Sources and origins

The raw materials needed to create textiles come from all over the world. They can be natural, grown from plants or taken from animals, or synthetic, refined from oil.

Natural fibres

Plant based

  • cotton - harvested from cotton plants from China, USA and Pakistan, the fibres are cleaned, carded between wire brushes to lie in the same direction and spun into yarn
  • bamboo - grown in China and Japan and is pulped and crushed, softened and carded before being spun into yarn
  • linen - made from the flax plant grown in Canada, France and Russia, and processed in the same way as bamboo

Animal based

  • wool - fleeces are sheared from animals such as sheep, alpaca and goats in UK, Australia and New Zealand; the short, staple fibres are cleaned, carded and spun into a yarn
  • silk - silkmoth cocoons are harvested in China and India, heated to undo the filament bonds and then spun into a filament fibre
A large silkmoth attached to a white circular cocoon.
Silkmoth on cocoon

Synthetic fibres

Oil based

  • polyester - polymer chains are extracted from oil and are then forced through a small hole into a filament fibre
  • acrylic - polymer chains of acrylonitrile (a thermoforming polymer) are extracted from oil into a filament fibre

Regenerated

  • viscose - wood pulp from Canada or European forests is dissolved by chemicals to extract the cellulose, which is then extruded through a spinneret to make a fine filament fibre
  • acetate - wood pulp from Canada or European forests is dissolved by acetic acid and then extruded through a spinneret to make a filament fibre