Characteristics of Natural Fabrics

Why hello and welcome back to my blog! I know it’s been a little delayed, but I have some really great topics lined up!

Todays topic is actually something that I’ve been picking up and putting down for the past 6 months or so. Once I began writing this posting, I found that I needed more history on the subject so I wrote the Textile and Dye Timeline, which was really a prerequisite for this blog. Don’t worry folks, it’s finally here! This week I’m going to cover the most common natural material characteristics, next week you can look forward to the list of synthetic fibers. Here we go!

First up are characteristics of natural materials (from good ‘ole mother earth).




Considered to be a breathable fabric

Easy to clean

Durable and strong

Resists abrasion

Resists pilling and moths

Soft and stretchy

Can have different luster’s (glossy vs. matte)

It has natural antibacterial properties and UV protection

Great anti allergenic and antifungal (ew- fungus!)

Quick drying

Lasts a long time (for a natural material)

Retains original shape


Weakens from exposure to light

Easily wrinkled

Prone to shrinkage


Cotton (a)

Bonus Fact: Absorbs up to 27 times its own weight in water and grows up to 30 feet tall in the wild and beetled is a term used for the highest amount of luster for cotton. The most common weaves for cotton is a plain weave and a twill weave (think denim).


Felt (Wool) - Felt is a little different then normal fibers that are either found in nature or made. Traditional felt is made of wool which uses the wool in its natural form to cling to anything (including itself). It is then subject to heat, moisture and finally pressure.


Highly resilient

Chemical resistant

Flame retardant and self-extinguishing

Wear/ ageing resistant

Cuts easily

Can be very strong or soft

Can be exposed to outdoor elements

Good insulating material

Water repellant



Wool fibers can be damaged by alkaline substances

More expensive then its synthetic counterparts


Felt (b)

Bonus Fact:  Today wool felt is used mostly for acoustical and thermal insulation.




Very strong and durable

Resistant to molding


Easy to clean

Anti microbial


UV resistant



Wrinkles easily/poor resiliency

Poor drape ability

Not as soft as other fibers



Bonus Fact:  The products that can be made from hemp number over 25,000. Construction products such as medium density fiber board, oriented strand board, and even beams, studs and posts could be made out of hemp. Because of hemp’s long fibers, the products will be stronger and/or lighter than those made from wood.




Versatile and very comfortable

Absorbs moisture

Cool to wear in the summer yet warm to wear in winter

Very strong natural fiber (some say the strongest)

Lustrous finish


Resistant to mildew



Has a poor resistance to sunlight exposure.

Can not go in the washer

Deteriorates when bleached

Is very sensitive to heat and needs to be ironed when damp

Weakens when exposed to light, though raw silks tend to hold up better than degummed

Poor resistance to insects


Most Recognizable Silk (called Duppioni) (c)

Bonus Fact:

  • Silk used to literally be worth its weight in gold
  • The silk worm spins 3280 feet in its lifespan of 28 days
  • Bombyx Mori is a term used to describe cultivated silk worm

There are many different types of silk:

  • Raw: still has sericin (worm gum)
  • Degummed: Filament fibers are continuous versus broken up
  • Noil: is considered the waste silk or staple fibers. Noil silk comes from the broken cocoon of the silk worm. Generally it is less expensive than other silks and doesn’t have the same luster.
  • Duppioni: is created when 2 silk worms spin cocoons together resulting in a thick and thin appearance. It is usually degummed.

Raw Silk

Raw Silk


Silk Noil

Silk Noil




Great insulation properties

Naturally elastic

Resilient (great for wrinkle recovery)


Resists abrasion well

Flame resistant



Deteriorates when bleached

Shrinks easily

Can be irritating on the skin

Moths love to eat wool

Herringbone Woolen


Bonus Fact:

  • Longer fibers are smoother and moth proof because they can’t digest those long fibers (poor little moth who found this out the hard way).
  • Wool can absorb up to 1/3 of its own weight
  • Carpeting in hotels is often made of wool due to its flame resistant properties




Photos are acquired and protected under creative commons law
















  1. Karen says:

    This is good information. I agree about the poor little moth who found out the hard way that long wool fibers do not digest well.

  2. Fred says:

    Welcome back! Thanks for the interesting info on natural fibers.

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