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Man-Made Fibres
Sangita Srivastava, M.Sc., D.Phil.
Associate Professor and Head
Department of Home Science
University of Allahabad
Allahabad, India

Pushpa Publishing House

Vijaya Niwas, 198, Mumfordganj, Allahabad 211002, India

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

First Edition 2012

Pushpa Publishing House

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any

way or by any means without prior permission of the Publisher.

ISBN-13: 978-81-904737-2-9

Price: INR 390.00

Published and printed by Pushpa Publishing House, Vijaya Niwas,

198, Mumfordganj, Allahabad 211002, India.

Dedicated to My Parents
Professor R. N. Srivastava and Dr. Pratibha Srivastava

This book is being brought out for students who are
pursuing courses in apparel and textile designing. Before taking
a step towards apparel designing, it is of great importance to
know about different textile fibres. The book covers in its varied
chapters all details about fibres - natural and man-made. This
book covers the story of all natural fibres beginning from where
they are obtained, and how many processes the fibres undergo
before the yarn making and fabric making process. It is
interesting to study how each fibre has properties different from
the other. A lot of fibre properties make an appearance in the
fabric due to the environment in which the fibre was grown and
also because of its molecular structure. Some changes on the
surface of the fibre can be brought about by the use of finishes
which enhance their appearance and make the fabrics perform
I have tried my best to cover almost all man-made fibres and
natural fibres to give a comprehensive detail about the
properties each one of them possess, and how and where they
are used.
The author owes immense gratitude to Pushpa Publishing
House, for publishing this book, and all those who have been
involved in the shaping-up of this book. I am thankful to my
research scholar Ms. A. Fatima for her constant help from time
to time.


I am greatly indebted to my husband Justice Vikram Nath

for his constant encouragement and valuable advice. I should
say he has been the wind beneath my wings.
I am also thankful to my office staff Ms. Neeta for her
understanding approach in the Department of Home Science,
University of Allahabad at various testing times.
I am sure that the students will find it as a useful and
valuable book in the field of clothing and textile.

Sangita Srivastava


Chapter 1: Textile Fibres

Chapter 2: Cellulosic Fibre - Cotton


Chapter 3: Linen (Flax) - Cellulosic Fibre


Chapter 4: Minor Cellulosic Fibres


Chapter 5: Wool - The Protein Fibre


Chapter 6: Silk - The Queen of Textile Fibres


Chapter 7: The Non-Thermoplastic Man-Made Fibres - Rayon


Chapter 8: Man-Made Fibres


Chapter 9: Polyesters


Chapter 10: Yarn


Chapter 11: Finishing


Chapter 12: Laundry


Chapter 1: Textile Fibres

ibres are the basic fundamental units which are the

components of yarn. The yarn is then woven, knitted or

bonded to make a fabric. All fibres have merits and demerits or we

may say they are a mixture of good and bad qualities. There is no
perfect fibre. One type of fibre cannot posses all good qualities. For
example, if it is absorbent it will have no crease retention. Nylon is
a strong fabric but it does not absorb moisture, hence it cannot be
used in the summer months.
Until the turn of twentieth century, all fibres were obtained
from natural resources. The most common fibres into usage were
cotton, silk, linen and wool. However, wool and linen were more in
use because of easier manufacturing. Cotton was difficult to spin
by hand because of its short length. Silk was always expensive.
When spinning and weaving became power operations, cotton
became the most widely used fabric. A position it holds even today.
In the last hundred years, as new textile fibres are hitting the
market every other day, the consumer is the king having umpteen
choices to choose from.
What should be the qualities of a good fibre?
A fibre to be spinnable must have sufficient length, pliability,
strength, and cohesiveness to form a yarn. Milkweed and kapok
are examples of fibres that are too brittle to spin into yarns.
Extremely long fibre or filaments need not be cohesive since the
fibres are not spun into yarns in the conventional way. Fibres
must also be abundantly available and constant in supply for use.
All fibres are long and have diameter in microns. Natural fibres

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

lack uniformity because of weather conditions, nutrition and soil
fertility. That is why they vary in quality also.
In todays world, researches are being done to produce textiles
which can perform more technical functions. Nanotechnology has
made headway in preparing a special jacket for soldiers. The
textile will immediately sense blood on itself and convey message
to the mobile phone which starts making emergency calls. Also,
cotton fibres with stain resistance, which may require no laundry,
have been prepared using nanotechnology.
Man-made fibres are more uniform in size and quality because
it is possible to control the entire production process. The
production process can be varied or improvised as per requirement.
Fibre weaknesses can be minimized during yarn production.
Finishes are used to enhance texture, appearance and feel of the
fabric. Nanotechnology has created a range of new textiles for
medical and surgical purposes. Cotton is being made such that it
catches no dirt and stain and also the softness and pliability of
cotton is not altered because of this surface finish.
Fibre structure
Fibres differ from one another In physical structure includes
length, diameter, surface contour, crimp, cross-section shape and
molecular arrangement.
Fibre length
Fibres are obtained from the manufacturers in the following
Monofilament and multifilament

Textile Fibres
Man-made staple
Filament tow
Silk is the only natural filament fibre. All man-made fibres are
extruded from the spinneret as filament, but some are reduced to
staple and used in the form only. While others are used as both
filament and staple. Yarns made from filament are of two types.
Multifilament and monofilament.
Multifilament yarns are made up of a number of tiny filaments
twisted together. The size and number of the filament may vary.
Yarns of this type are smooth and give a smooth surface texture,
softness, lustre, luxurious drape. They are used in lingerie,
blouses, and other dresses.
Monofilaments yarns are composed of a single solid strand of
great strength and smoothness. Very sheer hosiery is made from
these monofilament yarns. Large monofilaments are used for car
seat covers and screenings, also other such things.
Staple fibre
All staple fibres either natural or man-made are short in
length, and are measured in inches. They range from three quarter
of an inch to fifteen inches.
The word staple derives meaning from the fourteenth century
as a descriptive term for merchandize. Later it came to mean basic
commodities in a particular business. Still later it was used to
express the length of wool and cotton fibres. During World War I
Germany began the practice of cutting artificial silk into short
lengths for use in cotton and wool type fabrics as there was
shortage of these fibres. The word staple as applied to these cut
fibres and is now the standard name for any fibre of a length

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

expressed in inches. All natural fibres with an exception of silk are
Filament tow
Filament tow is a collection of many parallel filaments without
twist which are grouped together in rope form. Light tow of 500 to
500,000 denier is made into staple fibre by the tow-to-top direct
spinning system. The tow is fed into a machine through leveling
rolls, passes between two rolls which travel at a faster rate of
speed and create tension that causes the fibres to break at their
weakest point. The strand is then drawn out to yarn size, twisted
and wound on bobbin. Direct spun yarns have high degree of
strength and uniformity than conventionally spun yarns. Dense
compact rainwear fabrics can be made by using the direct spun
yarns in the filling direction. When these shrink they bring the
warp yarn closer.








equipment, often in different factories, because of the different

number of holes needed in the spinnerets.
Fibre diameter
The finer the diameter of a fibre the finer the fibre. The thicker
the fibre the more body it has the stiffer it is. Fineness is a major
factor in determining the quality. It is measured in microns.
Diameter Range for Natural Fibres


16 to 20 microns


12 to 16 microns


10 to 70 microns


11 to 12 microns

Textile Fibres
The diameter of man-made fibres is determined according to
end use. It is controlled by the size of the spinneret and by
stretching during or after spinning. The fineness of the man-made
fibre is measured in denier. For any fibre the higher the denier the
more coarse the fibre.
Surface contour refers to the surface of the fibre along its shaft.
Natural fibres grow in certain shapes and are not uniform







limitations can be made in any desired shape. They are exactly the
same diameter throughout, they can be altered into thick or thin
as per the requirement. Fibre shape is determined by end use. For
blending natural fibre with, man-made the man-made fibre is
prepared to be of the same thickness as that with which it has to
Wool is the only fibre which has a broken surface caused by
overlapping sections like fish scales or shingles, no man-made fibre
has so far been produced with the effect of broken surface.
Cross-sectional shape
The cross-sectional shape is important because it contributes to
the surface appearance of the fibre. It contributes towards
imparting properties like lustre, bulk, and body to the fibre. It also
affects the hand or the feel of the fabric.
Circular shape is achieved by extruding the spinning solution
through circular holes, by melt spinning process. Or by stretching
when it is wet. These fibres make compact rather than spongy
yarns. Circular cross-sections with serrated edges result from
shrinking of the fibre in a coagulating bath during wet spinning.
Many serrations give high lustre.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Figure 1.1. Cross-section of fibres.

Polygonal shape is found only in flax. It gives lustre to the
fibre. Oval Shape also gives good cover and a pleasing hand that is
neither silky nor harsh.
Triangular shape occurs in silk and has been achieved in
some of the new man-made fibres by using a highly viscous
solution, melt spinning through triangular holes, but it cannot be
stretched after spinning.







evaporation of the solvent during dry spinning. It gives a good

Dog bone or dumbbell makes wool like yarns and fabric.
Flat ribbon like shape is used for crisp lustrous fabric and
imitation straw. Wild silk is somewhat of this shape.
Y shaped cross-section give excellent cover and bulk. It is
used for stuffing where warmth is required.

Textile Fibres
Hollow centre fibres give buoyancy. They are seldom used on
clothing but are excellent for life jackets.
Other fibre shapes are possible and if a new shape adds a new
property to a fibre, it may well be prepared. The scope for further
shapes is ever there.
Crimp is that property of fibre which imparts waviness along
the length of the fibre. Fibre crimp increases cohesiveness,
resiliency, and resistance to abrasion and gives increased bulk to
the fibre. A fibre may have mechanical crimp, natural or inherent
crimp and latent or chemical crimp.
Mechanical crimp
Mechanical crimp is imparted by passing the fibres through
fluted rollers to produce a two-dimensional wave. The bends in this
crimp are angular as compared to rounded in the natural crimp
fibres. To make the crimp permanent heated rollers are used.
Natural crimp occurs in wool and cotton. Cotton has twodimensional twist called convolutions.
Latent or chemical crimp
Latent or chemical crimp exists in the fibre in an under
developed state. Until the garment is immersed in water and it
coils and curls. Some of the man-made fibres like rayon, acetates
and orlon posses this latent crimp.


Figure 1.2

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Molecular arrangement
It is about how the molecules in a fibre are joined together and
the length of the molecule help to determine the property of a
particular fibre. Fibres are made of long straight chain molecules
called linear polymers. The arrangement of molecules resembles
the arrangement of fibres in a yarn. The molecules may be parallel
to the fibre axis or at right angles to the axis or spiral as they are
in cotton and flax. This is called molecular orientation. Most of the
fibres are parallel making the fibre crystalline. If the arrangement
is not orderly than it is amorphous. When the man-made fibres are
drawn from the spinneret the molecular structure is usually
amorphous. Drawing and stretching aligns the molecules parallel
to each other and also make the fibre more compact. It also
henceforth reduces the diameter. When the linear molecules are
packed together there is greater attraction between the hydrogen
atoms of the chain. This is called hydrogen bonding. These bonds
are weak cross-links but because they are so many of them they
make the fibre stronger. Fibres which are highly oriented are
stronger fibres e.g. Nylon.

Figure 1.3
Chemical composition
Cellulose fibres are poly hydroxyl alcohols.
Protein fibres are composed of various amino acids.
Acetates are polyesters of cellulose.

Textile Fibres
Nylon fibres are polyamides. Polyester fibres are esters of
dihydric alcohols.







Modacrylics are co-polymers of acrylonitrile and other

Nytril fibres are addition polymers of vinylidine dinitrile.
Saran fibres are addition polymers of vinyl chloride.
Vinal fibres are addition polymers of vinyl alcohol.
Spandex fibres are elastomers composed of poly ureththane.
Olefin fibres are addition polymers of ethylene, propylene or
other olefin units.
We can see that there are chemical differences in the molecular
arrangement of fibres. These differences explain the reactivity of
fibres, each different from the other.
Fibre Properties
Abrasion Resistance
Abrasion resistance is the property of the fibre to withstand the
rubbing or abrasion it gets in everyday usage. Inherent toughness,














following fibres are arranged in order of their resistance to

abrasion: nylon, polyester, acrylic, wool, cotton, rayon, acetate.
The strength of a fibre is defined as the ability to resist strain
and stresses and is expressed as tensile strength. Or as tenacity
(grams per denier).








polymerization is the term used to describe the length of the


Natural and Man-Made Fibres

molecule chain. The D.P. of cotton is about 10,000 while that of
regenerated cellulose is 300 to 500. Strong fibres are highly
oriented while weak fibres contain large sections of amorphous
area. Strong fibres make strong yarns. Thus, the fine strong fibred
yarns may be used in the production of sheer fabrics extremely
sheer nylon hose are possible because of the high strength of the
fibre. Ramie, flax, nylon, dacron and vinyon are high tenacity
fibres. While silk, cotton, zefran, dynel, creslan, orlon, saran are
fibres which have medium tenacity. Rayon and wool are low in
Cohesiveness is the ability of the fibres to cling together during
spinning. This is an important property in staple but not in
filament. Cohesiveness occurs because of natural crimp and
unevenness in the fibre structure.
Resiliency is the property of the fibre or fabric to spring back to
its original shape after it is stretched or deformed. This may
happen over a period of time. A resilient fabric has good crease
recovery, and hence requires no ironing. Resilient fabrics also
retain high bulk and do not pack well when in use. This property
enhances the beauty of the fabric and it is also easy to care fabric.
All these properties of resiliency, elasticity, pliability and
elongation are due partially because of the natural crimp in the
fibre. All protein fibres have molecular crimp. Nylon has a folded
molecular structure as it comes from the spinneret and it is cold
drawn to retain some of the crimp.
Cross-linkages and side chains help to explain these properties.
Cross-linkages help to prevent the molecules from sliding over one
another. Man-made, cotton and flax can be chemically cross-linked.

Textile Fibres
This is on the basis of wash and wear finish. However, too many
cross-linkages may affect the fibre adversely and it may become
very harsh.
Stability is an important property a fibre must have for its easy
care and upkeep. Stability is the retention of sizes. A stable fibre
does not stretch, sag or shrink. Stable fibres make a stable fabric
and a stable fabric can be converted into any useable apparel.
Plasticity is the property of a fibre to enable the user to shape
it permanently or semi permanently by moisture, heat and
pressure, or by heat and pressure alone. This property relates to
the ease of beauty and care as well as the durability of the fibre.
This is important from the consumer stand point. Wool has this
property because of its scale structure and its lack of stability.
Thermoplastic fibres are those which soften on heating. These
fibres can be permanently shaped by heat. Thermoplastic fibres
are all heat sensitive but vary in degree of sensitivity. They should
not be washed in hot water.
When the fibres are heated they either decompose or melt.
Melting consists of separating the molecules. It is believed that
cellulose fibres do not melt because of the large molecule size and
because of the strong attraction forces of the hydroxyl groups.
Protein fibres do not melt because of the presence of crosslinkages. Heating causes the molecule to vibrate with such force
that they tear themselves apart or melt. Thus, we know how heat
sensitivity affects production and care of fabrics.
The properties of fabric which are associated with comfort are

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

density, absorbency, hygroscopicity, and conductivity of electricity
and heat.
Absorbency is the property of the fibre to take up moisture and
is expressed in terms of moisture regain. This is the amount of
moisture that a bone dry fibre will absorb from the air under
standard conditions of temperature and moisture.
Absorbent fibres make fabrics which are comfortable because
they take up the perspiration readily. That is why they feel
comfortable on hot and humid days. Absorbent fibres do not build
up static electricity which also makes them more comfortable in
dry, cold weather. Dry cold fibres are hydrophilic or water loving
while non-absorbent ones are hydrophobic or water hating.
Absorbency is an important property from the beauty point of view
since they are easier to dye; absorbency is also related to
resiliency. They tend to wrinkle more.
Absorbency is due to the chemical structure of the fibre. This
has many hydroxyl groups available, are very absorbent. Protein
fibres which have many hydroxyl groups are very absorbent.
Proteins fibres which have reactive amino (NH2) and (COOH)
groups are very absorbent, highly oriented groups are not
absorbent. Highly oriented groups are less absorbent than fibres
with many amorphous areas. Since the water molecules get no
space to penetrate.
Wicking and wetting
Wicking is that property which refers to conduction of moisture
along the fibre or through the fibre. The fibre itself does not absorb
the moisture. This property is related to surface wetting and nonabsorption of moisture by the fibre.

Textile Fibres
Electrical conductivity
This is related to the buildup of static electricity charges on the
fibre. A good conductor does not build up static electricity charge.
Heat conduction
Heat conduction is largely a yarn or fabric property. Since
fabrics are neither warm nor cool. However, because of the
physical structure of the fibre they tend to make cool or warm
clothing. Heat comes from the body if fabrics permit the body heat
to escape like in cotton and flax they are cool fibres, if they do not
permit body heat to escape they are warm fabrics for example
Beauty and hand
Fibre properties related to beauty and hand are terms used to
describe the fabric like soft, lofty, warm, silk like, and wool like are
descriptive words which in other words is also known as hand.
Loft or compressenal resiliency refers to the ability of the fibre,
yarn, or fabric to spring back to its original thickness after being
compressed. In fibres loft is because of crimp. This property is good
in sweater, blankets and shawls.
Fibres with irregular cross-section and with crimp curl or twist
to give better cover for protection purposes. Cover means
concealment or protection on the surface.
The overall look or rigidly firm appearance of the fibre may be
termed to be the body of the fibre.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

The manner in which the cloth hangs is called the drape of the
fabric. It may be soft and limp, or stiff, and buoyant. Fabrics which
have a nice fall on the body are said to have a good drape, and for
example silk has a good drape. It falls on the body with very
elegant lines.
Lustre is light reflected from the surface. It differs from shine
in that it is more subdued since the light rays reflecting on the
surface are broken up. Smooth flat fibre reflects more light than
round or rough fibres. Fibres with many striations have high
lustre, for example Rayon.
Yarns of long fibres which are laid together with little or no
twist reflect more light than yarns with shorter length.
Manufactured fibres are delustred to make them close to look
natural. Oil or pigment is added to the solution before it is
extruded out of the spinneret.


Figure 1.4

Affinity to take and hold colour is largely contributed to the
chemical composition of the fibre. Absorbent fibres take dye more
readily than non-absorbent ones.

Textile Fibres
Chemical resistance
The chemical reactivity of each fibre depends on the
arrangement of the molecules it contains.
Dry-cleaning solvents, perspiration, soap, synthetic detergents,
bleaches, atmospheric gases, soot, and sunshine may all cause
chemical degradation on some or all of the fibres. Alkali
strengthens the cotton fibre. Alkali and chlorine may be used to
make wool shrink resistant. Scientifically controlled use of
chemicals brings about beneficial mordants and finishes.
Resistance to moth and mildew
Fibres without natural resistance should have protective
finishes to prevent moth and mildew. Also, often it is due to the
chemical composition of the fibre. These properties enhance the
usage of protected fabric for clothing.
Flammability depends upon the air incorporated in the fibre.
Combustible finishes and dyes make the fibre flammable. Anti
flammable dyes must be used to protect the fibre and make it nonflammable.
Elasticity is the property of any stretched fibre to return to its
normal shape soon as it is out of use. e.g. socks.
Pliability of flexibility
Pliability refers to the fibre to softly fold in any possible
direction. It is because each fibre has the ability to fold that it can
be converted into a three-dimensional outfit. They are easy to twist
in to yarns.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Stiffness and rigidity
This property is just the opposite of pliability. Rigidity is
important to any fibre because it determines the insertion of any
twist to the fibre.
Elongation is the deformation caused due to stretching. It is
expressed as percentage of original length. For example if a fabric
is 100 cm and it can be stretched to 110 cm before it breaks then
its elongation is 10 percent. 10 percent elongation is desirable.
Elongation varies at different temperatures it is different when
wet and when it is dry. The table below shows the elongation of
certain fibres under standard condition.


Dry fibre

Percent elongation


25 to 35






31 to 35




3o to 35


26 to 32

Nylon staple

16 to 42


15 to 30






5 to 9


6 to 7



5 to 9


16 to 42

Textile Fibres
Classification of Textile Fibres
Fibres may be broadly classified into 3 groups:
a. Natural fibres.
b. Man-made fibres (non-thermoplastic).
c. Man-made fibres (thermoplastic).

Figure 1.5


Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Figure 1.6

Textile Fibres
Nature is abounded with different kinds of fibrous materials.
Man has learnt to extract and synthesize fibres from available
natural resources and also chemicals. The fibre which is the basic
single unit out of which all fabrics are prepared, has properties
which are inherent to the material from which it has been
extracted. Some such properties are length, strength, pliability,
diameter, abrasion resistance and nature of the surface area.
Along with all these properties the fibre must be pleasant to the
touch both as to texture and temperature, absorbent to some
extent so that they can be dyed and be comfortable to wear; can be
cleaned, they should be light weight if used for apparel, resilient,
durable and available at an affordable price. No fibre is perfect. All
of them are lacking in a few or many of these characteristics.
Modern production methods have overcome some of the difficulties
in making fibres into fabrics. Blending is done to impart properties
of two different fibres to produce a good yarn for a fabric.
All fibres, whether natural or man-made are chemically known
as polymers. Polymers are the result of a process called
polymerisation. It is defined in Hackhs dictionary as a reaction in
which two or more molecules of the same substance combine to
form a compound the new molecular weight being a multiple of
that of the original compound [monomer] or the structural
arrangement in which two or more different monomers or types of
groups are present in alternate sequence in a chain [copolymer].
In simple polymerisation, units (molecules) of the same
compound combine to form the long chain. In hetropolymerisation,
polymerisation occurs between two different kinds of units, only
one of which is capable of polymerisation by itself.
A simple compound A and another simple compound B can
form a long chain of polymer

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

or make a series of
Both of these are simple polymers. But if we can, in some way,
make units of A combine with B into a molecular chain, we have a
If we introduce a compound, C, which we cannot make
polymerisation happen by itself, it can cause it to combine in a
chain with either A or B or with both, we have a hetropolymer,
The natural fibres are simple polymers (cotton, linen) or
copolymers (wool, silk) and among the man-made fibres may be
found all three types of polymers. This explanation helps to
understand the complex nature of textile fibres in a simple way.


Chapter 2: Cellulosic Fibre - Cotton

ndia was the first country to manufacture cotton. Among the

latest finds at Mohenjo-Daro were a few scraps of cotton

were found sticking to the silver vase. This shows that cotton had
been produced in India as far back as even the fourth millennium
B.C. Historians speak of the beautiful painted and printed cloth
which was sold in Egypt and some parts of Europe long before the
time of Alexander.

Figure 2.1
It is generally accepted that wool first came into use and cotton
came later. It is not known when India first started to trade with
Europe, but the word Carbasina (Sanskrit word Karpasa) for
cotton suggests that it must have been in use before 200 B.C. To
the Greeks who came to India with Alexander India was a land of
mystery. They were so surprised to see cotton that they called it

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

wool produced in nuts. They wrote wild trees in India bear fleeces
in their fruits, surpassing those of sheep in beauty and excellence.
Properties of cotton
Cotton is the seed hair of the shrub which bears the botanical
name of Gossypium, a member of the mallow family. The shrub
grows to 6 feet tall height. From 80 to 110 days after planting the
plant bears beautiful creamy white blossoms, which turn pink and
fall off and are replaced by a green triangular pod called boll. The
fibre develops within the boll. The boll is the size of a walnut. The
mature boll bursts open from the fibre pressure, exposing the fluffy
mass of white cotton fibres. Cotton is classified according to fibre
length, fineness, lustre and geographical location.

Figure 2.2
After cotton is picked several steps are necessary before it can
be spun into yarn, like ginning, baling, grading marketing,
opening, picking, carding, combing, drawing, roving, spinning
winding and spinning and twisting.

Cellulosic Fibre - Cotton

Figure 2.3
Ginning: Ginning is the process by which seeds are removed.
Several ginning machines have been designed. Shown in figure is a
ginning machine. Roller gins are used for long-fibre cottons and
saw gins are used for intermediate and short fibre cottons. Eli
Whitney, is famed for the invention of cotton gin, an invention of
great importance in the development of cotton industry. A ginning
process, carried out at the seed crushing mills removes the linters.
Baling: After ginning the cotton is compressed into bales,
usually square in shape, the bales are covered with burlap to
protect the fibre and are banded with steel bands to keep the bale
in shape and to make it manageable for handling. Bales vary in
weight from 250 lb to 500 lb for square bales.
Grading: Quality of cotton according to staple, microns colour
and foreign whiteness and spottiness. Grading determines the
quality rating of cotton and the price. It will bring to the market in
relation to the price of standard grades in that particular season.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Grading is done bale by bale. Grade is based on colour, foreign
matter and preparation. Degree of whiteness, spottiness and other
discolourations of various types affect the colour rating. There are
six colour variations for upland cotton grey, extra white, white,
spotted, tinged, and yellow stained. Foreign matter consists of
broken leaves, bits of twigs, sand and dust. Preparation refers to
the quality of ginning, whether fibres have been cut, tangled,
bunched etc. and is designated as A, B, C.
The classes for grading of cotton from best to poorest are
middling fair, strict good middling, middling, low middling.
Staple: An average staple length is determined from three
properties. The average length, character which includes strength,
maturity and fineness. The effect of these qualities on texture and
properties of fabric and in converting fibres to yarn. The average
length is very important to the manufacturer in making the
necessary adjustment to his machinery.
Character: Character of cotton includes strength, fibre
maturity, fineness, spirality, convolutions, ability of the fibre to
cling together and body (softness, harshness, hardness).
Marketing: Marketing includes all transactions from the time
the cotton leaves the producer until it is accepted at the mill. Some
cotton is sold directly from producer to mill, but most of it goes
through a series of selling operations. Most cotton is actually
handled often in bales of 100 of the same grade around the cotton
markets of world. The largest being New York, Liverpool, New
Orleans, Memphis and Houston. In India, cotton is produced in
Orissa, Maharashtra, some places in Punjab. Many of the series of
marketing steps are the small markets or in the cotton exchanges.
The spot markets are the small markets dotted through the cotton
producing areas and cotton mill areas of the country where the
cotton farmer sell their cotton to small merchants or to

Cellulosic Fibre - Cotton

cooperatives. The cotton sale is an organization something like the
stock exchange, deals only in futures market with no actual cotton
bales and sometimes no samples of cotton are present. But future
sales made on the basis and grading.
Cotton fibres have twisted flattened appearance much like a
twisted ribbon. As it grows the fibre develops a primary and a
secondary wall. The centre part is the lumen. The Lumen carries
liquid to the living cell. When the boll opens the liquid dries up
rapidly causing the lumen to collapse. The fibre then assumes the
characteristic twisted or spiral form. Long fibre cottons have more
twists per unit length than other cottons and mercerised cottons of
all types often show fewer twists than the unmercerised cotton.
Chemical properties


composition of typical







including sugars. The

cellulosic content of
Figure 2.4







depending on the variety of cotton soil and growing condition.

Cotton fibres are very absorbent. This accounts for their
comfortableness, especially in hot climate. In the process of
absorbing the fibres tend to swell considerably in cross-section
area. Their length is little affected. This fact is utilized in some of

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

the finishing processes. Cotton is decomposed by strong acids hot
or cold and is deteriorated by weak, hot acids.
Strong sulphuric acid
is used for parchmentizing
by the Haberlein process.
Permanent organdy finish
is given by this process.





Figure 2.5

momentary treatment.
Internal structure of cotton

The cotton fibre which are visible to the naked eye, when
viewed under high magnification as with electron microscope are
shown to be comprised of many layers of tiny fibrils arranged in
definite spiral pattern with the different layers at right angles to
each other. This structure as the fibre ripens may account to the
twisting of the fibre as it dries. The picture shows the layered
structure of cotton fibre as revealed by the microscope after
staining and swelling treatment.

Figure 2.6

Cellulosic Fibre - Cotton

Mercerisation is a process which was discovered by John
Mercer in 1853, a calico printer. Mercerisation is accomplished by
dipping the fabric in 18 to 23% solution of caustic soda for one half
to two minutes at room temperature with the cloth held under
tension. Mercerised cotton has increased lustre and increased
strength. The fibre becomes more cylindrical. Mercerised cotton is
stronger, has increased affinity to dyes so that less dye is needed,
dyes more evenly has greater affinity for resins and other finishing
compounds and is more sheer in appearance. It soils less easily
than unmercerised cotton.
Physical properties of cotton
Cotton fibres are most often creamy white in colour, although
the colour varies with variety, type of soil in which it is grown and
the climate. Rain and dust on the open boll stain the fibre.
Egyptian cotton has a reddish brown cast and is darker in colour
than the Sea Island upland cotton.
Usable cotton fibres of different variety vary in length from 0.5
to 2.5 inches, and in diameter from 6 to 26 microns, with specific
gravity of 1.50 to 1.55. Cotton is thus one of the shorter fibres
intermediate in width and its density is higher than most of the
other fibres. Cotton has medium tensile strength compared to
other fibres, but when wet its strength increases as much as 30%.
The increase in strength is very important when working in
tropical or very humid climates where moisture and perspiration
are likely factors that must be taken into consideration.
Cotton has medium abrasion resistance and high flex
resistance. Cottons low resiliency means that cotton fabric will
wrinkle and that wrinkles will not straighten out but will require
ironing for removal. Cotton may be stored for long periods with no

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

apparent loss of strength and this also may cause yellowing.
Prolonged exposure to sunlight causes great loss of strength.
Cotton scorches if ironed with very hot iron. This causes damage
and loss of strength. Cotton is readily refreshed by washing and
ironing. It is considered to be the least expensive fibre in terms of
upkeep, because cotton without damaging the fibre can be
sterilized in boiling water or in a steam autoclave it is usually
considered to be the most antiseptic of all fibres. It is widely used
in hospitals for operating room materials and uniforms also for the
fact that cotton presents no problem of dangerous accumulation of
static electricity.
Biological properties
Under conditions of high humidity mildew, bacteria, yeast will
grow on cotton. Starched cotton is more likely to be attacked than
unstarched cotton. This attack weakens the fibre and also leaves
behind a disagreeable odour. Silverfish and termites also attack
cotton. Cotton fabrics may be treated to protect them from attacks
by microorganisms, but the treatment may change the appearance
and texture of the fabric so much that its uses are limited. These
treatments are important for outdoor fabrics such as lawn tents,
lawn furniture, and camp furnishing where appearance is not as
important as end usage.
Major cash crop
Cotton is the major cash crop of India with the death of
antidumping regulations. India expects a substantial increase in
its textile trade. Caught in the spinning wheel are the 3 countries
US, China and India. The biggest problem is that U.S. The United
States gives big subsidies to its cotton farmers. So India is
importing cheap raw cotton. The strange thing is that while India
is now importing raw cotton it is also exporting, mainly to
Bangladesh and China - through a private procurement and export

Cellulosic Fibre - Cotton

regime, due to which the local farmer is affected. More than 70
countries globally produce and export cotton. Of these eight
countries are responsible for almost 80% of global output. The
worlds cotton market is dominated by the U.S. which is the second
largest producer after China. Despite these reasons India started
exporting cotton in 2004-2005. In 2005, India exported 800,000
bales. Export from India is increasing. The cotton exported from
India is middling staple. It is of a very ordinary quality.
Cotton farming in India (SWOT analysis)
Cotton plants grow almost all over India. Black cotton soil of
south India is the best soil for growing cotton. Part of Orissa, some
places in Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana seem to be favourable.
Cotton requires a humid climate and a rainfall of 12 to 15 cm.
Approximately 700 kg/hectare cotton is produced all over the
world. America, Australia and Brazil produce about 1200
kg/hectare. The per hectare yield of India is 300 kg/hectare.
Although cotton is an important cash crop of our country but the
reason for this low productivity are many.
Poor agricultural processing.
Dependence of farming on rain water.
Poor irrigation facility.
Poor ginning.
Although large land mass of India about 9.5 million acres is
used for the cultivation of this cash crop, it also guzzles a lot of
water. One cotton plant needs 700 to 1300 mm water depending on
the growing period in the early stages. Only 35% of the area is
irrigated rest is rain fed. Due to poor farming facility the produce
is of a very inferior quality. Cotton exported from India is medium
staple cotton, which is a below average variety of cotton.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Cotton plant in Indian tradition is much more than the source
of raw material for textile above. Cotton flowers give us nectar and
if bee keeping is planned, it gives highly flavoured healthy and
tasty honey. Cotton seed oil is a well-known edible oil. It is also
used in Vanaspati formulations. In Ayurveda, equal quantity of
ginger is used for external application to relieve pains due to
rheumatism and arthritis. Roots of cotton plants are used for
female diseases. Leaves are good for green manuring. Oil cake is a
cattle feed and a good raw material for industrial adhesive besides
being a good manure.

Figure 2.7. General steps in manufacturing cotton textile goods.


Chapter 3: Linen (Flax) - Cellulosic Fibre

t is known that linen was produced in Egypt long ago to be a

developed art by 3400 B.C. A robe of this fabric is said, could

be drawn through a small finger ring. From ancient Egypt, with

the rise of sea travel and trade the use of linen spread around the
Mediterranean Sea. In due time France, Belgium and Holland
became famous for the quality of the linen produced. Ireland
became predominant. The Irish climate is ideal for the spinning
and weaving of linen as dampness keeps the fibre tough rather
than brittle.

Figure 3.1
Botanical name of linen is linum usitatissimum, a name
indicative of its many early uses. The term flax is derived from
Anglo Saxon and old high German words. Linen designates both
plant and fibre. Flax is a slender straight stemmed plant with
narrow, medium green lance like leaves which grow to a height of

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

2 to 4 feet. The longest stemmed varieties are planted for fibre.
The plant branches near the top into few branches, which in turn
bear the half inch wide blossom and the seed boll. The different
varieties may be coloured pink, purple, white or azure blue. The
white and the blue are of commercial importance.
Blue flowered flax is considered to have better spinning
qualities than white. Flax grows in a temperate climate under a
wide variety of climatic conditions but does best with cool, even
temperature and considerable rain fall, it requires a growing
season of 85 days to 100 days. The height of the plant, the fibre
length and the quality of the fibre varies greatly with soil and
climatic conditions.
Flax does not require a rich soil the seedbed must be carefully
prepared. Once planted no special care is required except to keep
the weeds down. While the plants are young, flax is subject to
some rather severe plant diseases. So it is usually rotated from
field to field rather than grown in the same field year after year.
Flax fibres occur in bundles just inside the relatively stiff
cuticle outer wall and surrounding the woody central part of the
stem. The fibres are bound together within the bundles by a
cellular tissue sometimes called the phloem and by gums and
waxes. These substances are largely removed during processing
allowing the individual flax fibres to be separated. Formerly flax
cultivation was almost entirely a series of hand operation but now,
as in other agricultural endeavours it is becoming more
The stage at which flax is harvested depends on the end
product desired. Flax for seed is harvested when stems and seed
bolls are quite dry and are yellowish brown in colour but still moist
and supple.

Linen (Flax) - Cellulosic Fibre

Flax stem is then put to pulling, retting and scutching.
Pulling: Pulling is the removal of the whole plant including
the root system from the soil. Unbroken stems are required for
maximum fibre length and also to prevent staining of the fibres
within the stem during the drying and retting processes. This is
also now a mechanized procedure.
Retting: Retting is a process by which the brittle outer cuticle
layer of the stem is broken down and at least partially destroyed
by fermentation through bacterial action and by moisture allowing
the fibre groups to be removed. There are several methods of
retting all of them slimy odorous and unpleasant, making this a
most disagreeable process of flax production. Removing the cuticle
by chemical treatment is called chemical retting but the fibre
extracted is of a poor quality.
Dew retting: This
is a slower process than
other processes. Since
it is slower than other
processes it takes 2 to 3



retting must be clean

and free from minerals.
Figure 3.2





damage the fibre and it should preferably be soft water.

During retting the water penetrates to the inner parts of the
stalk via small flaws in the cuticle or bark causing the inner cells
to swell and burst the cuticle. This in turn increases moisture
absorption and permits greater penetration of bacteria which act

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

upon pectins, the substances surrounding the fibre bundles,
changing them into soluble sugars.
Running and stagnant water retting are carried out in similar
fashion. The flax bundles are placed in crates that are weighed
down with stone to keep the entire length of the stem submerged
in water after bacterial action commences and gases form.
Tank retting: This is another form of retting, which is carried
on in specially built tanks. Constant lukewarm water temperature
is maintained. In tanks, fermentation can be closely controlled by
maintaining the pH of water. The water penetrates to the inner
part of the stalk via small flaws in the cuticle or bark causing the
inner cells to burst and swell. This in turn increases moisture
absorption and permits greater penetration of bacteria which act
on pectins surrounding the fibre bundles. After retting the fibre
bundles are dried with drier.




scraping the cuticle and woody

centre it is also used for substitute
Scutching: Scutching is the
process of removing the dried





remainder of the plant stem. The

first step is the breaking operation
in which the butted parallel stems
are passed through a series of
fluted rollers, which break up
woody portion of the straw into
fine pieces called shives which can

Figure 3.3

Linen (Flax) - Cellulosic Fibre

be beaten out and which leave the long linen fibres largely
undamaged. The resulting long fibres are called line or flax.
Flax fibre has been designated by five grades according to fibre
length and colour, general conditions and lustre. A good quality
spinning fibre is fine soft strong and has a somewhat cold and oily
feel and a glossy sheen. The fibre is strong, absorbs moisture and
has good wicking ability. When blended with cotton it makes an
excellent fabric for summer wear.
Physical properties
It is the strongest of all vegetable fibres. It is stronger wet than
dry. Colour of linen varies from a creamy white to brown, the
depth of colour largely depending on time and condition of retting.
It may be bleached to white. Linen fibre varies from 12 to 30
inches in length and 5 to 28 microns in diameter. Linen has low
elongation and resilience. Ironing when quite damp is necessary to
restore its freshness. It crushes and wrinkles readily unless
treated for crease resistance. It becomes softer and more lustrous
with frequent laundering.
Because of its strength linen
is a very durable fibre.
Untreated linen feels cool to
the touch and is one of the
most absorbent fibres owing
to its wicking ability. It
Figure 3.4

absorbs rapidly and is quick

to dry. It is one of the most

comfortable fabrics for warm climates.

Linen is sometimes considered to be an expensive fabric, but
today it is competitive in price with many other fabrics. Its
durability should be taken into account when considering its cost.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Linen fabrics can be flattened and made more lustrous and soft
during manufacture by a beating process called beetling, in which
the fabric is pounded with hundreds of tiny hammers. This process
does not harm the fibre, but destroys part of the cementing
substance between the fibres and gives it more sheen and
smoothness by reducing the space between the weave.
Linen is being blended with cotton to make the blue denim jean
more comfortable the good qualities of linen e.g. absorbency and
also its property of wicking have rendered significant boost to
blending cotton and linen to make jeans comfortable in summer.
Linen can be distinguished from other commonly used textile
fibres by its distinctive appearance. As seen in cross- sections the
fibres are round to polygonal usually five sided with rather
rounded corners. Linen has a natural lustre it does not need
mercerisation. It can be satisfactorily bleached or treated with a
resin for crease resistance and other properties. It is the strongest
of all vegetable fibres. Linen is a very durable fibre because of its
strength and good quality. It is readily refreshed on ironing.
Microscopic structure
When viewed through
microscope linen can be
distinguished from other






types of cane, because of

transverse lines or nodes,
a characteristic of most




Immature fibres are oval





larger lumen. Raw flax


Figure 3.5

Linen (Flax) - Cellulosic Fibre

fibres are composed of about 71.5% cellulose, 10.7% water, 9.4%
gums, pectin etc. 6.0% extract, 2.4% fat and waxes, and 1.3% ash.
When boiled off and bleached linen becomes pure cellulose.
Linen may be attacked by mildew, resin finishes tend to cut
down on the likelihood of microorganism attack on both linen and
Uses and by-products
It is largely used as apparel, ladies blouses, shoes, handbags,
hats, textile furnishing which include drapery and upholstery
fabrics, towels and damask and other napery and rug. Industrial
uses include sewing threads for leather goods. Linen has long been
in use for fire hose because of its great strength, low elasticity and
quick absorption of water, so that it becomes wet quickly and can
be handled comfortably (temperature wise) and is not likely to
catch fire as long as water is going through it.
By products of linen are from the seeds. The most important by
product is linseed oil. This is a valuable oxidizing (thus drying)
ingredient in many outdoor paints. Flax seed is an important
ingredient in some medicines and drugs.


Chapter 4: Minor Cellulosic Fibres

arris in the handbook of textile fibres has listed 8 seed

and fruit hair fibres, 38 bast fibres and 40 leaf fibres and

a great many additional miscellaneous vegetable fibres. There are

several bast fibres of considerable commercial importance. They
are called soft fibres. In this group we shall consider jute, kenaf,
hemp, ramie, sunn, milkweed, kapok.
Among the leaf fibres often called the hard fibres we shall
consider abaca, pina, sisal, henequen.
The bast fibres are plants tall slender growing to a height of 5
feet to 16 feet, with stalk to inch in diameter. Height varies
for different plants with geographical area, soil, climate, and
conditions of growing season. The plants have relatively few
leaves, which are borne near the top. The fibre grows inside the
cuticle of the stem as does linen in the flax plant. The individual
fibres are short but because cementing substance is not removed,
the fibres overlap and may be removed and used as long
continuous strands, limited only by the lengths of the stems.
Properties common to all are not repeated in the following
chapters on minor cellulosic fibres.
Jute ranks next to cotton in the amount of fibre produced in the
world and in commercial value. It is the worlds most plentiful,

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

cheapest and weakest fibres. Jute is grown mainly in Pakistan,
India and Brazil. Before partition of India, India produced almost
all the supply of jute.
Microscopic structure of jute resembles that of flax, but it
usually lacks the cross markings characteristics of bast fibres. Raw





cellulose, with a high




accounts for the woody

nature of the fibre. Jute
is hand cut, the fibre is
removed by retting and
Figure 4.1




deteriorated stalk tissue

by one of four hand methods. Then it is washed repeatedly to

remove bits of bark, gum etc. and dried in the shade. Sunlight
weakens the fibre. The colour and quality of the fibre depend
considerably on the degree of maturation of the plant when
harvested. Jute is a week fibre, it is harsh brittle with low
elongation and little elasticity. Colour is from creamy white to
dark brown. It has considerable lustre,
darkens and weakens with exposure to
light. When it is humid it is easily
attacked by moth and midew. Jute is
weaker when wet than dry. Jute is
relatively a cheaper fibre so it is used for
bagging and wrapping fabrics. Much fibre

Figure 4.2

is used for rope twine, cord, and backing for carpet and rugs.
Recent uses in hand purses and apparel have given the fabric a
boost. Burlap is the fabric made from jute. It has many uses: it is
used as under covering for upholstered furniture for bulletin

Minor Cellulosic Fibres

boards, slip, covers. It has limited use in apparel. Recent
researches have blended jute with cotton to bring it into apparel
use, and also in home furnishing.
Hemp is a bast








But the name is







plants. Hemp is an
important crop in
Italy these days.

Figure 4.3

The production and

manufacture is similar to flax. It matures in 90 to 120 days, with

the male plant maturing one or two weeks earlier than the female
plant. Male and female plants must be harvested at the same time
by mechanical methods and often by hand method. Hemp grows
best on moderately rich sandy loam, and needs considerable rain
fall, 3 inches per month. It may be produced for seed oil. Italian
hemp is about 78% cellulose.
Colour of hemp varies from creamy to yellow, grey, greenish or
brown depending on quality and methods used in harvesting. The
largest use of hemp is in cordage.
Sunn is the fibre from Crotalia Junacea plant of leguminosie
family. Sunn requires a growing period of 100 to 110 days. The

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

plants have been grown for fibre
since prehistoric times in India and
Pakistan. The fibre is more difficult
to handle than jute, because it rots
very quickly after retting is complete.
It is used as fish net, twins, rug yarn
and in paper making. Mathews
Textile Fibres (p. 324) says lack of
care in fibre preparation has perhaps
been one of the factors deterring
wider use of the fibre.

Figure 4.4







linen, grass cloth and

rhea, is a bast fibre



nivea of the Urticaceae

family. Ramie is a fibre
which has the greatest
Figure 4.5

potentiality of all the

minor cellulosic fibres

for apparel and furnishing, but numerous difficulties remain to be

overcome. Ramie grows best in a warm moist climate, with
temperatures ranging from temperate to subtropical. Rich well
drained soil is preferred. Strong winds cause the stalks to rub
against each other, damaging the fibre. Fibre is removed from the
stalk by decortication; it is dried in sun and air. It is then
degummed in which process it is boiled in a chemical solution
usually made with caustic soda. After degumming the fibre is

Minor Cellulosic Fibres

rinsed, neutralized, washed and dried. One plant will produce
stalks over an area of 16 to 20 square feet. Ramie fibre is lustrous
and has high strength. It is white in colour. Ramie is said to have
exceptionally high resistance to bacteria, fungus and mildew.
Decorticated ramie is 83% cellulose and when properly degummed
it may be 96% cellulose with little or no lignin. Ramie can be used
wherever linen is used, for clothing, upholstery, fabrics and home
furnishing. It is also used for fishnets, cords, sewing threads,
canvas, packaging, fire hose, and filter cloth. The shorter waste
fibres are used for making paper.
95% of the worlds
supply of abaca is
from Philippines. For



efforts to grow abaca

in other parts of the
world failed. Abaca is
called Manila hemp.
Abaca is the species
of Musa plant family
to which the familiar

Figure 4.6

commercial banana belongs. The importance of this group of plants

to the economy of their country has been described by B.
Montgommery in Mathews book of Textile Fibres (p. 361).
Plants of the genus Musa of which there are a large number of
species, are among the worlds most useful plants. They furnish an
important proportion of the worlds supply of cordage fibres as well
as fibres for coarse and some fine fibres. The fruits are important
in the diet of the people of many countries, in some countries the

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

flowering bud is eaten as a vegetable. And the leaves are used as
lining for cooking vessels. The juice of the plant is used as dyestuff.
By the people of some countries and the leaves are used as lining
the cooking vessels and wrapping food and other articles sold in
shops, for polishing floors, and as both rain and sun umbrellas.
Abaca fibre is of good quality strong, lustrous and varies in
colour from white through browns, red, purple, depending on
variety. Fibre strands vary from 3 feet to 6 feet in length. Its
elongation is higher than most of the bast fibres. Of special
significance to marine users that abaca is quite buoyant and that
it has an unusually high resistance to the effect of salt water
Abaca is the most extensive export crop. The propagating roots
are continuously sending out new shoots. Abaca is the only leaf
sheath fibre of commercial importance. The Abaca plant grows to a
height of 15 to 25 ft, in clusters of 12 to 30 stalks to a mat. Abaca
requires well drained moderately rich soil and a subtropical







distributed throughout the year and a general absence of strong

winds because the shallow root system allow the plant to topple
very easily.
Abaca is mostly used for ropes and cordage of various kinds, for
packaging material and for fishing and cargo nets. It is used for
braids of hats, slippers and handbags. It is also used for hats, rugs,
curtains screens in paper auto seats and furniture.
Coir is derived from commercial coconut. It is the outer husk
surrounding the nut. Coconut husks are split with knives and the

Minor Cellulosic Fibres

ripe nuts removed from the woody portion of the husk by pounding
and hackling and by a breaking process similar to that used for
bast fibres and a stripping process against spikes on a rotating
drum. Coir is hard, tough, brown in colour 4 inches to 10 inches
long and quite coarse in diameter. The longer fibres are made into
yarns for cordage, fishnets and coarse cloth. Short and broken
fibres are baled for use as mattress fibres and upholstery stuffing.
Coir fibre has a natural affinity towards dye stuffs. Coir being a
vegetable fibre shows more sensitivity towards basic colours. Basic
colours are not stable to sunlight. Even then they can be applied to
indoor mats and upholstery material which is not exposed to sun
light. Coir belongs to the group of minor cellulosic fibre.
Sisal is obtained from the plant Agave sisalana, a member of
the family amaryllidaceae. It is native to Mexico. Chief sisal
producing countries are Tanzania, Brazil, Kenya, Haiti, Angola,
Mozambique and Indonesia.
The long narrow,
stiff leaves of the sisal
grow out as a rosette
from a very short thick
stem. The leaves are 4
to 6 ft long and 4 to 7
inches across at the
widest part, and are
Figure 4.7






shape. Plants are propagated from rhizomes or from bulbils tiny

plants that develop from buds in the axils of the flower stems as
the blossom whither and the old plant dies.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Leaves must be cut when ready decorticated, washed and dried
at once to remove the gum which would otherwise harden and
prevent proper preparation of the fibre. Sisal strands of good
quality fibre average 40 to 50 inches length and 0.08 to 0.15 inch
diameter. The fibres are white, lustrous somewhat less strong than
abaca, somewhat stiff, and show resistance to salt water
microorganisms. Sisal absorbs moisture very rapidly. Sisal ropes
sink more rapidly than abaca ropes. It is 66% to 72 % cellulose.
It is used for ropes, hats, cordage, handbags, shoes of good
quality, white fibre.
It is derived from the leaf of Agave fourcroydes, where it has
been used since prehistoric times. Mexico is the leading producer
of henequen, with Cuba being the next.
Henequen leaves like sisal grow as a rosette from a thick
central stem and there is a close parallel to sisal in the age and
manner of harvesting. The steps involved in preparing the fibre
and in appearance and structure of the strands. Henequen
however has only fair strength and elongation, compared to sisal,
nor does it have good resistance to salt water microorganisms.
It is used for ropes, tying and wrapping twines, bagging,
hammocks, shoe soles and a number of other items.
Often called floss for its silky appearance and feel, is obtained
from the plant of Asclepias syriaca or its relative of the

Minor Cellulosic Fibres

Asclepsidaceae family. These familiar plants grow wild throughout
America and many areas of the world, or they may be cultivated.





conservation plant is very high.

The fibre to which seed is attached
is tightly packed into cylindrical
green seed pods that burst open
when ripe, scattering the tiny
seeds over a wide area because of
the parachute like propulsions of
the attached fibre. During World
War II many children patriotically
collected milkweed pods for the
government as the fibre in great
demand for life belts and life

Figure 4.8

jackets for the armed services on all kinds of sea duty and for
service personnel being transported by water. The supply of kapok
which was earlier being used for their purpose was cut off during
hostilities. The milkweed fibre in the jackets linning served a
double purpose, to provide insulative warmth onboard ship or to
keep the wearer afloat if forced in water.
Each fibre is a single smooth cylindrical air filled (thus
buoyant) hollow rod with a somewhat distended base. It is very
light in weight, 0.0008 to 0.0020 inch in diameter, very lustrous
white to yellowish white in colour and moisture and vermin
resistant. Because of the nature of its fibre and its buoyancy it
does not lend itself to spinning and weaving.
According to test data of a few years from the Department of
Health of the State of Maryland, a sample of milkweed fibres
floated in hydrant water for 41 days with 30 times its own weight
attached. Another sample floated for 44 days with 33 times its

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

weight attached. When the second sample was dried and
reimmersed it floated for 30 days.
Kapok is derived from the seed pod of the tree Cieba pentranda
of the Bombaceae family of plants, which grows to a height of about
100 feet and starts producing harvestable pods when 5 to 7 years
old. Its productive life is 50 years or sometimes even more. Fibre is
obtained from either India or Java, although the latter is
preferred. Compressed java kapok is said to be able to support up
to 36 times its weight and Indian kapok 10 to 15 times its own
weight. The ripe pod is tan in colour, similar to a milkweed pod in
appearance. The pods are picked from the trees and just before
they are ripe enough to burst open, scattering the fibre. They are
cut open, the seed and the fibre separated by hand and the fibre
sun dried inside wire netting to prevent it from blowing away. The
fibres of mature kapok do not cling to the seed as do cotton and
milkweed fibres to their seed. The descriptions of the fibre are
almost the same as for milkweed, except that its fibre is somewhat
shorter and finer in colour. Kapok is very resilient, a mattress 3 by
6 requires only 17 lbs of kapok as compared to 30 to 60 lbs of
straw. Further, it does not retain moisture which is very important
in moist climate.
Urena is derived from the bast fibre from the plant Urena
Lobata of the malvaceae family. The family to which kenaf also
belongs. Mathews Textile Fibres book says:
Urena grows wild sometimes becoming a noxious weed, in
tropical and temperate zones in South and North America, Asia,
Indonesia and Philippines, Madagascar and to a much larger

Minor Cellulosic Fibres

extent in the Belgian Congo and in French equatorial Africa. The
use of urena fibre in Belgium is of great antiquity. The principal
producing areas being Espirito Santo, which accounts for about
three fourths of the
total, and Para, Rio de





urena fibre in most of

the other areas where
the plant grows also
covers a long period of
time. The first attempt
to cultivate the fibre
Figure 4.9







attempt was made in 1929 by a Belgium textile firm, in the

province of Leopoldville and proved to be very successful.
Urena grows best in hot and humid climate, on soil with
adequate potash content, away from shade and where water will
not stand on its roots. It matures in 120 to 150 days and is
harvested when in full bloom (pink flowers) by about the same
method as jute, except that the stalk must be cut a distance above
the ground because of the high degree of lignification of the base of
the stalk. Retting generally takes 9 to 12 days for urena.
Urena is creamy white, lustrous, fine soft and flexible. Strands
of fibre are 3 feet or more in length and almost as strong as jute it
has the same uses as jute or other fibres.
Experimenting in growing, harvesting and grading urena have
been carried on in different countries and have been in Belgian
Congo. Urena can prove to be a good fibre provided quality can be

Chapter 5: Wool - The Protein Fibre

ool is the first fibre that man learnt to make into fabric,
either by felting or matting. Wool is the hair or fur

covering of the sheep. Originally, sheep had two coats a coarse

protective wiry coat and a soft warm fleecy undercoat of very fine
texture. History clearly shows that Mesopotamia was the
birthplace of wool. The early Romans encouraged sheep farming
and wool weaving in England in A.D. 80. Soon the British woollen
clothes gained reputation. Woollen Kashmiri shawls are as old as
the epics of India. Tradition has it when Lord Krishna went to
Kurus as a delegate from the Pandavas, the presents of
Dhritrashtra to him were ten thousand shawls of Kashmir.

Figure 5.1
Martin wrote the gossamer muslin of Dacca and beautiful
shawls of Kashmir adored the proudest beauty of the court of

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Caesar. In ancient India, cotton was not known to the Vedic
people, but wool was an important material. Fine wool was
obtained from places near Gandhar and the region in which the
river Ravi (the tributary of river Indus) flowed. The Abhiras
brought woollen clothes of various designs manufactured in Cina
and Valhika which were the provinces between Sutlej and Indus
rivers. The people in the Indus valley during the third millennium
B.C. used wool for their warmer textiles and cotton for their lighter
ones. No textile of this age could be preserved because of the saline
nature of the soil of the valley, only the statues found in sight give
sufficient proof that hand spun and hand woven shawls were in
fashion then. The Moghul kings gave great impetus to the wool
industry in Kashmir. The emperors of the Moghul period were
patrons of fine art and culture. During Akbars time specially
Kashmir shawls were sent as valuable gift for kings every time. By
the end of the 18th century the Kashmir shawls had a vast market
in Persia, Afghanistan, Russia and Europe. So popular was the
shawl in Europe that England thought to shift the shawl industry
to Paisley.
This however gave a serious blow to the industry and by the
end of the 19th century Kashmiri shawls became a thing of the
past. Fortunately, today the shawl industry is again reviving. The
popular woollen goods are the Pashmina shawls, both woven and
embroidered, the Shahtus, Gabha, Namda, Lohi, etc. Thousands of
Namdas are exported to the United States and earn valuable
foreign exchange. At present, the wool manufacturing countries
are Australia, New Zealand, The British Isles, South America and
South Africa. Not only wool but also hair from the camel, goat and
rabbit is used for making woollen fabrics.
Varieties of wool and their origin
All wools are classified as fine, medium, long and carpet wool.

Wool - The Protein Fibre

Fine wool: The merino sheep is the outstanding example
which supplies this type of wool. Fine wool may vary in length
from 1 to 5 inches. We get this wool from merino sheep. The
original merino sheep were from Bikaner, India, these were taken
to Australia. They are noted for softness, fineness, strength,
elasticity and superior spinning and felting qualities. They are
used for high quality flannel, knit goods, broad cloth, meltons and
other face finished fabrics.
Medium wool: These are by Oxford, Hampshire, Suffolk and
Long wool: Large sheep such as the Lincolns Cotswold from
Leicester produce long strong, lustrous wool. The fibre length
varies from 5 to 6 inches for a Romney marsh, 10 to 15 inches for a
Cotswold. This is coarse wool with poor felting quality, they are
used for coarser tweeds, serge, overcoating, blankets, braids and
Carpet wool: This wool is procured from various crossbreeds.
As the name implies it is largely used in the manufacture of
carpets and rugs and for other coarse fabrics, horse blankets,
coarse upholstery fabrics, etc.
Structure of wool

Figure 5.2

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Wool is a natural protein fibre. It is composed of a chain of
amino acids combined by condensation (eliminating water)
through peptide linkage to form chains. Wool is composed of five
elements in approximately these percentages: carbon 50%, oxygen
22-25%, nitrogen 16-17%, hydrogen 7% and sulphur 3-4%. In
addition, there is a very small amount of mineral matter present
in the fibre. The weakest part of wool are the sulphur linkages,
they are the parts most readily attacked by oxidizing and reducing
agents, and even by light.
Most clean wool is off-white in colour, although grey, brown
and black wooled sheep are not uncommon in the various breeds.
Wyoming wool is the whitest produced in the United States.
Colour is due to the pigment in the cortical and medullary areas of
the wool; the scales are not pigmented.
Lustre is due to the nature and transparency of the scale
structure of wool; it varies among animals and breeds, with the
area of a fleece and with climatic conditions.
Wool is made of three distinct parts.
The outer horny transparent flattened scales.
A cylindrical cortical layer (cortex which makes up the soft
plastic bulk or body).
A medulla or central air filled canal. These are made visible
under a microscope. The scales vary in size and shape and
the free ends projecting outward and upward towards the tip
of the fibre. In the finest wool, the scales encircle the fibre
and fit one into another like stacked cups and bowls. In
coarser wool, the scales overlap like shingles on a roof, and
there may be several encircling rows depending on the
diameter of the fibre. The scale structure make wool

Wool - The Protein Fibre

The scale structure forms a protective hide for the more
delicate part of the fibre and gives it form and a certain degree of
rigidity. The cortical layer is responsible for the strength and
elasticity of the fibre. The medulla increases the insulative
property of the fibre by incorporating a built-in air space.
Wool like human hair is an outgrowth of the skin. It grows
from the hair follicle which also has sebaceous glands attached and
which serve the same function as those adjunct to human hair.
Molecular structure of wool
The protein fibre have complicated molecules composed of
varying numbers and kinds of amino acids, which have combined
to form long chains. 20 amino acids have been identified in wool.
Larger amounts are glycine, alanine, serine and tyrosine. These
are largely the group that form proteins called keratin. Wool
contains a large amount of glutamic acid (16%) has considerable
amount of cystine, leucine, serine, arginine, aspartic acid, proline,
threonine, glycine, tyrosine, valine and alanine. The general
chemical formula for amino acids is:

Figure 5.3
The folded chain structure of wool is believed to straighten out
when pull or pressure is exerted on the wool fibre, and to revert to
its original position when released. The unfolding refolding ability
of the chain would account in large measure for the high degree of
elasticity, elongation, resiliency, and crease resistance of wool
fabrics. The side chains between molecules are believed to hook
together to give still more resistance to packing or crushing. The
cystine side chains, composed in part of sulphur are believed to
form stable links at the sulphur atoms between different chains.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Other linkages occur between molecular chains also but they are
less stable than the sulphur bonds. The following diagram is a
possible linkage between molecular chains, showing both sulphur
and salt linkage as theorized by Astbury and Speakman (Figure

Figure 5.4

Wool - The Protein Fibre

Figure 5.5. The ziz-zag molecular structure of wool.

Wool is said to be a poor conducter of heat. However, the
amount of heat conducted along the fibre is not the important
factor in the warmth of wool. Wool fibres do not pack well because
of the natural crimp. This makes the wool fabric porous and
capable of incorpoting much air giving the fabric a lofty hand.
Absorbency: Absorbency is defined as the ability of a fibre to
take up moisture and is expressed in terms of moisture regain,
which is the percentage of moisture that a bone dry fibre will
absorb from the air under standard conditions of temperature and
moisture. Absorbent fibres make fabrics which are comfortable on
hot humid days or in damp climate. Absorbent fibres do not build
up static electricity, which also makes them more comfortable in
dry cold weather. Absorbent fibres are hydrophillic or water
loving while non-absorbent fibres are hydrophobic or water
repellent. Absorbency is important from the beauty stand point
since it makes easy dyeability possible. Absorbency is also related
to resiliency. Fabrics made from the hydrophilic fibres tend to
crush more when damp. Absorbency is due to the chemical
composition and the molecular structure of the fibre. Cellulose
fibres which have more hydroxyl groups (OH), protein fibres which
have reactive amino (NH2) and carboxylic groups are very
absorbent. Fibres which have few reactive groups are not
absorbent. Highly oriented groups are less absorbent than fibres
with many amorphous areas, since there is no space for water

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

molecules to enter. Wool does not take up water quickly. Wool can
absorb 30% of its weight without feeling wet.
Resiliency: This is greater when it is dry. This property is
important in the manufacture of fabric because it permits
energetic mechanical treatments in finishing woollens and
worsteds. Press retention is good. It holds crease well. Crease is set
by moisture, heat and pressure. Wool fibres are weak but fabrics
are durable.
Felting: It is a term applied to progressive shrinkage of wool.
Felting occurs when wool is subjected to heat, moisture and
friction (conditions present at the underarms of sweater and shirt
and soles of socks). To make felting possible a fibre must have a
surface scale structure. Felting is also a disadvantage as it makes
washing of wool difficult.
Amphoteric nature: This means it will unite and react with
both acid and basic dyes. Wool is very stable to acids but it is
harmed by alkalies. In the manufacture of fabrics acids are used to
remove cellulosic impurities. This process is called carbonizing.
Elongation: Elongation of wool is 20 to 50% and both
elongation and elasticity are higher when the wool is wet.
Shearing: It is the process of clipping the fleece from a living
animal. Sheep are sheared once or twice a year, depending on their
locality by travelling crews. An expert shearer can clip 100 to 200
sheeps a day. In most parts of the world shearing is done only once
a year in late spring or early summer. Shearing is a high paying
job in range areas. Skill is reqired to sheer the sheep and leave as
much wool on its body to protect the animal from the sun and the

Wool - The Protein Fibre

Pulling: Pulled wool is obtained from animals which are sold
for meat. The pelts are washed and brushed and then treated
chemically to loosen the fibre. The yield of pulled wool is one fifth
of sheared wool. Wool as it comes from the sheep is called grease
wool, as it contains impurities such as sand dirt, grease and dried
sweat. The grease in stages of purification is used for a wide
variety of other commercial products, such as medicines softeners,
toilet preparations.
Sorting: Wool is sorted according to quality and dirt is
removed by machine known as duster. The best quality of wool
comes from the shoulder of the sheep and the sides of the sheep
and the poorest quality from the lower legs.
Physical structure
Fibres of wool vary in
length from 1 inch to 14
inches and in thickness from
10 to 70 microns. 18 to 30
micron fibres are used for
clothing, coarser wool is used
to make rugs. High quality
wool does not imply high

Figure 5.6

The alkali test

A hot 5% solution of alkali will destroy wool completely, as it
disintegrates the fibre and it becomes slick, turns to a jelly like
mass, and goes into solution. Alkali is sold in the market as lye.
The wool with a blend will dissolve leaving behind only the
fibre that has been blended.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Recipe for lye
1 tablespoon lye.
1 pint water.
Heat to boil.
Burning test
Pure wool burns with the odour of burning hair.
Garments should be allowed rest between wearings so that
they shrink back into shape. Hanging over hot water removes
wrinkles. Garments should be hung so that the air can circulate
freely because they tend to hold odours. Wool does not soil readily.
They should be brushed after each wear. Wool should never be
rubbed too hard during washing. Wool garments should be placed
on a flat dry surface for drying for good shape retention. Wool
cannot take the rough treatment given to cotton. While washing it
has to be delicately washed.
By-products of wool
Wool has a very valuable by-product, largely recovered from
the yolk. Yolk is made up of wool grease and perspiration. The
grease of wool is an unusual kind of wax, in purified form it is
called Lanolin. Lanolin has a peculiar quality in its ability to
penetrate human skin, carrying with it pharmaceutical or other
desired products. It is also used in leather goods trade.
Speciality wool
The Cashmere goat
This animal lives in the Tibetan region of the Himalayas. It
receives its name from the province of Kashmir. The hair of this
goat has a distinct silky gloss and is smoother and warmer than

Wool - The Protein Fibre

wool. Kashmir woollen goods
are of two varieties. The fleece
of the domestic goat is called
the Pashm and that of the wild
goat is called Asli or Shahtus.
The hair is combed by hand for
the animal in the moulting
season. Only a small part of
the fleece is very fine probably
not more than a pound [per

Figure 5.7


The importance of mohair a
product of the angora goat is
shown by the fact that pounds
of this fibre is clipped in Texas,
Oregon, Missouri, Arizona and
California in the United States.
The mohair fibre is white in
colour. It is long lustrous, fine






Figure 5.8

Mohair lacks the felting quality of wool. This limits its use in
apparel only.
The Llama
The Llama is an aristocratic member of the camel family. It is
valuable as a fur bearing animal and is also known as the beast of
burden. Although Llamas will refuse to carry more than a limited
number of pounds, they are used in many instances because it
costs nothing to feed them and their quality of hair is a valuable
textile fibre. The Llamas occur in the pacific coastal region of

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

South America. The Llamas and
the Alpacas are the domesticated





Vicuna are the wild species. The

natural habitat of Llama is the
southern Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia
and northern Argentina. The entire
body of the Llama is covered with a
thick coat of long hair, but the hair
close to the body is fine hair.
The Alpaca
Alpaca is another member of the
camel family which furnishes a

Figure 5.9


of commercial value. Both Llama

and Alpaca fibres are similar to
mohair in character. Alpaca fibres
constitute a large portion of wool





appearing on the market. This wool

is white, grey, fawn, brown or black
in colour.
Other Important Hair Fibres
Fur fibre is now used as novelty
fabric. The most important of these
are the angora rabbit and the

Figure 5.10

common rabbit. Fur fibres of the muskrat, beaver, raccoon and

squirrel are used as fabric. Hair fibre although of minor
importance are those of the hog, cow, horse, and even human hair.
These are occasionally used for construction of novelty fibre.

Chapter 6: Silk - The Queen of Textile Fibres

he manufacturing of silk dates back to 2640 B.C. Silk has

been considered one of the most elegant and luxurious of

fibres. It is still recognised as such all over the world. It is called

the queen of all textile fibres. There are several species of silk
producing caterpillars, but the mulberry silkworm, or bombyx
morri produces most of the commercial silk fibre. These mulberry
silkworms have been cultivated for many centuries. There are
other associated varieties which live on the scrub oak and produce
the fibre known as wild silk.

Figure 6.1
Silk was discovered by a Chinese empress in 2640 B.C. The
Chinese carefully guarded the secret of the silk cocoon for 3000
years. They wove beautiful fabrics which were sold to Eastern

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

traders at a high price. In 300 A.D., refugees from china took
cocoons to Korea and started raising silk- worms. Japan learnt
about silk from Korea. The industry spread through central Asia
into Europe, and by the 25th century Italy was the silk center of
Europe. This was later taken over by France in the 17th Century.
Weaving of silk became important in England when the huge
number of weavers emigrated from France to England in 1685.
Sporadic attempts were made by the United States to cultivate
silk. But the climatic condition of the north was not able to grow
mulberry trees and in the south cotton was being cultivated
because of the countrys need.
Since the introduction of nylon for hosiery, half of Japans
market for silk was lost. Silk can be produced in any temperate
climate, but it has only been successfully produced where there is
cheap and abundant labour available.
In India, Kashmir and Karnataka produce a lot of mulberry
silk. Other varieties of silk Eri, Muga are produced in the
northeast of India. Tasar silk is produced in Uttarakhand. India
produces more than 7% of the worlds silk output. Production of
mulberry silk in India has been on the rise and growth has been
gaining momentum on account of abundant natural resources and
cheap labour. Still techniques of cocoon production is considered to
be of low level by international standards. Though 70% of the
world mulberry silk is produced by China and Japan, India can
boast of producing all kinds of silk viz. muga, mulberry eri and
tasar. Presently eri silk is being produced primarily in Assam. Eri
silkworms are hardier than mulberry silkworms and can be reared
with greater ease. The rearing of these worms requires very little
investment. The fabric formed from the eri worm is as soft as
cotton and as warm as wool. Eri silk is preferred for winter
clothing. The yarn has poor affinity to dyes and the bleached yarn

Silk - The Queen of Textile Fibres

shows yellowing over years. Eri fabric lacks crease resistance and
shows sagging properties and therefore it is not preferred as
normal dress material.
Eri culture has a high potential as a subsidiary occupation to
augment farmers income in north-eastern India. Eri silk can be
processed into the most comfortable warm clothing. Eri is also
spun in combination with muga or tasar silk waste or cut cocoon to
give a rigid texture and an attractive look for use in suiting or

Figure 6.2
In respect of mulberry silk in India, Karnatakas share is about
63% while that of West Bengal is about 12%. The remaining 12% is
produced elsewhere in the country. In Karnataka, the principal
districts for the production of silk are Kolar, Bangalore, Mandya,
Tumkur and Mysore. Andhra Pradesh is fast improving its silk








Vishakhapatnam, Mahbubnagar and Anantapur districts of the

state. In Tamilnadu, sericulture was originally confined to

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Dharampuri and Coimbatore districts but later extended to
Ramnadhpuram and other districts also. In Uttarakhand, majority
of cocoons are produced in Doon Valley. In Manipur, cocoon was
reared by one community called Loi.
However, the productivity of mulberry silk in India is the
lowest as compared to China and Japan. In order to enhance the
productivity, Karnataka has launched a very ambitious project of
Rs. 80 crore under the sponsorship of world bank known as
Operation Silk. Apart from increasing the production, silk
exchange centers were set up with a view to put a stop to the
exploitation role of middlemen and traders. A price stabilization
and development fund would ensure a fair return to the farmer
and also hold the price line.
Sericulture is an agro based industry with considerable
employment potential. A very significant characteristic of this
industry is its ability to provide gainful employment to sizable
sections of rural masses without dislodging them from their home
stead. It assures cent percent employment to women. The industry
qualifies very well as cottage based rural industry, which can be
practiced using community ownership and common working place
utilizing local labour and resources. Employment potential can be
created in the rural areas by increasing the sericulture activities
right from mulberry cultivation up to production of the fabric. The
industry also gives inputs to other industries like nutrients to
agriculture, raw material for soap, fruit processing industry,
timber, besides production of various important products like
surgical gloves. The silk industry gives social respect to women
ensuring healthy environment and sustainable development. 65%
of the silk produced is utilized by the Indian women due to their
interest in fashion and silk. It is an industry by the women and for
the women.

Silk - The Queen of Textile Fibres

Among the large varieties of silk goods produced in India for
the domestic and export markets are:
Mixed/blended silk fabrics.
Dress material.
Scarves and stoles.
Made-up articles like cushion covers and bed spreads.
Silk carpets.
Silk garments.
The world market for silk and silk products is a lucrative and
growing one. Developing countries that already produce silk in
various forms or that have the potential to do so should explore the
requirements for products and develop market in this sector as one
of the means to increase their export earnings.
More than 90% of the world market for silk garments is
accounted for by womens clothing. This covers a wide range of
items from lingerie to high fashion evening wear.
Silk goods for men include shirts, ties, socks, underwear and to
a limited extent, knitted goods. The main importer of silk is U.S.A.
to the tune of 25% of the total Indian silk exports, followed by
Germany, U.K., Switzerland, U.A.E., Italy, Singapore, Japan,
Canada, Austria, The Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Australia,
etc. The main items of export are dress material, made-up articles
(pillow covers, cushion covers, scarves, curtains, bedcovers and silk
paintings), ready-made garments, sarees and ties. The items are
mainly exported from New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Silk Industry
The silk manufacturing industry is divided into four parts
sericulture, reeling, throwing and manufacturing.
Sericulture is the name given to production of cultivated silk.
The sericulture process begins with the silk moth which lays eggs
on especially prepared paper. The eggs are kept in cold storage
until they are needed for hatching. Hatching takes place
continuously throughout the mulberry growing season. Thus,
making it possible to keep labour and equipment at a minimum.
The eggs are hatched into caterpillars, which are put on special
mats and fed fresh mulberry leaves. The newly hatched worm is
about three millimetres long, almost black in colour and weighs
about .005 gram. Only the tenderest young leaves can be fed to the
young worms. If the leaves are wet, they must be wiped dry. Fresh
leaves must be supplied every hour and tray kept clean. The
temperature and the humidity of the room where the worms are
kept must be controlled. During its growth the worm passes
through four sleep and wake cycles. During those four sleep
periods it ceases to eat. These are followed by moulting when it
sheds its out grown skin. During wake period, it is a voracious
eater and grows rapidly. The fully developed worm is milky white
in colour. It increases in weight approximately 10,000 times. It
ceases to eat and lifts its head to in search of some thing on which
to spin its cocoon. The worm first spins a net and then forms a case
or shell called the cocoon. To do this it doubles itself on its back,
with its feet on the outside and with many movements of its head
spins the cocoon by secreting a viscous fluid produced by the two
glands in its body. The silkworm makes more than one movement
of its head in one minute, some 300,000 turns are required to spin
the cocoon. The worm can no longer be seen but it can still be

Silk - The Queen of Textile Fibres

heard working away until the cocoon is spun in two to three days.
The fibre is spun back and forth in the form of figure eight. The
caterpillar changes into cryssalis. This is the third stage of life, if
the crysallis is not destroyed, a moth develops in about two weeks.
This moth secretes an alkaline solution which so weakens the fibre
that they are easily broken and it can push its way out to the
bottom of the cocoon, though this place has less strands but many
are broken in this process. The mother moth spends the few days
of its life just laying eggs. One ounce of eggs will produce from 100
to 150 cocoons.
The discovery of an effective method of killing the crysallis
without injuring the silkworm was an important step in the
production of silk. Sericulture is carried on by highly specialized
methods for two distinct purposes, first the production of disease
free eggs for breeding, and second the production of raw silk for
use in the industry. Raising of worms for the production of silk
requires well equipped establishment.

Figure 6.3

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

When the silkworm is grown, it spins a fibre cocoon around
itself. The bulk of the silk moths are killed inside the cocoon by
boiling and only those which are needed for reproduction are
allowed to emerge. The pierced cocoons are used for staple fibres.
The silk fibre is a double strand of thread held together by a
gum serecin, a water soluble substance secreted by silkworm. The
serecin is a very important part of the silk fibre. It serves as a
warp sizing for the silk yarn as they are threaded on the loom and
woven in to grey goods. Because of the serecin the silk yarn can be
used without twist. When the serecin is removed from the fibre in
the degumming process, the fabric structure becomes more mobile.
The low twist and the mobile structure are major factors in the dry
tactile hand and the liveliness, suppleness and drape of silk fabric.
Zero twist yarns are important in the good covering power of silk.
Triangular cross-sections, longitudinal striations and fine denier
are other important factors that contribute to the aesthetics of silk.
Reeling or unwinding silk from the cocoon is done in an
establishment called the filature. Automatic reeling is done by
lacing the cocoon threads through a guide to a chemical bath which
softens the thread. The filament go around a revolving horizontal
roller, which dries and winds them onto a spool or cone ready for
weaving on delivery. The automatic reeler also has a cocoon
finding mechanism which regulates the size and uniformity of
yarn. The machine increases production many times and cuts
labour. In India, bulk of the reeling is done adopting charka and
cottage basin. In the case of charka reeling large number of people
are employed. In large basin reeling yarn quality is improved to a
large extent. During the process of reeling large quantities of silk
waste are obtained. This is composed of inner and outer layers of
cocoon which are removed during reeling. In local hybrids 20 to

Silk - The Queen of Textile Fibres

30% silk comes as waste. The silk waste is divided into three parts:
1. Blaze and unreelable cocoons.
2. Reelable waste.
3. Throwesters waste.
Before spinning a cocoon, the larva builds a hammock an
anchorage to hold its cocoon. These are the first threads secreted
by the silkworm, when it mounts a cocoonage to form its cocoon.
The quality is poor and the quantity is small, but it can be used for
noil spinning. Some wastage occurs while finding the end of cocoon
filament before reeling. This is known as Knubbs or Kibizzo,
although the term basically refers to reeling waste in respect of
univoltine quality.
Throwing is the process of combining several reeled strands to
make a yarn. The number of strands are combined and the amount
of twist they are given is determined by the use to be made out of
the yarn. Thrown or reeled silk yarns are classified as singles,
tram and organzine.
Singles: Singles are strands of raw silk consisting of three to
ten double filaments to which twist may not have been added.
Tram silk: It consists of two or more strands of singles slightly
twisted together. These are generally used for filling and are often
made from imperfect fibres.
Organzine: It is formed by twisting yarns in opposite
directions. As this is used for warps it needs to be strong and is
therefore made from the best strongest fibres.
Silk and sericulture remained as a sector for women in almost
all third world countries. It is also noticed that till this tradition
continued, position of women in their respective family was higher

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

and atrocities on women was almost unknown. But with
introduction of modern technology like filature, spinning mills and
modern textile mills. Role of women in economic activities was
reduced, they consequently lost their status and atrocities
increased. It also caused widening of gap between absolute poor
and absolute rich. If we have to consider benefit of our society, we
shall have to consider the social cost of women development.
Chemical structure of silk
Approximately 66% of raw silk is the fibre of fibrion, 22%
sericin, 11% water and 1% oil and colouring matter. In order to
free the fibrion from
its glue like case of
serecin and render it
capable of acquiring




that will enhance the

beauty and sheen of




necessary to find a

Figure 6.4

solvent for sericin. Silk like wool is a protein fibre. Therefore, it

yields amino acid upon hydrolysis CO-NH groups. It is quite
similar to wool in general behaviour.
Heat: Silk can be heated to a higher temperature than wool
without disintegration. However, if white silk is held at 231 F for
fifteen minutes it becomes pale yellow. For this reason, silk
garments must be dried carefully after laundering and should be
pressed quickly with an iron that is not too hot. Silk disintegrates
above 330 F.
Silk is attacked by the ultraviolet rays of the sun and acid
forming gases and moisture. Weighted silk is more quickly injured

Silk - The Queen of Textile Fibres

than pure silk. After six hours of exposure to an ultraviolet lamp
silk loses 50% of its strength.
Water does not permanently affect silk fibre. It decreases about
20% strength when wet. It regains its original strength after
drying. The fibre swells, but does not dissolve when steeped in
warm water.
Acids: Silk is more readily affected by the action of strong
acids such as sulphuric, nitric, and hydrochloric than wool,
dissolving readily in these reagents. Dilute solution of nitric acid
produces a bright yellow colour on silk similar to that formed with
wool. Silk is affected by hydrochloric acid in any form. This fact
permits the use of this acid in separating wool from silk in
analysis. If silk is treated with concentrated sulfuric acid only for a
few minutes and then rinsed and neutralized, it shrinks and has
less lustre but shows little loss in strength.
Dilute acids are readily absorbed by silk. They increase the
lustre and develop a scroop. Tannic acid is used as a mordant and
in weighting.
Bleaches: When entirely degummed the silk fibres need little
bleaching. If the fibre is not white or incase some of the gum is
retained bleaching is done with the same reagents which are used
for wool namely sodium peroxide. Javelle water makes silk yellow
and tender. Javelle water contains sodium hypochlorite which
tends to decompose and liberate chlorine. Chlorine is a good
oxidizing agent. It attacks stains and colours and in case of silk
attacks the fibre also.
Dyestuff: Dyestuff are absorbed by silk more readily and at a
lower temperature than any other natural fibre. Since it is a
protein fibre it possesses both acid and basic properties and
therefore reacts with both basic and acid dyes.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Perspiration: Silk garments often break under the armpit or
across the shoulder before the remainder of the garment is worn
out owing to the effect of perspiration. Deodorants which contain
aluminium chloride also cause a tendering of the fabric.
Perspiration becomes alkaline and tenders the silk.
Weighting: Silk fabrics, if woven in the gum are somewhat
stiff, and yellow. When the gum (serecin) is removed prior to the
finishing and dyeing process, 20-25% of the weight of silk is lost.
Silk manufacturers sometimes use metallic salts in processing silk.
Stannic chloride is used for weighting unless the material to be
used is to be dyed black. In that case, iron salt and logwood are
Physical characteristics of silk
It is the most expensive textile fibre. It is stronger than any
other natural fibre. It retains 80% of its strength when wet. It has
the advantage of being the lightest in weight. Silk is the longest,
lightest in weight, strongest for equal cross-section and finest of all
natural fibres. Silk absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. Silk is
a poor conductor of electricity. Scroop, that peculiar crackling
sound which is emitted when silk is rubbed together or squeezed in
the hand, may be said to be acquired rather than natural.
One of the properties of silk that makes it a practical fabric for
garments is the ease with which it can be cleaned. The smooth
surface and freedom from short fibres causes it to shed dust and
give a good appearance.


Silk - The Queen of Textile Fibres

Characteristics of Silk Fibre
Microscopic appearance

Longitudinal-double transparent filament


300-1000 yards


9 to 11 microns


Light to dark cream




4.0- 5.5 grams per denier


High (15-20%)

Heat conductivity

Scorches easily

Water absorbency


Standard regain


Effect of moisture

Reduces strength by 20% and increases


Effect of sunlight

Very sensitive

Attack by mildew


Attack by moth


Attack by carpet beetle


Effect of acids

Less resistant than wool

Effect of alkali

More resistant than wool



SWOT Analysis of Silk Industry in India

The silk industry enjoys a growing domestic market since
silk is a part of a culture and recognised as a symbol of
purity one product viz., saree consumes over 85% of silk
produced and saree as a garment is one of the most elegant
dresses in the world.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Silk being a natural fibre enjoys increased patronage in the
highly ecology and environment conscious world.
Silk is exclusive and considered a luxury item along with
gems and jewellery. It would therefore enjoy the support
from the upper strata and growing middle class.
Silk is an important bridal wear.
There appears to be no dearth for traditional saree designs
for creating exclusive items.
Hand-woven silks are extremely popular in the west export
markets which are wide open with no threats of quota like
other fibres.
Silk is only 0.2% of the total textile fibres produced and this
percent share is expected to decrease with steep increase in
production of other fibres. This situation would maintain an
increase in demand for natural silk.
With lightweight silk becoming popular for dress material
and printed sarees the market for silk is getting broad based
within the country.
India holds a monopoly in the production of yarn dyed silk.
The industry in all sectors of production is highly
decentralized. It is also seen as a cottage industry activity.
The decentralized nature of the industry has failed to attract
the attention of business and commercial banks, resulting in
poor financial support to the activity.
The producers such as rearers, reelers, weavers, dyers and
printers do not have the capacity to invest to adopt new

Silk - The Queen of Textile Fibres

technology. The obsolete and outdated equipment used
cannot do quality production, and is not cost effective.
No availability of skilled labour.
Silk as a natural fibre is more acceptable to both domestic
and export markets.
The domestic consumption of silk is estimated to cross
25,000 MT in the next few years. If quality aspects are kept
in view, sky is the limit for India silk.






opportunity exists in the export of garments besides

quantity increase.





opportunities for gainful employment to women

The inability of the silk industry to react to the changing
needs in terms of quality in the domestic and export market
is a major concern.
The basic producers being financially weak may not be in a
position to face the stiff challenges of the market in the
coming years. The market demand for better and better
quality products of lower prices is bound to exert a lot of
pressure on the production activity.
Heavy dependence on imported silk yarn for export is risky.
Any change in Chinese policy could jeopardise Indian export.
Exporting unit are not very innovative in design and colour
combination. This could be a drawback in the ever-changing
trends and taste in the export market.

Chapter 7: The Non-Thermoplastic Man-Made

Fibres - Rayon

ll the man-made fibres have some process in common.

They have been produced from non-fibrous material, in

the process loose their fibrous nature to being in viscous state to be

reformed into fibre. This is done to by forcing the solution through
the device called spinnerets. All the fibre then coagulates or
hardens within a reasonable time after leaving the spinnerets so
that they will not stick together and may be wound on bobbin or
cones, or be deposited in pots as cakes of yarn to be readied for
conventional processing into fabrics.
The non-thermoplastic group of man-made fibres include
several subgroups: those of cellulosic origin, alginates, minerals,
and protein based fibres. The largest group at present are the
fibres of cellulosic origin all of which are identified as rayon in the
Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The non-thermoplastic fibres, except for the mineral fibres may
be cared for much as cotton, linen, silk or wool whichever they
most resemble, both in visible characteristics and in their reaction.
They are not softened by heat so will not melt if ironed although
they will scorch if ironed at sufficiently high temperature. As a
group they are soft absorbent, pliable, comfortable to wear, do not
pill, do not accumulate static charge and are not subject to attack
by moths. In longitudinal view under the microscope, in common
with most other man-made fibres they look alike. All appear as
smooth rods, black specked if delustred but with no characteristic
by which the individual fibres can be positively identified.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

The Rayons (Cellulosic Fibre)
Rayon is a manufactured fibre composed of regenerated
cellulose in which substituents have replaced not more than 15% of
the hydrogen of the hydroxyl group. By this definition rayon
includes viscose rayon, cuprammonium rayon, Fiber E fortisan,
Topel, corvel Fiber Fm 27, Avril (Fiber 40, Zantrel).
It is an interesting fact that much of the rayons early
development is tied to the attempt to develop filament for
incandescent electric lamps, then newly discovered by Thomas
Alva Edison.
Many developments of rayon explore in considerable detail the
early suggestions and attempts for making artificial silk without
the benefit of silk worm. Dr. Robert Hooke and Rene F. Reaumur
who predicted such a possibility in 1664 and 1710, respectively. F.
G. Keller (1840) inventor of a mechanical process for producing
wood pulp, and Louis Schwabe (1840) who experimented with a
crude type of spinneret for drawing thread for drawing various
solutions through holes in thread form.
Nitrocellulose was the first to be produced successfully and
commercially. The early history of this kind is of importance. In
1855, Georges Aeudamers (Switzerland) patented a process of
transforming nitrocellulose solution into fine threads.
The rayon and staple fibre handbook has given this account of
Chardonnets work:
From a textile point of view, Count Hilare de Chardonnet
began his work in 1878 and obtained his first French patent on









predecessors Hooke, Reaumur, Audamers Ozanam, Weston,

Huges, Powell, Evans, Wynne, Crooks and Swinburne. His labour
won him by general acclaim the title of father of rayon industry.

The Non-Thermoplastic Man-Made Fibres - Rayon

He was a purposeful research worker, a pupil of Pasteur and
trained at the Ecole Polytecnic of Paris. Chardonnet made a
careful study of the silk worm and its method of producing silk. He
based his procedure on this study to exhibit the fruit of his labour
in 1889. The great Paris Exhibition attracted the attention of
capitalists, who provided the funds for the first artificial silk
factory at Bensancon, his birthplace, using the nitrocellulose
process. Within two years many technical problems were overcome
in connection with large scale production, denitration and
rendering the filament non-inflammable. This marked the birth of
the commercial rayon factory. The process was crude and many
improvements and modifications had to be made. But Chardonnet
lived to see the fruit of his labour. He saw the commercialization of
rayon before he died in 1924.
Improvements have been made ever since the first rayon was
produced by Chardonnet. Today we have rayons which have little
resemblance to their originals. We now have rayons varying in
lustre from dull to very bright, in a wide range of deniers from very
fine to coarse. To date rayon is consumed in large amounts for
fabric usage and is very cheap compared to cotton.
How is rayon used?
Rayon and acetate both found usage in home furnishing 27%,
juniors wear 17% and boys wear 9% and girls wear 2%. Most of the
rayon and acetate was used for tires, cords, transportation
upholstery, tents, carpets rugs, curtains, bedspreads, coats, knitted
wear, woven underwear, suits, blouses, skirts and other items. A
large amount went into nightwear and underwear. The rayon fibre
has a number of properties in common with each other and with
cotton and linen. They burn readily with a yellow flame and with
the odour of burning paper or cotton leaving a little cobwebby
residue which crumbles into fine, powdery grey ash. The rayon

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

may be successfully fire retardant treated, they are all sensitive to
acids but are not generally damaged by alkali. Most of them have
low resiliency and elasticity and without special crease resistant
treatments wrinkle considerably and need to be ironed frequently.
Crease resistant treatments are very commonly applied to many of
the fabrics made from these fibres.
Manufacturing process of rayon
Preparation of cotton linter cellulose: linter are small fibres
adhering cotton seeds. They are removed after ginning. They are
removed at the mill where the seed has to be used for oil and other
products. All linters are removed from the process called mill run
or in two ginning processes. If the two are used the first ginning
cuts are used by the mattress industry or for cheap qualities of
cotton fabric. The second and the shorter cut is less expensive and
is cleaner. It becomes the cotton for chemical cotton, much of which
is utilized in the man-made industry. The initial quality of the
linters depends on their quality of the linters and the condition in
which the seed has been received at the mill. Different lots of
linters are blended to achieve a uniform quality of chemical cotton.
The cleaned blended linters are carried to the digester where the
fibres are mixed with dilute caustic soda solution (NaOH) then are
carried into the digesters for cooking process. Temperature,
pressure, time, and proportion depend on the product desired, all
processes are carried out under carefully controlled conditions. At
the right time the linters are removed from the digester and
washed in soft water to stop the action of the alkaline solution. The
cooked linters are then bleached with chlorine, rewashed
thoroughly and dried. The method of utilizing these linters for the
manufacture of linen differs for each process and the difference in
method results in characteristic differences in the quality of fibres
and hence fabric.

The Non-Thermoplastic Man-Made Fibres - Rayon

Spinnerets are also called spinning jets, must be made with
extreme care and polished until no possibility of the slightest
roughness remains anywhere. The instruments of making holes in
the spinnerets are finer than the human hair and the holes should
be uniform in size and exceedingly smooth. Spinnerets are made
from platinum and platinum alloy for viscose rayon and other
processes where fibres coagulate in chemical baths but may be
made of steel or other metals for air or water coagulating
Viscose rayon

Figure 7.1
Viscose rayon is largely cellulose which is prepared by
processing wood or cotton, but in dissolving the original cotton or
wood and regenerating the cellulose in a new fibre the degree of

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

polymerisation has been reduced. This accounts for many
differences in properties, especially the greater sensitivity of rayon
than cotton to physical and chemical change.
Viscose rayon can be made from purified cellulose, which is
prepared from processing wood or cotton linters or a mixture of the
two. When received at the rayon plants the cellulose sheets are
unpacked and stored in rooms where the temperature and relative
humidity are under control. A pound of viscose fibre requires
approximately these amounts of various raw material 1.15 lbs of
wood cellulose, 1.0 lbs of sodium hydroxide, 0.4 lbs of carbon
disulfide, 1.5 lb of sulphuric acid, 1.0 lb of sodium sulphate, 0.2 to
0.5 lbs of glucose or corn sugar and 800 to 1700 lbs of soft
chemically pure water. Sodium sulphate adds strength and is said
to be responsible for the serrated cross-sectional shape. The
glucose or corn sugar gives pliability and softness to the yarn. The
coagulated fibres are lead through a guide to a bobbin or to a
spinning pot that rotates rapidly inserting a little twist into the
filament by centrifugal force, throwing the resulting yarn to the
outside edges of the pot so that the cake of the yarn is built from
the outside edges of the pot so that the cake of the yarn is built
from the out side in toward a hollow center (Figure 7.1).
The diameter of the fibre is dependent on the amount of stretch
imparted. The size of the holes also do have an influence on the
diameter of the fibre. The stretch orients the fibre into making the
molecular chains more parallel, thus increasing crystallinity and
giving added strength and rigidity. At the same time reducing
pliability. Coagulating the fibres in a liquid bath is known as wet
After being coagulated in the acid bath as filaments and
collected in pots, on bobbins the fibres or yarns are washed to
remove all traces of chemicals. Sometimes they are bleached

The Non-Thermoplastic Man-Made Fibres - Rayon

although most rayon come through processing in a nice white
colour. Fibres in all forms are than dried on a trip through a
tunnel dryer. Fibres and yarns are then ready for handling on
regular equipment in the same way as other fibres of comparable
length. Oil is often added to the fibres as a lubricant before
packaging to soften and protect them in weaving and spinning.
Instead of individual steps for this process a continuous
method has been developed and is in use in several plants. By this
method the filaments as they come in coagulating baths are run
over a series of moving reels with very accurate controls, where
continuous sprays of the various finishing solutions fall upon each
filament along a fixed part of the route; by the time the last reel is
reached the filament has had all the treatments, are dry and ready
for twisting and winding in skeins or on cones. The reels are
adjustable so that any degree of stretch may be applied to the
fibre, which is still not set from their coagulating bath.
Under the microscope in longitudinal view, viscose rayon fibres
appear much as smooth glass rods although under high
magnification striations may be visible parallel to the fibre length.
In cross-section the fibres may be round, oval or flat but all
show serrated edges. The typical serrated edge is a positive means
of identifying the fibre.
Elongation varies from 9 to 30%. Rayon exhibits a property
called creep or delayed elasticity. It takes days to get back in its
shape after it has been stretched. Elasticity and resiliency both are
low, so that rayon wrinkles badly unless treated with special
finishes. Resin treatments on rayon are more successful than any
other man-made fibre and is usually quiet permanent. The specific
gravity of rayon is 1.52 about the same as cotton which is medium

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

among fibres. It is very absorbent and exhibits about 11 percent
hygroscopicity. It dyes in darker colours than cotton does. Dyes
must be chosen carefully for mixtures and blends, or the rayon will
have exhausted the dye even before the other fibre has had a
chance of even getting wet. Rayon does not accumulate static
electricity. Resin finishes may alter some of these properties.
Viscose looses some strength on prolonged exposure to sun light. It
is more resistant to light than silk but less than acetate orlan, and
fortisan. Rayon can be satisfactorily laundered like cotton and can
be ironed at the same temperature as cotton. Boiling and
sterilising the fabric is not advisable. Clean dry viscose is not
attacked by moth and mildew.
Cuprammonium process
The first step is to moisten the cellulose with dilute caustic
soda then to mix the cellulose thoroughly with semi gelatinous
form of copper hydroxide. The right proportions of copper ammonia
and cellulose are necessary if the cellulose has to dissolve







approximately, 4 percent copper, 29 percent ammonia and 9 to 10

percent cellulose. The free liquid is pressed out and the mass
washed with water, which does not affect the copper hydroxide
that is left on the cellulose fibres. The mass is then squeezed
through a metal sieve and placed in a vacuum tank where all air is
removed to prevent oxidation during the next ripening stage. The
air free mass is mixed with ammonium hydroxide and left to ripen
for 24 hours. During this stage, Schiweitzrs reagent, a dark blue
solution is formed by reaction between the ammonia from the
hydroxide and the copper hydroxide deposited on the cellulose. The
mixture dissolves the cellulose and forms a thick viscous fluid that
is the spinning solution (Figure 7.2).


The Non-Thermoplastic Man-Made Fibres - Rayon

Figure 7.2
The spinneret used is made of nickel and has larger holes than
those used for viscose. In addition to the spinneret the apparatus
consists of a long glass funnel with a glass nippled end, a source of
constantly running soft warm water introduced at a top area of the
funnel and a coagulating trough containing a weak acid solution.
From the coagulating bath the filaments are wound on bobbins or
collected in spinning pots for final washing and drying, or may be
carried on through a recently developed continuous process for
these final treatments.
The microscopic appearance is different from that of viscose
rayon. Rest of the properties are the same. When seen through the

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

microscope in cross-section, cuprammonium fibres appear as tiny,
smooth featherless circles. White cuprammonium does not yellow
with age because it has traces of copper remaining, it is more
resistant to mildew and mould than other cellulosic fibres.

Figure 7.3
Cuprammonium rayon is used for sheer dresses and curtain
fabrics, for tricot lingerie and hosiery. It is blended with silk and
with cotton.


Chapter 8: Man-Made Fibres

an-made fibres were first made experimentally in Europe

in 1857. Commercial production of man-made fibres
began in the United States in 1910. Production of a new fibre is a
long and expensive procedure. First, a laboratory research
program is set to discover a new material. When a promising
material is made it is patented to give the producer exclusive
rights to the process for a period of 16 years. Laboratory
procedures must then be converted into large scale production.
This is usually done in a very small plant called a pilot plant.
All the man-made fibres have some processes in common. They
have been produced commercially from non-fibrous material, or if
fibrous to begin with, have somewhere in processing lost their
fibrous nature and must then reform into fibre must then
coagulate or harden within a reasonable amount of time after
being extruded from the spinneret. After leaving the spinneret the
fibres must be wound on bobbins or cones or are deposited in pots
as cakes of yarn. The man-made fibres are divided into two groups:
non-thermoplastic and thermoplastic. The non-thermoplastics form
several subgroups, the largest group being of cellulosic origin, all
of which are identified as rayon. The non-thermoplastic fibres
except for the mineral fibres may be cared for much as cotton,
linen, silk, or wool whichever they most resemble, in their visible
characteristic and their reaction. They are not softened by heat, so
they do not melt on ironing. As a group they are absorbent, pliable,
comfortable, to wear, do not pill, do not accumulate static
electricity and are not subject to attack by moth. In longitudinal
look under the microscope they all look alike.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Heat Sensitive Fibres











Although all the eleven fibre families differ in chemical

composition and structure, they are grouped together because they
have many common properties of which heat sensitivity is the
most outstanding. These fibres are also referred to as synthetic or
thermoplastic, or chemical fibres.
Heat sensitivity is that property of a fibre that causes it to
shrink, soften, or melt when heat is applied. These properties are
not common with cellulosic or protein fibres.
The fibres differ in their degree of heat sensitivity and even
within a family the individual types may vary. For example, Orlon
38 type will shrink 20% or more when heat is applied. Whereas
regular orlon has very little shrinkage. This high shrinkage
property is used to advantage in factory process to create bulky
yarn or to give three-dimensional effects in pile and upholstery
fabrics. To create these effects blending is done with low shrinkage
fibres. On applying heat these heat sensitive fibres cringe to give a
buckle appearance.
Fabrics made from heat sensitive fibres were at first considered
difficult to stitch. But as compared to wool less work was required
to sew these fabrics. They just required some different techniques.
Nylon, for example, resists crease so it should be top stitched or
edge stitch the crease. When sewing nylon lower temperature is
required. Use very light pressing on seams. Use soft pressing pads
to prevent glazing.

Man-Made Fibres
Seam pucker which is caused by higher elasticity of the fabric
or by nylon thread, must be controlled by changing the tension and
stitch size. The needle should be smaller in size. Do not mark the
fabric with waxy chalks it leaves an oily mark on the fabric which
is difficult to remove.
Heat setting
Heat setting is defined as a heat treatment that gives shape
and size that will not change under conditions of intended use. The
heat used for setting must be higher than any temperature that
will be used later. Since higher temperature than that will cause
the fabric to loose off its set.
Heat setting may be done on the yarn, fabric or completed
article. Heat setting before scouring prevents wrinkles during
scouring. All heat setting is done before or during dyeing.
During the heat treatment the yarn or the fabric, or garment
must be held in shape in which it is to be set. It must be allowed to
shrink to some extent during setting or there will be possible
future shrinkage as the molecules readjust themselves to their
original unstretched condition.
Heat setting is done in boiling water, in a steam oven or hot
air. The time of treatment and the degree of heat determine the
success of the process. Interestingly fabric effects are achieved by
combining or altering heat-set and non-heat-set yarns in fabric.
The thermoplastic fibres have a lot of properties in common.
They are relatively non-absorbent and hygroscopicity is low,
therefore they are uncomfortable to wear in hot climates,
particularly if closely woven or knitted. They are easily washed
and quick drying. They tend not to stain easily. The water soluble
stains wash out readily. This is not always the case with oil bound
stains. Because of low moisture absorption and non-conductivity or

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

none at all, when conditions are right the thermoplastic fibres
accumulate charges of static electricity and their accompanying
annoyances. Most of them have excellent wrinkle resistance.
Because of low absorption, new classes of dyestuff and new
methods of dyeing have had to be developed for most of these
groups of fibres. Seam fraying is about the same problem as it is in
silk and other man-made fibres. In some instances however seam
edges may be heat sealed on thermoplastic fibre fabrics.
The thermoplastic fibres as seen under the microscope have all
the same longitudinal appearance as other man-made fibres with
no distinguishing characteristic for the different fibres. All these
fibres are immune to the attack of mildew and moth, moulds. They
are also non-allergic to human beings.
Static electricity also tends to cause the picking up and
retention of lint and dirt which may be held in pills giving a
garment a soiled and rough appearance. Staple fibres are more
subject to pilling than filament fabrics because the number of
exposed fibre ends is so much greater. Texturizing processes
reduce the problem of pilling.
Static electricity
Static electricity is generated by the friction of fabric rubbing
against itself or against other objects. If the electrical charge is not
conducted away, it tends to build up on the surface. Then when the
fabric comes in contact with a good conductor, the shock or rapid
transfer occurs. This transfer may produce sparks that in gaseous
atmosphere may prove to be hazardous and can cause explosions.
This is always a hazard in hospital operating rooms. Nurses are
forbidden to wear nylon or acetate uniforms in operating rooms
because of danger from ether fumes.

Man-Made Fibres
People who live in areas of extreme cold and dryness find it
particularly annoying since it is increased under these conditions.
Static electricity causes soil and lint to cling to the surface of the
dry fabric and dark colours become very unsightly. Brushing
simply increase the difficulty. The resins used for crease
Nylon is a generic name applied to a number of related
products. Nylon 6,6 was produced by the DuPont Company. It is a
manufactured fibre in which the fibre forming substance is any
long chain of synthetic polyamide having recurring amide groups
as an integral part of the polyamide chain. Nylon is composed of
carbon oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen as are the protein fibres.
But since it is not made of amino acids its properties are not like
that of silk or any protein fibre. In chemical structure, it is
composed of long straight chains with neither side chains nor
cross-linkage. Thus, the chains pack closely together In the fibre,
accounting for its smooth rather slippery quality.

Figure 8.1

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Nylon is polymerised by condensation reaction, under pressure
of adipic acid and hexamethylene diamine. The molecules of the
two substance hook together alternatively (copolymerisation) that
is a molecule unit of acid and a molecule unit of diamine, with the
elimination of water. The following formula demonstrates the
polymerisation of a unit molecule of nylon. Many such units make
up the nylon molecule. The process is controlled carefully to stop
polymerisation within a narrow range, or the chains would become
too long to possess the characteristic desired in a textile fibre.
From polymerisation to cold drawing there are several steps in
the production of nylon. The acid and the amine are put together
in a huge kettle equipped with a stirrer, which mixes thoroughly,
forming a salt, then the mixture and some water are fed into an
evaporator where the solution is dried to a desired consistency and
concentration of the salt. The concentrated salt solution is fed into
a jacketed autoclave where a sequence of high temperatures and
pressures induce copolymerisation of the two materials to
molecular chains of the desired length. The water evolved from the
autoclave is removed by evaporation. Nitrogen is bubbled through
the autoclave to ensure that air does not get in and the newly
formed nylon gets exposed to oxygen. From a slot at the bottom the
molten nylon resin is extruded in the form of a thick, white,
translucent ribbon and a spray of water cools the ribbon and
causes it to harden as it is carried away from the autoclave to a
casting wheel. The ribbon has an appearance similar to white taffy
and is quiet hard.
The next step is to break the ribbon up in to small pieces in a
chipping unit, ready for forming into fibres. The process for
spinning nylon is melt spinning.


Man-Made Fibres

Figure 8.2
Nylon is composed of carbon hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen as
are the protein fibres, but since it is not made up of amino acids its
properties are not like those of protein substances. In chemical
structure it is believed to be composed of long straight chain
molecules with neither side chains nor cross-linkages. Thus, the
chain pack close together in the fibre accounting for its smooth
slippery quality.
Nylon 6,6 is produced from an acid and a diamine which has in
turn been produced from other material actually going back to
petroleum and coal tar derivatives. Nylon is polymerised by








hexamethylene diamine. The molecules of the two substances hook

together alternatively (copolymerisation) that is a molecule unit of
acid and a molecule unit of one diamine then acid again and so on
repeatedly with the elimination of water. Many such chains
makeup the fibre. The process is controlled carefully to stop
polymerisation within a narrow range or the chain would become
too long to posses the characteristic desired in a textile fibre.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Figure 8.3
Cold drawing is the process that gives nylon many of its
qualities for which it is most noted, that is great strength,
toughness, elasticity, abrasion resistance. Drawing is carried out
as for other fibres by passing the filament over rollers which
revolve at different controlled speeds. Nylon is drawn three to
seven times its original size. Drawing orients the molecular chain
in the direction of the fibre axis, lines the chain up parallel to each
other and permits a high degree of crystallinity of the fibres.
Crystallinity tends to give a rigid structure to the fibres. Despite
drawing the nylon fibre still retains greater elasticity than most
other fibres. After drawing, nylon may be given an oil or antistatic
spraying, twisted and heat set before being wound on the bobbins
for weaving knitting or lacing. Heat setting is necessary to
stabilize nylon in shape and dimensions. Nylon may be stabilized
yarn, as woven or knitted fabric or as a knitted garment.
Nylon has a somewhat cool clammy feel in filament form. Some
people like this feel and others dislike it as much. Nylon is
lustrous, white fibre, transparent to translucent, that can in
common be made in varying diameters, lengths and degrees of

Man-Made Fibres
abrasion resistance and lustre. Its translucency has led to
dissatisfaction at the consumer level. Nylon is both tough and
pliable. Nylon does not flame readily, but burns slowly or fuses
and drops off if flame is applied to it. It burns with the odour of
cooking green beans or celery and as it burns or melts forms a
waxy roll along the edge which becomes hard and tough as it cools.
Regardless of the colour of the nylon fabric the curled, waxy edge is
a light tan colour after burning. Although nylon may be termed
non-flammable, the fusing and dropping off present a great hazard
in many ways. Finishes may change this quality of nylon as it does
for other fibres.
Nylon is potentially the strongest of fibres. The wet strength of
nylon is 85% of dry strength. Elongation is 18 to 37 percent. Nylon
has a specific gravity of 1 to 1.4. Absorbency is low. Hygroscopicity
is 4 percent. The low hygroscopicity amounts to accumulating
static electricity. Nylon is somewhat rigid and does not drape as
well as the acetates or silk. It is quick drying. Does not stain
readily, it tends to pick up colour grease and soil in laundering
with other garments, therefore white and pastel nylon needs
separate laundry. Nylon is not affected by cold temperature but
looses strength and yellows at sustained high temperatures.
Ironing should be done at low temperature to prevent softening,
glazing or melting and eventual discolouration. Nylon possesses a
fair wrinkle resistance and crease recovery. It has excellent
abrasion resistance, because of its strength and elasticity it is
considered a very durable fibre.
Nylon is degraded by exposure to sunlight, it leads to
considerable loss in strength in a short time. It is very less
sensitive to light degradation than silk.


Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Acetate is the second of the man-made fibres produced by
DuPont. Cellulose is the base material for the preparation of
acetate. In addition to purified cellulose, the production of acetate
requires glacial acetic acid, acetic anhydride, sulphuric acid,
acetone and water.

Figure 8.4
The purified cellulose is pre-treated by moistening with acetic
acid in order to start reaction before the acetylation process begins.
The acetylators are huge closed system mixing tanks equipped
with a stirrer and jacketed to permit circulation of liquid or air

Man-Made Fibres
around them so that the temperature can be controlled at the
range of 35 to 120F.
Exact amount of acetic anhydride, glacial acetic acid and
sulphuric acid are put in the acetylator, mixing and cooling to
about 45 degrees. Then the moistened cellulose in amounts of 200
to 300 lb. is added gradually with constant kneading by the stirrer
blades. The temperature is held below 68F for an hour and then
held below 86F for the rest of the acetylation period of 5 to 8
During acetylation the fibrous structure of the cellulose has
disappeared and the mixture has become transparent, acrid
smelling, viscous fluid having the smell of molasses.
From the acetylator the viscous triacetate is run into tanks
containing water and weak acetic acid. The mixture is allowed to
stand for 20 to 50 hours for partial deacetylation. At this stage the
viscous fluid is run into water, which precipitates the secondary
acetate as white crumbs like flakes. The flakes are washed
thoroughly in huge vats In order to remove and recover all
remaining acetic acid. Dry spinning is done to procure acetate.
Then it is passed through spinnerets.The difference in speed
between winding of the bobbins and emergence of fibres, helping to
control diameter, orient the molecules and increase fibre length.
When drawn from the spinneret acetate is a finished fibre
needing no further processing except lubrication as it is wound on
the bobbin.
Acetate has a soft, smooth, cool, pleasant feel. It is rich in
appearance and has excellent draping characteristics. Acetate is
pure white in colour, and yellows only slowly with age and use
compared with silk, wool and rayon.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Acetate melts or burns depending on the weight and
construction of the fabric. The absorbency and hygroscopicity of
acetate are lower than that of other fibres. The specific gravity is
1.32. It is considerably weaker when wet than dry. It is heat
Acetate dissolves completely in acetone, and this is a commonly
used method for identifying the fibre quickly.
Acetate is used in dresses, blouse, lingerie, bathing suit, sports
wear, gloves, ties and robes for men and all kinds of garments for







comforters and rugs.

Acetate is used for cargo, parachutes and all sorts of








Mineral Fibres
Glass fibres are inorganic polymers based on silicon rather
than carbon. Making of glass textile fibre has developed largely








mechanically drawing the fibre out into fine enough filaments to

enable the yarns made from them to be folded, woven and knotted
without breaking.
The U.S. produces and uses most of the glass fibre in the world.
In 1958, the leading countries were U.S., France, Japan, Canada
and Sweden.
The raw material for glass fibre is sand, silica and limestone,
combined with additives of feldspar and boric acid sand is the

Man-Made Fibres
main ingredients. Sand suitable for glass making should be high in
silica and low iron and other undesirable impurities.
The raw material are placed in a batch furnace at a
temperature of over 300 F where the ingredients melt and form a
colourless, transparent, homogenous, viscous liquid, which is the
molten glass. Until recently the molten glass has been dropped. In
small amounts to form clear, greenish coloured marbles and these
were later melt spun.

Figure 8.5
Formation of the fibre from marble is simple as can be seen
from the diagram. The marbles are placed in a small furnace

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

(hooper) in which a temperature of 2500F is maintained, above
the spinneret device and winding equipment. As the marbles melt
and gravity forces the molten glass to flow downwards into the
brushing box, the bottom of which has more than 200 tiny holes.
The bottom of the brushing box with its holes serves the same
purpose as spinneret.
As the molten streams of glass emerge into the air, they begin
to congeal, a sizing or other binder material is applied to prevent
abrasion, and they are wound into a tube. They then pass through
a lubricating spray and fall onto a rotating drum, forming a thin
gauge like sheet.
Drawing the fibres into very fine diameter is essential in order
to obtain the flexibility necessary for a textile fibre.
Glass fibre and yarns are handled in processing fibres. This
finishing process is called coronizing. The first part is a heat
treatment of 5-20 seconds duration at 1200 F in a furnace for 3
purposes: (1) Burning off the lubricants or binder applied in
drawing. (2) Relaxation of tensions due to yarn processing and
weaving. (3) Relaxation of tension due to yarn.
After leaving the furnace it should be given an abrasion
resistance finish. This is usually one of the thermoplastic resins
which will form a protective coating around the glass fibre.
Pigments are added for colour.
(1) Diameter is 0.00023 microns.
(2) It is the strongest of most man-made fibres.
(3) Brittle and lacks pliability.

Man-Made Fibres
(4) It is non-absorbent and non-hygroscopic.
(5) It is water repellent and has a specific gravity of 2.25.
(6) It is subject to severe abrasion, and cuts each other if they
rub together.
(7) It is colourless, resistant to acids, alkali and each other
Drapery, curtains, tablecloth, lampshade, fire dust, iron board
cover, insulating electrical wires, parachute.
Asbestos (Fireproof, Acid Resistant, Low Pliability)
The fibre found by mining or quarrying these mines are blasted
free. The fibre is carefully separated from the crushed rock and
sorted according to fibre length properties.
It is 3/8 inches to 3/4 inches in length and having a small
Under the microscope the fibres looks like tiny polished rods,
very straight with no rough surfaces.
The physical structure of the fibre makes it difficult to spin,
into yarn because it lacks length and cohesiveness.
Asbestos is white or greyish in colour.
Asbestos fibres do not take dye readily.
Asbestos is used for padding, laundry presses and mangles
belting for conveying hot material, brake lining, gloves and
It is absorbent and has wicking properties.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Asbestos does not dye readily and colour is likely to be spotty
and have poor fastness.
It is used for flame proof clothing of many kinds of
laboratory, industrial and military purposes.
It goes into all types of protective equipment for fire fighting,
fire screens, fire blankets, insulation for steam and other hot pipes.
Asbestos is sometimes used with glass to create beautiful drapery
for hospitals, theatre, libraries, schools and other building.


Chapter 9: Polyesters


acron was the first polyester fibre introduced in 1953.

Exclusive patent was given to DuPont Co. of England. It

is a long chain polymer composed of 85% by weight of an ester of

dihydric alcohol and terephthalic acid (p-HOOC-C6H4-COOH).
Dacron found immediate acceptance in easy care, wash and wear
garments such as tricot blouses and mens shirts. Comfort properties
were improved by blending cotton in Dacron with 65% Dacron and
35% cotton. In 1959, three new polyesters hit the market.
Fortrel: Formerly known as teron, is produced under license
by fibre industries.
Vycron: It is produced by Beunit Mills and Co.
Kodel: The third fibre was developed by the Tennessee
Eastman Co. and is fundamentally different from other polyesters
so no license arrangement was needed.
The manufacturing of polyester fibres is quiet similar to nylon.
Both fibres are melt spun. Ethylene glycol and terephtlalic acid are
polymerised at high temperature in a vacuum kettle. The polymer
is a pasty substance which is extruded as a ribbon and cooled on a
casting wheel as a white porcelain like substance. The ribbon is
put through a chipping unit, dried and led into a hooper. The
polymer is solidified and cut into cubes which are melted and spun
into fibres. The fibres solidify in air and they are then hot
stretched to orient the molecules and reduce the denier of the fibre.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

The fibre is heat set before use. Polyester fibres are produced in
filament and staple form in bright and dull lustres in regular and
high tenacity strength and can be solution dyed.
The molecule unit of Dacron is heavy stiff and resilient. They
resist bending but recover from bending quickly. The molecule
chains are held together by numerous bonds of such a nature that
they cannot be relaxed by moisture, hence the fabric has good
wrinkle recovery.

Figure 9.1
The fibre has a smooth rod like shape which is typical of melt
spun fibres. Dacron 54 has a ribbon like shape which blends better
with cotton. Dacron 62 has a trilobal shape which is similar to silk.
Although nylon and the polyesters burn alike in some ways they
can be distinguished in some ways by the odour and smell with
which they burn. Both are relatively non-flammable in the
unfinished state. Both form tan beads when the melt hardens.
Some dyes may however cause a darker bead to form. Polyesters
have an aromatic odour, and a dark black soot. Nylons odour is
celery-like and the smoke is white.
Dacron type 62 is trilobal with a silk like appearance. It is
more susceptible to acids and alkalies and dyes more readily than
other regular Dacron.
The man-made fibres lacked the unique combination of
aesthetic properties of silk. Dacron and nylon achieved that goal.
The processing of Dacron was changed to finish that goal. Manmades are processed under tension by a continuing process rather
than a batch processing method. The Dacron fibre was processed

under very relaxed conditions. Finishing started with a heat
setting process which stabilizes the fabric to control width,
removes any wrinkle and imparts resistance to creasing.
The caustic soda treatment is given. In this treatment, part of
the fibre gets dissolved away like serecin of silk. As a result the
fabric structure is more mobile. To get weave crimp, the remaining
finishes of bleaching, colouring, washing and a final heat setting is
done to fix the colour and assure stability and are all done with the
fabric under completely relaxed conditions.
The trilobal shape has resulted from the shape of the holes in
the spinneret. Melt spun fabrics posses the ability to retain shape
of the spinneret holes.

Figure 9.2. Cross-section of Dacron.

Dacron has found usage in bedding, furniture, pillow fillings. It
can be sterilised, so it has found usage in hospital bed fillings and
pillow fillings.
Pilling is a common problem with Dacron fabrics. They require
blending with cotton and also finishing treatment to combat the
pilling problem.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Singeing is the most sought after finishing method to burn of
the linters on the surface of the fabric. The double flame burns off
the fuzz giving the fabric a neat appearance. When cooled the
fibres are set and locked in the yarn and the fabric structure. Both
treatments improve the hand and heat-setting improves drape and
wash and wear performance. Dacron is an opaque white fabric
with high strength and elongation of 20 to 48%. The specific
gravity is 1.38, because of its strength it can be drawn into a very
fine fabric with fine diameter. It can make very sheer fabrics.
The polyesters are more electrostatic than other fibres and
hence they attract more dirt quickly giving an untidy appearance.
Colour crocking is another disadvantage with many printed
Dacrons. Dacron has an affinity for oil. The collar of the garment
absorbs so much oil and grease that when it is washed the colour
of the collar also faded rendering the garment unuseable. Dacron
has however been popular in curtains because it has good light
resistance. Wicking is a property that makes Dacron quick drying
and easy to maintain. Dacron melts at 480 degrees. It has a good
resistance to some of the weak acids even at boiling temperature.
It is degraded by concentrated sulphuric acid. It is not affected by
The term Orlon refers to all types of acrylic fibres
and not to any single product or process. Acrilonitrile
polymer are the raw material used for the production
of Orlon. Orlon is considered the most silk like

synthetic fibre. Orlon is synthesized by addition type Figure 9.3

polymerization with one entire unit of acrilonitrile hooking to the
next entire unit and no condensation products to be disposed off. It
has been theorized that about 2000 such units combine to make
Orlon. Orlon does not have side chains in the fibres. But there are

numerous hydrogen bonds between adjacent chains in the fibre
accounting in large measure to stability and inertness to chemical
reaction. Orlon staple fibre has also wool like properties. At the
same time inherent properties make it outstanding in the
industrial field. The combination of properties of Orlon result in a
fibre most suitable for certain purposes other than nylon and
Dacron. Acylic fibres are produces by two companies and marketed
under the trade name of Acrilan, Creslan, Orlon and Zefran. These
fibres contribute to about 20% of the non-cellulosic man-made
fibres available in the market. Probably the most outstanding
qualities of these is its high resistance to heat, extreme sun-light,
and also to smoke and acid fumes. It has high tensile strength,
resistance to mildew, moth and insects.

Figure 9.4. Flow chart for Orlon production.

The surface of Orlon is serrated. The cross-section is dumbbell
in shape. They are widely used in mens, womens and childrens
sweaters. In this field, their high bulk, resiliency and easy care
make them superior to all other man-made fibres. Acrilan has been
very useful in carpeting because of its resiliency and good
resistance to abrasion.
Properties common to all acrylics:
Low density - Fabric feels light and airy.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Low to medium strength - Satisfactory.
Differential shrinkage and good recovery - Warmth, good
cover maintains loft. The fabric has high bulk.
Excellent resistance to weathering - It is good for outdoor
Low moisture absorption and wicking - Quick drying, easy
spot removal.
Thermoplastic - can be heat set. Durable pleats. The fabric
has good dimensional stability.
Resistant to insects and mildew - No storage problem exists
for Orlon, it is not attacked by insects and mildew.
The process of manufacturing Acrilan is more or less the same
as that of Orlon. Acrilan is a copolymer of acrylonitryl and vinyl
acetate, although some other substances may replace a part of the
latter material. The polymer is a white powder which is
centrifuged and then dried in a heated revolving drum after
polymerization. The spinning solvent is dymethyl acetamide.

Figure 9.5. Cross-section of Acrilan.


Acrilan is wet spun with equipment similar to that used for the
spinning of rayon. Drawing temperatures are not specified. After
drawing, the fibre is crimped cut into staple length and baled for
Acrilan has a specific gravity of 1.17, strength similar to
acrylic. The strength, absorbency, hygroscopicity, lightweight, with
warmth and high covering power are similar to those properties in
Orlon. Acrilan does not have the cashmere like softness of Orlon
and is less sunlight and weather resistant. It has excellent wrinkle
resistance and crease recovery. It has a crisp, springy and wool
like hand.
Like other acrylic fibres it contains substances other than
acrylonytrile to give it a better affinity to dyeing. It is produced in
deniers from 2 to 15 and in length from 1 to 6 inches. It is
available in bright and semi dull lustres and is crimped

Figure 9.6. Cross-section of Creslan.


Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Uses of Creslan is also similar to that of Orlon and Acrilan that
is to say in sweaters, other knitted goods, fur like fabrics, blankets,
and other items for which bulk, warmth, and lightweight are
desired. It is used for raincoats, suits, jackets, dresses, and
childrens outerwear.
Zefran is also composed of acrilonitryl and limited amount of
other substances. Zefran is made of material which might be
expected to copolymerize, the way in which the substances have
been induced to join in the molecular chain are unique. This
results in a chain backbone structure of acrilonitryl with other
substances hooked on as a side chain type tail. The tail material is
highly dyeable and absorbent, resulting in a Zefran fibre with some
of the advantages of a thermoplastic and non-thermoplastic fibres.

Figure 9.7. Cross-section of Zefran.

Zefran resembles the acrylics in most of its properties although
the unique structure results in some differences. Its specific
gravity is 1.19, tenacity is average 3.4 gms/denier, strength can be
varied from relatively low to high, and wet strength is about 95%

of dry strength. It is slightly less heat sensitive than acrylics.
Elongation is about 30%. Hygroscopicity is 2.5 %. It is wrinkle
resistant, dimensionally stable and washable. Zefran is white in
colour and has a round cross-section. It can be heat set and is said
not to pill. It is soft, warm, comfortable and drapable. Because of
its absorbent tail Zefran can be dyed by conventional methods with
most of the dyestuffs used for the fibre.
Dynel is a copolymer of 40% acrilonitrile and 60% vinyl
chloride, processed in the same way as in acrylic. Polymerization
takes place in the same way in an autoclave under controlled heat
and pressure. Acetone dissolves the Dynel resin: air is exhausted
in a vacuum tank before spinning. The viscous solution is forced
through metered pumps and through spinnerets, and the fibres are
coagulated in a water bath. After drying, the filaments are hot
drawn to as much as thirteen times of their original length to
orient the molecular chain. Fabrics are later heat set to relax
strain and tension within the yarn in order to give good
dimensional stability.

Figure 9.8. Cross-section of Dynel.


Natural and Man-Made Fibres

It has a specific gravity of 1.30, one of the most heat sensitive
fibres. It has good covering power and insulative ability with fairly
lightweight. Hygroscopicity is 0.4%, dry strength is 95%. Excellent
winkle recovery. Hot water deluters Dynel. It is resistant to most
chemicals, but dissolves in acetone and other ketones. It can be
dyed readily with number of dye stuff, in a wide range of colours. It
may also be solution dyed. It is resistant to perspiration.
It is brought into use for apparel and house hold furnishing
such as dresses, fleece coats, sleeping garments, sportswear, mens
summer hats. Chemical resistant clothing is one of its most
important industrial uses. Dynel is used for making wigs, doll hair
which can be washed and set in a particular style and also redyed.
Verel is a copolymer of acrylonitrile and other unspecified
compounds. Its method of processing is not known. Verel is
produced in three degrees of stability which is apparently due to
differences in heat treatment and method or extent of drawing.
It is also prepared in two degrees of flammability.

Figure 9.9. Cross-section of Verel.


Relative hygroscopicity of Verel is 3.5 to 4%, which is higher
than most thermoplastic fibres. And it makes wearability more
comfortable. It is also less subject to static electricity problem. It is
extremely flame resistant. It has good resistance to weather
deterioration. A maximum safe temperature is 300F. The
chemical resistance of Verel is high. It can be easily dyed and is
stain resistant.
It finds usage in fur like pile fabric for coats, coat lining collar,
and other trims. It is also used in carpets and rugs.
The Nytrils
Darvan is a co-polymer of about equal amount of vinyl cyanide,
called vinylidene nitrile and vinyl acetate that copolymerize in the
molecular chain. Polymerization is done in autoclave kettle at a
temperature of 115 F. The polymer is precipitated. It is then dried
and subsequently dissolved for spinning with dimethyl formamide.
Spinning is done through a spinneret into a coagulating water
bath. The filaments are heat stretched and drawn, given antistatic treatment and cut into staple length for use.
The specific gravity of Darvan is 1.18. It is creamy white in
colour, soft and warm to touch. Its strength and elasticity are
medium. Elongation is 30% and it is resilient and wrinkle and
shrink resistant. Hygroscopicity is 2-3%. It does not pill. Darvan
has excellent weather resistance. It is less heat sensitive than
acrylic. It can be bleached with hypo-chloride.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

It is most commonly used for washable sweaters and other soft
knitted goods. It is also used as blends for many types of fabric.
The Sarans
Vinilidine chloride, vinyl chloride and a catalyst are mixed in a
reactor kettle and heated to obtain the basic resin powder. The





application of heat and extruded

through heated spinnerets and
coagulated in a water bath in
such a way as to cool it before
crystallisation can occur. This is

Figure 9.10

also called quenching. Then the fibre is immediately stretched to

about four times its original length to orient the molecular chains
within the fibre, to increase the strength and toughness and to
give fibres the desired fineness. A pigment is added to the melt
before extrusion if colour other than pale yellow is desired.
Saran is smooth fibre with round cross-section, and a specific
gravity of 1.70. Strength, toughness and elasticity are controlled by
the stretching process and are considered good. Saran does not
absorb at all. Abrasion resistance is good. Saran is stain and soil
resistant and can be easily cleaned. It will soften and char when
exposed to flame. It cannot be dyed.
Saran is utilised for apparel accessories, furnishings and
industrial items. It is also used for auto upholstery and seat
covers, luggage, carpets and rugs, wigs, doll hair, outdoor
furniture, domestic upholstery and drapery.

Rubber is not a true thermo-plastic fibre, it is heat sensitive
and requires much the same care as thermo-plastic fibres.
Latex, the milky sap of the rubber tree is mixed with specific
quantities of some other not so well known chemicals to prevent
air and light deterioration, extruded through fine porcelain tubes
which perform the same function as spinnerets for the other manmade fibres, then vulcanised in a special vulcanising oven.
Radiation is being used in place of vulcanising for curing some
rubber products.
The rubber fibre form the core for lastex yarns. They can be
dyed in pastel colours. After curing, the rubber fibre is put through
a bath of fine talc to facilitate handling.
In the process of covering the core with cotton, rayon, nylon or
other fibre yarns the elasticity and resiliency of the resulting
lastex yarn can be controlled to varied degrees of stretch and
recovery. These processes result in elastic yarns fine enough to be
knitted, woven and made into lace on conventional machines.
It is highly elastic. Properties of absorbency, comfort and hand
depend largely on the fibre used in covering the rubber core.
Lastex is heat sensitive and will deteriorate at high temperatures.
The many uses of lastex include womens foundation garments,
elasticised shoe fabrics, elastic hose, surgical bindings, swimsuits
and shirring yarns for machine shirring.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Spandex is a manufactured fibre in which the fibre forming
substance is a long chain synthetic polymer of at least 85% of
segmented polyurethane.
Two elastomeric fibres were discovered in late 1959. They are
Lycra and Vyrene. Both were trademarked fibres of the DuPont
All the processes and raw materials have not been reported, it
is said to require more complex chemical reactions than the other
fibres produced by the company. Lycra was formerly known as
Fibre K. Lycra is produced in monofilament form. Properties listed
for Lycra are white colour, dull lustre, high strength, good
abrasion resistance, sticking temperature is 347F and melting
temperature is 482F. Since Lycra is white in colour, it does not
need to be covered with other fibres and can be knitted either
covered or uncovered. Lycra is soluble in boiling di-methyl
formamide. It is said to be easily dyed and possess high resistance
to perspiration and cosmetic oils and lotions. Lycra is also expected
to find usage in surgical stockings, athletic uniforms and swim
Vyrene serves the same purpose as Lycra, but somehow it is
not so much in commercial production.


Chapter 10: Yarn

arn is a group name for an assemblage of fibres laid or

twisted together. The process of making yarns from fibres,

tow or liquid material is called spinning.

Figure 10.1. Packaged for weaving or knitting.

Yarns may be made and prepared through all steps ready for
fabric construction, in the plants where the fibres are processed or
For each fibre, the process of making yarn is different. Yarn
making is different for wool and different for balls of cotton which
are tightly packed baled cotton.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Processing of yarns
There are many large intricate machines for yarn making.
Somewhat different types of machines are required for wool, linen,
cotton and silk.
General processes
The general processes done to the fibre before making a yarn
are opening, picking, cleaning, blending, tinting, degumming,
scouring, bur picking, carbonizing, cording, combing or hackling,
drawing, spinning, winding, throwing, quilling, slashing and
Degumming is the removal of the serecin from raw silk. The
silk is soaked in warm soapy water, the gum on it is dissolved then
it is passed between parallel plates set closely enough to remove
any adhering gum or other matter. Short fibres are carried away
from degumming and made into spun silk.
Scouring is the process used on wool to remove grease.
Scouring operation is carried on with soap and ash at varying
temperature to clear foreign material from wool. A chemical
solvent in a closed system has been used recently, it results in a
open mass of soft-textured fibre. But it has high cost.
Bur picking and carbonizing
These are also processes for wool. They are methods for
removing bits of burs, sticks and other vegetable matters
remaining in wool. Carbonizing is done after scouring, it is a
treatment done by weak sulphuric acid or hydrochloric acid
heating to 200-220F.

Opening and blending
These two steps are carried on simultaneously and are
necessary for cotton and wool. The steel bands holding cotton
should be cut and cotton lifted out in quantities that can be opened
up in fluffy masses in early operation. Wool comes from the
scouring rooms after bur picking or carbonization, already fairly
well opened. All groups must have large clumps of fibres picked up
(this is called opening).
Blending is the mixing up of two different fibres of equal
weight or width, to ensure uniformity. Blending is accomplished
either by laying approximately equal amounts or exactly weighted
amounts of the fibres from the various bales or bags in thin layers.
Combing is a process used to produce yarns for a limited
number of fabric types in which smooth yarns of long fibres and
with considerable twist are used.
Drawing, spinning and winding
These are various parts of the same process. From two to six
card slivers or rovings are fed into the machine together to ensure
further uniformity.
Throwing is a process of what drawing, spinning and winding
are to natural fibres. The further step of slashing is the adding of
sizing material, such as starch, to warp yarn in order to give them
body, smoothness and strength to withstand the stresses of loom or
knitting machine operations. This treatment is not necessary for
filling yarns. Quilling is filling of the small spindles or quills that
fit inside the weaving shuttle.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Simple yarns
Simple yarns are composed of only one type of fibre and have
the same diameter, smoothness and twist, all along their length.
They are also defined by ASTM as self blended yarns.
Blended yarns
They are composed of two or more different types of fibres that
have been blended in processing.
Textured yarns
These have complex structure. They are also called novelty
yarns. They are produced by combining different yarns under
different tension. A third fine yarn is used to secure the texture
produced by the two main yarns. Examples of textured yarns are
cork-screw yarn, gimp, truffle, diamond, knot, spot, node or nub. A
cloth blanket with widely spaced warp yarns is woven, then the
filling is cut between the warp yarns are brushed in the desired
direction, or left unbrushed to form the caterpillar chenille yarn.
Yarn twist
Several fibres are twisted together in order to make yarns
strong enough for weaving, knitting or the construction and also
for durability in wear, and to give the type of surface to the fabric.
A certain amount of twist improves strength but overtwisting
decreases strength, and will itself break the yarn if over done.
Warp yarns are given considerable twist and rigors of weaving and
present as a frictionless surface as possible.
Filling twist
Filling twist may vary from zero of satins to the high degree of
twist which may cause kinking for crepe fibres.

Knitting yarns
Knitting yarns have little twist as soft texture is ordinarily
desired. Yarns may be given a hard amount of twist for such
fabrics as worsted twills, where the face of weave is visible.
Although the direction of twist in yarn is of concern primarily
to fabric producers. Direction of twist is defined by ASTM as S or Z
as follows:
When the yarn is held in vertical position, the spirals around
its central axis conform in direction of slope to the central portion
of the letter S and Z twist if the spirals conform in direction of
slope with the central portion of the letter Z.
S twist is a clockwise twisted yarn and Z twist is an
anticlockwise twisted yarn.

Figure 10.2
The direction of twist only matters in the construction of ply,
cord and textured balanced yarn, and in construction of certain
fabrics, such as crepes, in which tightly twisted filling yarns of
alternate and equal numbers of S and Z twist yarns form the
pebbles of the crepe, and prevent twisting of the fabric.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Classification According to Ply

Figure 10.3. Diagram of single ply and cord yarn.

Ply refers to the number of individual strands that make up a
yarn, and the manner in which they are put together. The terms
commonly used are simple ply and cord. A single (or one ply) yarn
is a yarn composed of single fibres which if untwisted will separate
into individual fibres, from which it was made.
A ply or multiple yarn is made up of two or more single yarns.
A cord yarn is made up of two or more ply yarns twisted
together. Mostly singles yarns are used for making fabrics like
gingham, flannel and satin. Cords are used for making stuff which
requires more strength e.g. ropes etc.
Complex single yarn
These may be single or 2 ply. In the single, the yarns are left
untwisted or slackly twisted at irregular intervals, in order to
produce soft sections, in a 2 ply slub the soft and fluffy portion is
held in place by a second that has more twist. Slub yarns are made
from staple fibres.
Flock yarns/flake yarns
These are single yarns in which small tufts of fibre are inserted

at irregular intervals and held in place by the twist of the base
yarn. It is used for fancy effect in suiting and dress fabric tweeds.
Complex ply yarn
Boucle yarn
These are tight loops projecting from the body of the yarn at
regular intervals, are of 3 ply construction fabrics by knitting or
Loop and curl yarn
It is of 3 ply construction. The base yarn is coarse and heavy
effect yarn forms loops or curl, made of single or a ply of 2 or more
Ratine and gimp yarns
The structure is same as other complex ply yarns. These have a
rough surface appearance. Gimp yarns have the loops on the ratine
yarn. They are soft but securely twisted yarns.
Nub or spot and knot or knop yarns
A nub or spot yarn is made on a special machine that permits
the base yarn to be held stationary while the effect yarn is
wrapped around it several times to build up an enlarged segment.
In knot or knop yarn, brightly coloured fibres are frequently added
to the enlarged knot.
Seed or splash yarn
It is the same as above but the shape of the enlarged knot
segment of splash yarn is elongated and that of the seed yarn is
Spiral or cork-screw yarns
In this type of yarn, the effect is obtained either by twisting

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

together yarns of different diameters or different fibre content or
by varying the rate of speed or the direction of the twist. Spiral
yarn has two or more single yarns of different sizes.
Chenille yarn
This resembles a caterpillar created special effects in fabrics
with a pile like surface on one side of the final fabric.
Core spun yarn
In this, a base or foundation yarn is completely encircled or
wrapped by a second yarn.
Metallic yarn
This is decorative. Complex yarns add texture and design to a

Figure 10.4


Figure 10.5


Figure 10.6

Figure 10.7
Textured yarn
A specific of yarns made by special types of manufacturing
processes made from either filament or staple fibre. Different types
of textured yarns are as follows:
Stretch yarns
These are with high level of elastic, extensibility and recovery.
Modified stretch yarns
These have some degree of stretch, but have been stabilised by
processing to control the stretch.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Bulk yarns
These are designed to add bulk to the fabric. Most textured
yarns are from the thermoplastic fibres.
Heat setting
It is the property of fibre for altering, modifying or influencing
the characteristics of the fibre through the application of controlled
heat e.g. pleat setting in nylon fabrics.
Other type of yarn manufacturing
Split film yarns
These are made from sheets of plastic film or plastic tape that
are cut into narrow ribbons which are stretched and the polymeric
molecules break apart into fibrils. These fibrils are then stretched
further to draw out the fibrils twist is added and the final yarn is
made. The process is used mainly for olefins.
Twistless yarn
These are made from fibres that are held together by an
Self twist yarns
These are 2 ply yarns. Two single yarns may be used, each is
twisted with alternating directions in small segment.
Fascinated yarns
These are made from a bundle of parallel fibres that are held
together by periodically having other fibres wrapped around the
bundle to hold it together.
Blending is a complicated and expensive process, but it makes
possible to build in a combination or properties which are

permanent. Not only blends are used for better functionality of
fabric, but also they are used for beauty of appearance and hand.
Two unlike strands of fibre may be twisted together as a ply
making a combination yarn. Mixtures, combinations and blends
give properties to fabrics that are different from those obtained
with one fibre only.
There is no perfect fibre. All fibres have good, fair and poor
characteristics. Blending enables the technician to combine fibres
so the good qualities are emphasised and the poor qualities are
minimised. Blending can be done at any stage prior to the spinning
operation. It can be done during opening-picking, drawing and
Several bales of fibre are laid around the picker and an armful
from each bale is fed alternatively into the machine.
Polymer blending
The raw materials for orlon and acetate have been dissolved
together as a single solution to make a fibre. This creates
possibility of a whole new field of fibres.
Blending is done for several reasons
To improve spinning, weaving and finishing.
Efficiency and uniformity of the product.
To obtain better texture hand and feel.
For economic reasons, expensive fibres can be extended by
blending them with more plentiful fibres.
To produce fabrics with better performance.










Chapter 11: Finishing

he properties of a fibre can be changed completely by a

finish. Pieces of the same fabric can be finished such that

they bear little resemblance to each other. A finish is defined as

anything that is done to a fibre either before or after weaving or
knitting to change the appearance (what you see), the hand (what
you feel) and the performance (what the fabric does).








mercerisation being the oldest of the finishing methods.

Finishing may be done in the mill where the fabric is
constructed or it may be done in a separate establishment by a
highly specialized group called converters. All fabric finishing adds
to the cost of the fabric.
Grey goods: Grey goods (grey, greige or loom state) are fabrics
regardless of colour, which have been woven on the loom and have
received no dry or wet or drying finishing operation.
Mill finished fabrics are those which can be sold and used
without converting although they may be sized or Sanforized
before they are sold.
Converted or finished goods are those which have received wet
or dry finishing treatment such as bleaching, dyeing, or embossing.
Finishes may be classified into:
Temporary finishes
Chemical finishes

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Mechanical finishes
Functional finishes
Some processes have to be carried on the fabric before
imparting the finish. The fabric after it leaves the loom has
impurities which interfere with the process of finishing.
This is the process of removing the sizing of the warp yarns. A
desizing substance sulphuric acid or an enzyme solubilises the
starch which is completely removed during washing.
Degumming or boiling off
These are terms used to describe the desizing of silk. Silk is
woven in the gum with serecin forming the protective layer for the
silk filament. Boiling off consists of washing in caustic solution.
Boiling off is also used as a desizing operation.
The principle involved in bleaching are the same. Bleaching
cleans and whitens grey goods. The natural fibres are off-white in
colour, because of the impurities they contain. Since those
impurities are easily removed from cotton. Most cotton grey goods
are bleached. Bleaching is also used to strip dye from fabrics which
have been imperfectly dyed or need to be redyed.
Kinds of bleaches
Chlorine bleaches are efficient bleaches for cellulosic fibres but
should not be used in concentrated solutions or at high
Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is also a good oxidizing bleach.
Sodium perborate is a powder bleach. It is a safe bleach for all
kinds of fibres.

Singeing is the process of burning of all lints on the surface of
the fabric. These protruding ends cause roughness, dullness,
pilling, and interfere with finishing. Singeing is the first finishing
operation for all smooth finished cotton fabrics. Singeing is usually
done by a gas flame singer. The fabric is first run open width over
a heated roller to dry it and then run on high speed through a gas
flame and into a water bath to extinguish any sparks. A desizing
agent is added to the water bath.
This is the treatment given to wool yarn or fibre with sulphuric
acid. The treatment destroys vegetable matter in the fabric and a
more level desizing can be achieved. Carbonizing also gives better
texture to all wool fibres.
Temporary finishes
These finishes stay on the fabric only till such time as it is
laundered. These may also be called renewable finishes. These
simple procedures can be renewed after each washing e.g. ironing,
starching. Various starches are used for starching cotton garments
like cornflour, arrowroot, sago, rice starch, gelatine, softeners,
resins and cellulose solutions. Some bleaches which are either
oxidising or reducing bleaches are also used as temporary finishes.
Mechanical Finishes
Calendering, pleating, beetling, decatizing, tentering and
napping are some of the mechanical finishes which will be
discussed in detail.
Calendering is performed through a stack of rollers through

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

which the cloth passes. Most calender machines have three rollers.
(others have 2, 5 or 7). Hard metal rollers alternate with softer
cloth wrapped rollers or with solid paper roll.
The simple calender corresponds to the house hold ironers and
gives a smooth finish to the fabric. The cloth is slightly damp when
it goes into the roller. The metal roller is heated. The cloth travels
through the calender at the surface speed of the rollers, so the
rollers simply exerts pressure to smooth out the wrinkles. And give
a slight sheen.

Figure 11.1. Simple calendering.

The friction calender gives a highly glazed surface to the fabric.
The cloth is first passed through the finishing solution and then
dried to a certain degree of dryness. It is then threaded into the
calender. The speed of the metal roller is greater than the speed of
the cloth and the roller polishes the surface similar to the hand
motion or the iron.
The moire calender is an engraved cylinder. It has very fine
lines engraved on the surface. When this roller is heated and the
fabric is threaded through the rollers. The hot metallic roller
passes on these engraved lines upon the fabric.

The schreiner calender has a metal roller engraved with 200 to
300 fine diagonal lines which are visible only under a hand lens.
The primary purpose of this finish is to produce a deep seated
lustre, rather than a shine, by breaking up reflectance of light
rays. It also flattens the yarns to give a smooth appearance and a
good cover. It can upgrade a sleazy material it was originally used
for cotton sateen and table damask.

Figure 11.2. Schreiner calender.

Pleating is a variation of embossing. The machine pleating
method is most frequently used. The machine has two heated
rollers. The fabric is inserted between the rollers as high precision
blade puts the pleats in place. A paper backing is used under the
pleated fabric and the pleats are held in place by paper tape. After
leaving the heated roll machine, the pleats are set in an aging
tank. The heat sensitive fibres especially nylon take permanent
pleats. Chemicals are added to cotton and wool to make them hold
durable pleats.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Beetling refers to beating or hand pounding of a fibre. This was
a process which was initially a hand operation. It is now
mechanised. As the cloth revolves on a slow huge wooden drum. It
is pounded with wooden block hammers. The pounding may
continue for a period of 30 to 60 hours. It flattens the yarn and
makes the weave appear less open than it really is. The increased
surface area gives more lustre, greater absorbency and a
smoothness to the fabric. Beetled fabrics are softer than unbeetled
fabrics. All linens are not beetled. Only linen for shirting, other
apparel and table linens are beetled.
This is one of the final finishing operation which straightens
and also dries the fabric. The fabric is put through a tenter frame.
The filling threads are put at right angles to the lengthwise yarns.
This device may be a hand-controlled one or it may be one
controlled by an electronic eye. These straighteners are called weft
straighteners. There are two types of straighteners. The pin tenter
and the clip tenter. The small pin size holes that we see on the
fabric selvedge are the marks of a pin tenter frame.

Figure 11.3. Tenter frame.

This finish is used to produce a smooth wrinkle free and lofty
hand on woollen and worsted fabrics and on blends of wool and

man-made fibres. The process is comparable to steam ironing. The
dry cloth is wound under tension on a perforated cylinder, steam is
forced through the cylinder. The moisture and heat cause the wool
to become plastic and tension relax and wrinkles are removed. The
yarn becomes set in place. Wet decating is preferred to dry
decating for better finish.
A high degree of lustre can be obtained by the decating process.

Figure 11.4
In olden days, the napper tied together several teasels, which is
dried vegetable burr of a tree which grows wild in America. The
fabric was swept with a plucking motion, across the surface of the
fabric to raise the surface from the ground weave. The raised fibres

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

form a nap on the surface that completely changed the appearance
of the fabric. Teasels are still used in the machine finishing of fine
wool fabrics. For machine processing (gigging), they are mounted
on rollers as the barbs break off or wear off the worn out teasels
are replaced by new ones.
Most napping is done by rollers covered by heavy fabric in
which bent wires are embedded. In the double action napping
machine the second roll is the counter pile roll and the bent end of
the wire point in the direction in which the cloth travels, but the
rollers rotate in opposite directions. All these rollers are mounted
on a large drum which rotates in the same direction as the cloth.
The counter pile roll must travel slower and the pile roller must
travel faster. In this process a tucking action occurs. Tucking
pushes the raised fibre back into the cloth to give a smooth surface.

Figure 11.5
Napping enhances:
Warmth - By increasing the dead air space, air gets trapped in
here and when the fabric is used as a blanket the body
temperature insulates the trapped air.
Softness - This property is especially important in baby
Beauty - Napping makes the fabric attractive.
Water and stain repellence - Fibre ends on the surface cut
down on the rapidity with which the fabric gets wet.

Napped and piled fibres are sheared to control the length of the
pile or nap surface. It is a process similar to lawn mowing.
Sculptured effects are made by flattening portions of the pile with
an engraved roller. And then shearing off the areas that are still
erect. Steaming also helps in bringing about a better appearance.
Shearing is followed by brushing to clear off the cut ends.
Brushing is combined with steaming to lay the nap in one direction
and fix it in that position thus giving the up and down direction of
pile and nap fabrics.
Chemical Finishes
It is the action of caustic soda on a fabric. Cross-linked rayon
and high wet modulus rayon can be mercerised. Mercerisation was
a revolutionary development discovered by John Mercer. He was a
calico printer. He noticed that his cotton filter cloth shrank,
became stronger, more lustrous and more absorbent. After filtering
the caustic soda used in the filtering process added a lustre and
sheen to the filter cloth. The filter cloth also shrank, but became
stronger. Little use was made of mercerisation then because it
caused yardage loss. In 1897, Lowe discovered that if the fabric
were held under tension, it did not shrink but became more
lustrous and silk like. Mercerisation is used on silk and cotton for
many reasons. It increases the lustre and softness, gives great
strength and improves the affinity for dyes and water borne
finishes. Mercerised cotton on a label is associated with lustre.
Fabric mercerisation is done on a frame which contains mangles
for saturating the cloth, a tenter frame for stretching the fabric

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

both crosswise and lengthwise while it is still wet, and boxes for
washing neutralizing with dilute acid scouring and rinsing.



fabrics enhances the following

Greater absorbency - results from mercerisation because the
caustic soda causes a rearrangement of molecules, thus making
the hydroxyl groups available to absorb more water and water
borne substances. Thus, dyes can enter the fabric readily and they
can be fixed inside the fibre. When they are fixed inside then they
can be more fast. Mercerised cotton and linen take the resin
finishes better.
Increased strength might be considered an important plus value
for mercerising. The swollen molecules are more parallel to the
fibre axis. When stress is applied, the attraction which is in an end
to end molecule attraction, is harder to rupture than in the more
spiral fibril attachment, and thereby strength is enhanced.
Acid finishes
The cotton cloth is treated with strong sulphuric acid, to bring
about a parchment effect. This is the oldest Swiss finish. Since the
acid is strong, the process should be carefully controlled and split
second (5 to 6 seconds) timing is necessary to prevent tendering or
weakening of the fabric. This process is done to make organdie.
After the Haberlein process the fabric is mercerised in order to
improve the transparency. The fabric is then dyed or printed with
colours that will resist acid damage.
Functional Finishes
Water proof and water repellent
Finishes that can be applied to a fabric to make the fabric
repellent are wax emulsions, metallic soaps, and surface active

agent. They are applied to fabric which have a very high warp
count and are made with fine yarns. These finishes are not
permanent and tend to fall out when the fabric is washed.
Fire retardant finishes
The construction of fabric determines the degree to which
oxygen is made available to the fibre. Thick fibres burn slowly.
Cotton burns leaving an afterglow. Fire retardant compounds cut
off the supply of oxygen to the fabric by forming a coat or by
producing a non-combustible gas, or chemically alter the fibre do it
forms a non-volatile charred residue rather than a charred residue.
Moth and mildew proofing
Both moths and carpet beetles attack the fibres. While they can
digest only wool they eat on other fabric as well.
Means of controlling moth damage:
Cold storage
Odours that repell. Parachlorobenzene and naphthalene
(mothballs) used during storage.
Stomach poison. Florides and silicoflorides are used as a finish.
Contact poison DDT is very effective but frequent applications
are required.


Chapter 12: Laundry

Value of water in washing

oft water is the most valuable agent used in the laundry

work. There is a certain adhesion between fabric and water,

hence the water is able to penetrate into the fibre and cause wetting.
Pedesis or the movement of water particles helps to remove the
non-greasy dirt from the fabrics. Thus, the fabric is partially
cleaned by steeping and friction. Salt and alkalies in hard water
hinder pedesis. The particles are made to aggregate, and the large
particles being unable to move in the water will tend to resettle in
the fibre. Water is an excellent solvent, therefore much soluble dirt
and stain are removed during the steeping process.
Cold water is the best solvent. Hot water helps to soften grease,
but other cleansing agents are necessary to emulsify and remove
greasy matter. The value of using hot water lies in the fact that
the solvent power of a liquid increases when its temperature is
Rain water
Pure water is never found in nature. The purity or otherwise of
water depends on the nature of the soil through which it has
passed before being collected. Rain water is the most pure form of
water, but it contains substances absorbed from the atmosphere
one of which is carbon dioxide which is always present, because it
gets dissolved in water through the atmosphere. Soft water washes
whitest, brightens and saves soap and makes fabrics last longer.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Hard water
Most water especially from chalky districts contains calcium
and magnesium salts in solutions, usually as sulphate or
bicarbonate. These cause hardness.
Hardness is of two types:
Temporary hardness.
Permanent hardness.
Temporary hardness
Hardness due the presence of calcium or magnesium,
bicarbonates is called temporary hardness because it can be
removed on heating without the use of chemicals. While the other
hardness remains even after boiling. The presence of bicarbonate
is due to the action of carbonic acid, which was in the water. When
it encountered the insoluble calcium carbonate. The acid dissolves
the later substances and holds it in solution. By boiling the carbon
dioxide is driven off and the insoluble calcium carbonate is
precipitated as chalk and the water is softened.
Permanent hardness
Compounds of calcium, magnesium, sulphate, chloride and
nitrate are known compounds which create permanent hardness in
water. The hardness can be removed by distillation or by the use of
Hard water damage
It is savage for the clothes to be washed in hard water. It does
not lather in washing the lime and magnesium react with soap to
make a curd like substance called scum which has no cleaning
power. Larger quantities of soap have to be used in order to
produce lather. All this makes the fabric harsh and also
discoloured them.

When water contains hardening substances like calcium and
magnesium salts in solution in the water equivalent to 1 gram of
CaCO3 in 1 gallon of water the hardness is expressed as (1 of
hardness) 1 gallon of water can be softened by 2 grams of soda for
each degree of hardness. Each gram of CaCO3 in water will use 10
grams of soap to produce lather. Water containing less than 4 of
hardness is known as soft water.
Water softening
Both temporary and permanent hardness can be removed, the
aim should be to soften the water without making it alkaline. Soda
removes both kinds of hardness and can be used at home. The
most common softening plant is zeolite, which also removes
permanent hardness. Soda is inexpensive and easy to use. About 2
grams of soda is needed per degree of hardness. Some other
softening agents are caustic soda, ammonia and borax. Borax does
not harm fabrics if left in the water. It is useful for water
containing more than 20 of hardness.
What is in a soap?
The word soap comes from either the Gallic (Gaulish) word
sapo or a Germanic word saipa. Both sapo and saipa have their
origins from the Latin word sebum meaning fat or tallow. Soap is
a salt of fatty acid. Soaps are mainly used as surfactants for
washing, bathing and cleaning, but they are also used in textile
spinning and are important components of lubricants. Soaps for
cleansing are obtained by treating vegetable or animal oils and
fats with a strong alkaline solution. Fats and oils are composed of
triglycerides: three molecules of fatty acids attached to a single
molecule of glycerol. The alkaline solution often called lye brings







saponification, the fats are first hydrolysed into free fatty acids,
which then combine to form crude soap. Glycerol, often called

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

glycerine, is liberated and is either left in or washed out and
recovered as a useful by-product.

Figure 12.1
Mechanism of cleansing soaps
When used for cleaning, soap serves as surfactant in
conjunction with water. The cleaning action of this mixture is
attributed to the action of micelles, tiny spheres coated on the
outside with polar hydrophilic (water-loving) groups, encasing a
lipophilic (fat-loving) pocket that can surround the grease
particles, causing them to disperse in water. The lipophilic portion
is made up of the long hydrocarbon chain from the fatty acid. In
other words, whereas normally oil and water do not mix, the
addition of soap allows oils to disperse in water and be rinsed
away. Synthetic detergents operate by similar mechanisms to soap
(refer to Figure 12.2).
Structure of a micelle, a cell-like structure
formed by the aggregation of soap subunits
(such as sodium stearate). The exterior of the
micelle is hydrophilic (attracted to water and the
interior is lipophilic (attracted to oils).
Figure 12.2

Soap is the chief substance which has been

used for decades for removing grease and dirt

from fibre or fabric. Soap is a well known compound of fatty acids

and alkalies. It contains salts such as nitrates and hydroxides of
sodium and potassium to make crude soap. Soap makes the

penetration of water in the fabric easier. It helps to break down
the surface tension or the surface resistance of fabric and thus
soap solution will wet the fabric more readily than plain water.
The dirt on the fabric consists of grease and dust particles the soap
solution breaks up the grease into smaller particles which come off
the fabric and float in the solution. With the removal of the grease
particles the dust particles also get loosened and as they have a
greater affinity towards the soap than the fabric. Thus, the fabric
becomes free from both grease and dirt. Most of the non-greasy dirt
is removed by steeping in water or the movement of water
particles. Soap in water increases the pedesis and thus quickens
the removal of non-greasy dirt.
A good laundry soap should contain 30% of water, 61 to 64% of
combined fatty acids. It should be free of resins. Resins make the
fabric yellow with subsequent washing. It should be readily soluble
in water and also give a good lather. Sometimes turpentine oil is
added to improve the cleansing power of soap.
In soap making, both animal and vegetable fat are used. The
animal fat are tallow and lard and the vegetable fat are coconut oil
and cotton seed oil.
There are two types of soaps: soft soaps and hard soaps.
Hard soaps
Hard soaps are those that do not easily dissolve in water and
hence do not give free lather. They make it hard to clean a soiled
Soft soaps
Soft soaps on the other hand dissolve readily in water and give
free lather, but because of this very property it gets quickly
dissolved in water and gets wasted. Fats which are composed of
higher series of fatty acids such as stearin and palmitin in large

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

proportions are termed hard fats and make hard soaps. Tallow and
coconut oil produce a hard soap with a firm texture, while castor
oil or linseed oil makes soft soap.
In addition to the laundry soap, there are other soaps like toilet
soap, shaving soap, disinfectant soap and transparent soap. In
these, a large variety is brought about by variation in oils, perfume
and colour. Colour and perfume are not used in laundry soaps.
The process used in soap making are of two kinds:
The cold process.
The hot process (boiling process).
The cold process
The cold process is a simple process used in homes to prepare
the soap. One of the oils is mixed with caustic soda. The heat given
off by the mixture is enough to carry on the process of
saponification. Which takes a day or two to be completed. It is
necessary to take the correct proportions of the ingredients. This
soap has more cleaning power in cold water than in hot water.
Caustic soda: 250 gms
Water: 4 cups
Coconut oil: 1 Kg
Gram powder: 250 gms
Figure 12.3

Dissolve caustic soda in

water, stand the solution in

an earthen ware pot for 3 to 4 hours.

Mix gram powder (besan) and oil in a bowl.
Add caustic soda solution to the mixture of oil and gram flour a

little at a time and continue to stir. Stir in the same direction until
a thick consistency is achieved. Pour mixture in moulds and allow
the soap to set.
Caustic soda: 250 gms.
Water: 5 cups.
Coconut oil: 1.5 Kg.
Maida: 375 gms.
Dissolve the soda in water.
Warm the oil, mix maida and oil.
Add the caustic soda solution to the mixture of oil and stir in
one direction.
Continue stirring in one direction until thick consistency is
Pour mixture in moulds and allow to set.
The hot process (boiling process)
This process is the commercial method of soap making.
Fats oils and the alkali are purified. Fats are melted in a large
pan. A weak solution of caustic soda is added gradually and the
mixture is boiled by steam passed directly in the pan at 80 to 100
C, a little below boiling point, until saponification is completed,
which before modern scientific equipment was developed, the soap
maker would determine by taste (the sharp hydroxide taste
disappears after it is saponified) or by seeing the texture. Tasting
soap for readiness is not advisable because sodium and potassium
hydroxides are highly caustic. Some of the fat is saponified and the

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

soap forms an emulsion of the whole mixture. More caustic soda is
added at intervals and the process of boiling is continued for two to
three days. The contents of the soap pan are soap, glycerine, excess
of caustic soda and some impurities, brine solution is added which
separates the soap out and this forms a layer on the top. The liquid
under this layer consists of glycerine and impurities and is known
as spent lye.

Figure 12.4. Process diagram of soap.

Spent lye is taken out and glycerine is distilled and stored. The
soap layer is mixed with water and boiled and made into a paste.
This may contain some unsaponified fat and therefore some more
caustic soda is added till saponificaton is complete. Brine solution
is added as before and spent lye is removed.
The soap is then boiled with steam and left to stand until four
layers are formed. The top layer is just a forth, the second layer is
the genuine soap, which is run off by a pipe, the third layer is an

impure dark coloured soap and the fourth layer is some alkaline
The advantage of the full boiled hot process is that the exact
amount of hydroxide required need not be known with great
accuracy, after saponification has taken place the neat soap is
precipitated from solution by adding common salt, and the excess
liquid is drained off. This excess carries away with it much of the
impurities and colder compounds in the fat. All the glycerine is
also removed to leave a whiter soap.
The soap is then passed into crutching pans when colour or
perfume are added. Then the soap is moulded and cut or made into
flakes or powders.
What is a detergent?
1. Active ingredients to remove soil and produce foam or suds,
by themselves, for heavy-duty wash, a second major
component are necessary - a builder.
2. Builders are of 2 types: inorganic and organic. The
inorganic builders are primarily phosphates, but they do not
foam or sud, they do increase detergency (by reducing the
surface tension of the water).
Organic builders - These builders also act as water
3. Anti deposition agent which is needed to keep soil
suspended once it has been removed.
4. Sodium silicate is used to protect pots and pans and
aluminium washer parts such as agitators, fans, tubs, etc
from pitting or attack by inorganic builders.
5. Brightener or optical bleach is added for white effect on the

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Difference Between Detergent and Soap


(1) Detergents are made

chemically in factories.

(1) Soaps are made from

natural fats, oil and waxes.

(2) Greater cleansing efficiency

is achieved with modern

(2) Do not clean as much as


(3) They do not combine with

the calcium, magnesium and
other salts present in water.

(3) Soaps combine with calcium

and magnesium and do not
lather as much as detergents.

(4) Detergents remove the

soapy deposits.

(4) Soapy deposits are left by


(5) Greater efficiency against

body acids. They wash
effectively even in acid

(5) Soaps have the capacity to

carry water droplet.

(6) Wash well even in cold

water and hard water.

(6) Soaps do not work well in

cold and hard water.

(7) Detergents have high

penetrating power and
effectively remove soap.

(7) Do not penetrate as


(8) Rapid removal of grease is a

very desirable characteristic.
Do not allow grease to settle
again on the fabric keep it
dispersed to water.

(8) Soaps when used may leave

soap marks on the fabric and
soil may cling to the fabric
(leave no scum).

(9) Greater economy, less

detergent is required.

(9) Soaps after being used ones

are wasted as are keep


Optical bleaches
Optical bleaches are used for off-white and white fabrics. These
compounds do not bleach the fabric, but change the reflection of
the light rays. They reflect blue light more for this effect
fluorescent colourless dyes are used. These dyes change the
invisible ultraviolet light into visible light. So the colour of the
fabric becomes dependent upon the light in which it is seen in
sunlight, these fabrics look dazzling white. These fluorescent
whiteners are often incorporated in detergents as whiter than
Bleaching cleans and whitens grey goods. In home laundry,
bleaches are used to whiten clothes that are stained and become
yellow after repeated washing.
Bleaching is a chemical reaction, in which two types of
reactions take place:
(1) Oxidation.
(2) Reduction.
(1) Oxidation
In this to remove the colour sodium or chlorine compounds are
brought into use H2O2, hypochlorite, sodium hypochlorite, sodium
chlorate, potassium chromate (K2CrO4), potassium permanganate
(KMNO4), sodium chlorite are the various compounds used for
(2) Reduction
Chlorine bleaches are used for cellulose fibre. The bleaching is
done by hypochlorous acid liberated during the bleaching process,
tender cellulosic fibre. Chlorine bleaches are bactericidal agents.

Natural and Man-Made Fibres

Reducing bleaches
Used for bleaching protein fibre like wool, but the reaction is
temporary. The colour comes back on exposure to oxygen. The
compounds brought into the use are zinc dust, stannous chloride
SnCl2.2H2O, sodium hyposulphite (Na2S2O4).
Laundry blues
The tint of blue in laundry is used:
(1) In complete washing on which bleaching would cause no
(2) The deposition of line or iron soaps on the fabric.
(3) The reappearance of natural colouring.
Contrary to the general belief bleaching does not whiten
clothes it only neutralizes the yellow tinge. Blue is the
complementary colour to white.
Types of blues
(1) Insoluble in water: e.g. Ultramarine blue.
(2) Soluble in water: Several coal tar dyes, methyl violet, and
methylene blue, Prussian blue.
Ultramarine blue: It is manufactured from soda ash, sodium
sulphate, charcoal sulphur and clay. All these are heated and then
ground. It makes a fine powder and thus becomes a suitable blue
for laundry. It is a safe blue to use and is not harmful to fabrics. It
is not affected by alkalies, it is sometimes used together with soap
so that the blue is boiled in bluing with ultramarine blue. It may
cause trouble by large particles forming specks on the fibre. The
care required with ultramarine has caused the abandonment of its
use in many laundries in favour of the more simple application of
soluble blues and fluorescent washing powders.

Prussian blue: This is ferric ferrocynide. It was discovered in
the eighteenth century. It is a mixture of iron sulphate with
potassium ferrocynide. This is also insoluble in water. Its use is
undesirable as it is a compound of iron and is decomposed by
alkaline substances.
Indigo: This is directly prepared from the leaves of a certain
plant, and it is not manufactured synthetically. It is not very much
used in laundry. It has a dull blue colour.
Aniline blue: This is made from coal tar dyes. Its colour may
vary from blue to purple. It is of two kinds. One gives best results
in acid medium and the other in an alkaline medium. This is
readily soluble and is therefore the best to use in laundry. Indigo
and ultramarine are not completely soluble in water and remain in
suspended particles. Suspended blues will not give an even colour
to the fabrics apart from leaving patchy discolourations.
These are actually dyes and are marketed in great variety by
manufacturers, they are easy to prepare, control and apply. These
are aniline dyes. Purplish blue being the most common shade, as it
gives a whitish appearance.


Natural and Man-Made Fibres




Natural and Man-Made Fibres




Natural and Man-Made Fibres




Natural and Man-Made Fibres




Natural and Man-Made Fibres




Natural and Man-Made Fibres




Natural and Man-Made Fibres




Natural and Man-Made Fibres

The stain removal chart has been adapted from Household Textiles and Laundry
Work by Durga Deulkar.