Fibers are very thin long strands of thread. Many strands of fiber together make threads that are weaved or knitted together, to make fabric or cloth.
Therefore, fiber is considered the smallest unit of a textile product that is visible to the naked eye (anything beyond a fabric has to view through a microscope).
There are essentially three main categories of fibers; natural fibers, regenerated fibers, and synthetic (or artificial) fibers.
Fibers are found naturally in plants and animals, and these are called ‘natural fibers’ and account for more than half of the fibers produced in the world.
There are many types of natural fibers and they are used for various things, from textiles, diets (food fibers), and even for making fiberboard (a type of engineering wood).
The most common natural fibers are vegetable fibers, wood fibers, animal fibers, and mineral fibers.
The most common animals used for their fibers are the Angora and Mohair (from the fur of the Angora rabbit, and Goat), camel family (Alpaca, Llama, Camel, and Vicuna), Cashmere (from the Kashmir goat), Wool (fleece from sheep), and silk (protein fiber from the silkworm).
The other two types are regenerated fibers and synthetic fibers. Regenerated fibers are processed from natural cotton and wood pulp and form a fiber structure.
Synthetic fibers are entirely artificial; they are made only from chemicals. This makes them the strongest out of the three, but they are weak under heat because they soften.
Their weakness to heat is both positive and negative. Positively, this means that under heat they can be shaped into pleats and creases. Negatively, it means that you have to iron very carefully, because they burn (melt) very easily.
The most common regenerated fibers are rayon and acetate, while the most common synthetic fibers are nylon, polyester, acrylic, and olefin.
Many clothes and textile mills categorize fibers based on how wearable they are, how stain resistant they are, and if they are easy or hard to clean.
Besides being used to make clothes, fibers are also used to make filaments, threads, string, and ropes.
They can also be matted into sheets to produce paper and felt (like felt hats).