Textiles are typically comprised of fibers, either artificial or natural, that are worked together to produce a thread. Threads are then joined together using an array of processes, such as spinning, weaving or knitting, to create the final textile, which is essentially a kind of fabric. Any product that is primarily composed of linked fibers is typically called a textile.
However, types of fiber can vary, resulting in numerous textile materials. There are four categories from which most fiber materials are made: animal, plant, mineral and synthetic.
Animal-based textile material, such as wool and silk, are commonly manufactured from animal hair, fur, or another animal byproduct. In the case of silk, the fibers are taken from the cocoons of Chinese silkworms. Wool fiber is created from sheep or goat hair, some of which features lanolin, a substance that lends some wool a waterproof characteristic. Some animal fur and products are simply used in their basic form and arenâ€™t worked into threads; leather, for example undergoes a completely different process than wool-based textiles. Down goose feathers are often used within pillows and quilts for added warmth, but are also processed differently.
Wool is the most widely used fiber in animal textile because of its unique characteristics. Some types of wool absorb moisture, whereas others are practically water-resistant. Wool does not burnâ€”instead, it smolders. It is lightweight and wear resistant, and can withstand dirt and heavy use. Additionally, it is not prone to wrinkling, a characteristic that makes wool desirable in clothing fabrication.
Silk is also an extremely versatile material, with unique thermal properties: silk garments provide warmth in the winter, yet are cool to wear in the summer. Silk is also the strongest natural fiber, has an aesthetically appealing sheen, and can be dyed, making it useful for garment manufacturing. However, it is moisture absorbent and has low sunlight resistance.