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There are a wide variety of fibers that are used to create yarns that you can use for knitting and crocheting and they come from a variety of sources. Yarns are made from a group of fibers twisted together to form a continuous strand. The fibers used to create these yarns include animal fibers, plant fibers and synthetic fibers. There are benefits and negatives for each type of fiber and yarn, but with such a wide variety you’re sure to find the perfect fit for your project.
Alpaca fiber is similar to sheep's wool and is another natural, animal fiber. It's harvested from Alpaca's and while similar to sheep's wool, does have different characteristics. It contains no lanolin making it hypoallergenic and it's warmer than sheep's wool. Alpaca yarn was first used in the early 1800's in England though it took some effort for it to become a workable material. This was because the yarn was being woven into a camlet type fabric which didn't work well with the alpaca yarn. Once the warp and weft method was introduced, alapca yarn was able to be woven into a successful fabric.
There are a few different varieties of sheep's wool depending on the breed of the sheep the wool is coming from. The two most common types of sheep's wool are merino and lopi with merino being the most common and prized type of sheep's wool.
Silk is produce by insect larvae so that they can form cocoons. Bombyx mori, also known as Mulberry silkworms, produce the most wildely known form of silk but for textile manufacturing, moth caterpillars are generally the one type used.
Hemp fiber has been a commonly used fiber for centuries. In addition to yarn, hemp fibers can be used for fabrics and textiles, rope, and even food. Hemp has a great deal of benefits as it can grow much more quickly than trees and requires less water and no pesticides or fertilizers.
Cotton is a very popular source for thread and textile manufacturing with a variety of types that can be grown and used. The 3 most popular types of cotton used for yarn manufacturing are Egyptian cotton, Pima cotton and American cotton. Each have their own benefits over the other. Egyptian cotton is the longest cotton fiber and is softer than the other types of cotton. American cotton is available the widest amount of colors thanks to it being able to take dye better than other types of cotton. Pima cotton is a mixture between Egyptian and American cotton with properties of both.
Bamboo fibers are generally too short to be used to create a natural fiber, but bamboo bast can be used in combination with a chemical process to create rayon which is synthetic fiber. The environmental benefits of bamboo still are valid as they can be harvested without killing the plant, are a carbon sink, they produce oxygen and they control soil erosion. The main environmental benefit of bamboo is that it can grow and spread quickly without much use of water, pesticides or fertilizers.
Synthetic fibers are commonly used to create yarn because they're durable than most natural fibers and they can be easily dyed different colors. There are other popular benefits such as stain resistance, water proofing and stretching that lead many to choose a synthetic fiber over a natural fiber.
Rayon is a manufactured cellulose fiber that is commonly made from purified cellulose from wood and plant pulp. Even though the process starts with a wood or plant pulp, the chemical process that it goes through makes a semi-synthetic fiber with no identifiable properties of the original natural fiber. There are a variety of methods used to create rayon. There is the acetate method with involves the reaction with ceullose and acetic anyhydride which forms cellulose acetate. The resulting fiber can be used to create cigarette filters and playing cards. There is also the cuprammonium method which involves combining cellulose with copper and ammonia to make the cellulose a soluble compound. The resulting fiber from this process is very fine and has a silk feel to it and is commonly used in sundresses and blouses. The most popular method to create rayon fibers is the viscose method. This method was created to create an artificial silk. These days many types of natural fibers that can be used to start this process such as hemp pulp or bamboo pulp. Even though these fibers are used in the process, the final product can't be considered a natural product due to the chemical process that is involved. After viscosity the original fibers used can't even be identified. Rayon and viscose are interchangable terms within the US and both can be used to label the same final product.
Nylon is a very popular synthetic fiber that first was used in 1935. It is commonly used for clothing, namely women's stockings, but can also be used for car parts, electrical equipment and food packaging films. Nylon was created to be a synthetic replacement for silk due to silk becoming scarce during World War II. It was used to manufacturer parachutes, flak vests and vehicle tires.
Polyester is another popular type of synthetic fiber and it is mostly used in clothing. Polyester is a category of polymer that includes natural chemicals such as the cutin in plant cuticles and synethetic chemicals. Natural based polyesters are biodegradable but most synthetic ones are not. Polyester thread can be used to create fabrics that are used in clothing, furniture and linens and even items such a mousepads. Polyester can also be blended with natural fibers such as cotton which can change the properties of the resulting material. Blended with cotton, polycotton is tear and wrinkle resistant and strong. It also helps reduce shrinking.