In our blog post a few weeks ago, Natural vs. Synthetic Fabrics, we looked at the differences between them and discussed their pros and cons. This week we are going to go into detail and look at how natural and synthetic fibers are made along with their characteristics.
In our About page we talk about our process and the materials we use for our pillows. A lot of research and experimentation happened as we were deciding which fabric to use for our pillows. We decided on linen and as you read the below you will see why!
Linen comes from the flax plant (yes, we eat this!). The use of linen goes way back to the Grecian, Egyptian and Roman civilizations which make it the oldest domestically produced fabric. Items made of linen are valued for their coolness and freshness (especially in hot climates). This is why you tend to see linen clothing pop up in clothing stores during the summer time. With that point in mind, you might also notice that items made of linen are pricier. There is a good reason for this, linen is derived from the flax seed and it requires a lot of manual work to get from the flax seed to the luxurious feel of the linen fabric. Another couple of pros for linen are that it does a good job at resisting pilling and fading and it is the best fabric to use with dyes.
Cotton is by far one of the most used fabrics in the textile industry and understandably so. It comes from the cotton plant which makes is a seed fiber. You will find this plant in the tropical areas of the Americas, Africa and Asia. Cotton is durable and affordable which is why it is the most popular fiber used for clothing and home furnishings.
Wool comes from the fleece of sheep. The creation of wool goes through a several step process – the first step is to have the sheep sheared which generally happens once a year during the spring time. Once the fair has been collected it is sent to be grated and sorted. As you can see creating wool is quite complex, due to that, wool is considered a luxury fabric. Some advantages to wool are that it is sturdy and durable. You are likely to see wool being worn in cooler weather because the fiber holds natural air pockets which create a layer of warmth and insulation. wool and wool blends offer good resistance to pilling, fading, wrinkling, and soil.
Silk comes from the cocoon of a silk worm. There are two main types of silk – cultivated and wild silk. Cultivated silk comes from silk worms that have been raised in a controlled environment. Wild silk (as the term suggests) comes from silk worms that exist in the wild. Like all other natural fabrics, silk also goes through a process to get it to the final stage. Silk goes through a process called “degumming” which removes a sticky substance named sericin. As you may already know, silk is a delicate and luxurious fabric which translates to their higher price tag.
Nylon is made from petroleum and it is rarely used alone. Meaning that it is almost always blended with other fibers when used in clothing or other items (think carpets, luggage). Nylon is very resilient and lightweight, it doesn’t readily soil or wrinkle, but it does tend to fade and pill.
Polyester comes from a combination of coal, water, the petroleum. And like nylon it is rarely used alone and often blended with natural fabrics to increase its durability and minimize its maintenance. Polyester can be found in clothing, upholstery, and insulation.
Rayon has been developed as an imitation to silk, linen, and cotton through a regeneration of natural materials. Rayon is durable and has a silky texture to it; however, it may wrinkle easily. Rayon is greatly found in clothing and many times blended with either natural or synthetic fabrics.
Spandex (Lycra): Spandex thread is lighter and more durable than conventional elastic threads. Spandex has the ability to return to the original shape after stretching faster than other types of fabrics. It is usually mixed with cotton or polyester and it is very comfortable to wear (think leggings and yoga pants).
At Ninel Studio we strive to create beautifully hand crafted pillows that are both luxurious and durable and linen fit that bill to the T. On the personal end, there are many reasons to pick items whether its clothing or home furnishings that are made of natural fabrics instead of synthetic fabrics. Making the switch will not happen overnight but small steps over time will make a big change in the long term.
Do you have a favorite type of natural fabric and know of any additional advantages to that specific fabric?