture.
Uses: Towelling, suitings, dresses, coats.
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Damask
Fibre: Linen, silk, rayon, cotton, synthetics, wool, worsteds.
Weave: Figured on Jacquard loom.
Characteristics: Originally made of silk, that came to us from China via Damascus. In the XIII Century, Marco Polo gave an interesting tale about it. It is one of the oldest and most popular cloths to be found today. Very elaborate designs are possible. Cloth is beetled, calendared and the better qualities are gross-bleached. Very durable. reversible fabric. Sheds dirt. The firmer the texture, the better the quality. Launders well and holds a high lustre - particularly in linen.
- Price range varies a great deal. There are two types of damask table cloths:
1) Single damask table cloths: construction. Thread count is usually around 200.
2) Double damask has an 8 shaft satin construction with usually twice as many filling yarns as warp yarns. This gives a much greater distinctness to the pattern. Thread count ranges from 165 to 400.
- The quality of both depends on the yarn used and the thread count. - If the same quality and thread count are used, single is better than double because the shorter floats are more serviceable and the yarns hold more firmly. Double damask with less than 180 thread count is no good for home use.
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Flax
Fibre:
Weave:
Characteristics: This fibre is taken from the stalk of the Linum usitaatissimum plant. It is a long, smooth fibre and is cylindrical in shape. It's length varies from 6 to 40 inches but on average is between 15 and 25 inches. It's colour is usually off-white or tan and due to it's natural wax content, flax has excellent luster. It is considered to be the strongest of the vegetable fibres and is highly absorbent, allowing moisture to evaporate with speed. It conducts heat well and can be readily boiled. It's washability is great, however, it has poor elasticity and does not easily return to it's original shape after creasing.
Uses: Apparel fabric. When processed into fabric it is called linen. It is also used for tablecloths, napkins, doilies, twine, aprons, fishing tackle, and nets.
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Hemp
Hemp is a bast fibre that was probably used first in Asia. The fibre is dark tan or brown and is difficult to bleach, but it can be dyed bright and dark colours. The hemp fibres vary widely in length, depending upon their ultimate use. Industrial fibres may be several inches long, while fibres used for domestic textiles are about 3/4 inch to 1 inch (1.9 to 2.54 cm) long. The elongation (1 to 6 percent) is low and its elasticity poor. The thermal reactions of hemp and the effect of sunlight are the same as for cotton. Hemp is moth resistant, but it is not impervious to mildew. Coarse hemp fibres and yarns are woven into cordage, rope, sacking and heavy-duty tarpaulins. In Italy, fine hemp fibres are used for interior design and apparel fabrics.
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Henequen
Fibre:
Weave:
Characteristics: It is obtained from the leaves of the Agave fourcroydes plant, which is native to Mexico. It is produced by mechanically decorticating the leaves into strands from 4 to 5 feet.
Uses:
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Huckaback
Fibre: Linen, cotton.
Weave: Dobby or basket.
Characteristics: It is strong. Rough in the surface finish but finer, shinier than cotton huckaback. Has variation in weaves but most have small squares on the surface that stand out from the background. Comes in white, colours, or coloured borders. Also stripes. The motif is made from a series of floats, some of them rather long, which gives a loose effect in certain areas. This, if well spaced, acts as a good absorbing agency.
Uses: Mostly used for towelling.
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Ixtle
Fibre Linen, cotton.
Weave: Dobby or basket.
Characteristics: It is strong. Rough in the surface finish but finer, shinier than cotton huckaback. Has variation in weaves but most have small squares on the surface that stand out from the background. Comes in white, colours, or coloured borders. Also stripes. The motif is made from a series of floats, some of them rather long, which gives a loose effect in certain areas. This, if well spaced, acts as a good absorbing agency.
Uses:
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Jute and Burlap
Jute is used in textiles for interiors, especially for wall hangings and a group of bright, homespun-effect draperies and wall coverings. Natural jute has a yellow to brown or gray colour, with a silky luster. It consists of bundles of fibre held together by gummy substances that are pectinaceous in character. It is difficult to bleach completely, so many fabrics are bright, dark, or natural brown in colour. Jute reacts to chemicals in the same way as do cotton and flax. It has a good resistance to microorganisms and insects. Moisture increases the speed of deterioration but dry jute will last for a very long time. Jute works well for bagging, because it does not extend and is somewhat rough and coarse. This tends to keep stacks of bags in position and resist slippage. It is widely used in the manufacture of linoleum and carpets for backing or base fabric.
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Simulated Linen Fabrics
Various rayons, cottons, synthetics, and blends are woven with threads of uneven thickness to simulate linen. They lack the cool, firm, yet soft feel of linen. Their irregularities are too even when seen beside real linen.
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Kapok
A seed fibre or floss obtained from the cotton tree. It is used chiefly for stuffing.
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Kenaf
It is a bast fibre that is obtained from the Hibiscus cannabinus plant. The stalk of this plant varies in height from 8 to 12 feet and is about half an inch in diameter. Kenaf is mostly produced in India and Pakistan but also grows in Africa, South East Asia, Indonesia, Russia, Mexico, the Philippines, Cuba and the United States. It is mainly used for cordage, canvas, and sacking. It is sometimes used as a substitute for Jute.
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Ramie
Ramie is a natural woody fibre resembling flax. Also know as rhea and China grass, it is obtained from a tall shrub grown in South-east Asia. China, Japan, and southern Europe. The fibre is stiff, more brittle than linen, and highly lustrous. It can be bleached to extreme whiteness. Ramie fibres are long and very fine. They are white and lustrous and almost silk-like in appearance. The strength of ramie is excellent and varies from 5.3 to 7.4 grams per denier. Elastic recovery is low and elongation is poor. Ramie lends itself to general processing for textile yarns, but its retting operation is difficult and costly, making the fibre unprofitable for general use. When combed, ramie is half the density of linen, but much stronger, coarser, and more absorbent. It has permanent luster and good affinity for dyes; it is affected little by moisture. Ramie is used as filling yarn in mixed woolen fabrics, as adulteration with silk fibres, and as a substitute for flax. The China-grass cloth use by the Chinese is made of Ramie. This fibre is also useful for rope, twine, and nets.
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Redwood Bark
This fibre is obtained from the bark of the California redwood tree. It is used for insulation and sometimes for blending with other fibres such as wool and cotton.
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Sisal
Sisal is one of a group of fibres obtained from the leaves of plants. It is obtained from a plant that belongs to the Agave family and is raised in Mexico, especially in the Yucatan peninsula. The fibre is also cultivated in Africa, Jva, and some areas of South America. Sisal can be dyed bright colours, by means of both cotton dyes and acid dyes normally used for wool. It is important in the manufacture of such items as matting, rough handbags, ropes and cordage and carpeting.
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Sunn
This bast fibre is obtained from the Crotalaria juncea plant. The fibres grow from 4 to 5 feet long and are retted and prepared like other bast fibers. Sunn contains over 80% cellulose and is highly resistant to moisture and meldew. This fibre is mainly produced in India although small amounts are grown in Uganda. It is mainly used for cordage, rug yarns, and paper. In India it is also used for fish nets and is sometimes used as asubstiture for jute in bagging cloths.
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Urena
This bast fibre comes from the Urena lobata plant. In it's wild state it grows 3 to 7 feet high and when cultivated can grow as tall as 13 feet. The fibre strands are cream coloured and have a wonderful luster. This fibre is mainly grown in the Congo area although small amounts are also raised in Brazil, India and the Phillipines. Urena has the same uses as jute.
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