OTHER USEFUL PLANT FIBRES
• There are other important plants fibres as well. Like:
• Fibres obtained from the stem of the flax plant are woven to make a fabric called linen.
• It is an annual plant that grows to a height of one metre in cool wet areas.
• Flax produces linen, a soft, lustrous and flexible creamy white fibre which is easily dyed.
• It is stronger than cotton but less elastic.
• Flax fibres are also used in the production of ropes and high-quality paper.
• Linen does wrinkle but presses easily, although strong creasing will break the fibres.
• Linen is used for a range of textile products, including clothing and sheets.
• The more it is worked with and used, the softer and more lustrous it gets.
• Hemp fibres are obtained from the stem of the hemp plant.
• Hemp plants grow best in loamy soil.
• Hemp is a deep-rooted plant which needs little fertiliser.
• It is used for textiles, rope and fine paper products.
• It was used historically for items such as ropes and ship sails, it also makes extremely strong paper that doesn't require harsh chemical processing to produce.
• Hemp fabrics can be machine washed and dried, and they soften considerably after laundering.
• Hemp fabric is like linen in smoothness, wrinkling easily, but it withstands water better than any other textile product.
• China is the main producer, with Spain, Korea, the Russian Federation and Chile being other major producers.
• Coir is the fibre obtained from the outer covering of the fruit of coconut palm.
• Coconut palms grow to about 25 metres tall in sunny, humid areas on a wide variety of well-drained soils with a constant supply of fresh water.
• Coir is produced as a by-product of other coconut products such as copra (dried coconut flesh), oil and coconut flesh.
• The fibrous layer of the fruit is separated from the hard shell by driving the fruit down onto a spike to split it (de-husking).
• The husks are soaked in water for up to 10 months (retted) then beaten to break away the fibres.
• The fibres are strong, light and withstand heat and saltwater.
• Coir is used to make several household products like ropes and floor coverings.
• Young coconuts produce white fibre, which can be used for the production of yarn, rope and fishing nets.
• Older coconuts produce brown fibre which can be used for brushes and mattresses.
• The major exporters, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, produce around 450,000 tonnes annually.
• Silk cotton is obtained from the silk cotton tree, also called kapok.
• Silk cotton trees drop their leaves once a year during the dry season leaving bare limbs.
• Every 5 to 10 years, large bell-shaped flowers appear which have foul-smell.
• Oil is made from its seeds and is used to make soap.
• The seeds are edible and are even eaten in some areas of the world.
• The wood is soft and is used to make dugout canoes, carvings and caskets.
• Animal fibres are obtained from:
(1) The hair (e.g. wool from sheep, cashmere goat, mohair goat, alpaca, llama, vicuna, yak, camel and angora rabbit)
(2) From secretions (e.g. silk, kosa, tassar)
• Wool is obtained from the hair on the body of animals like sheep, goat, etc.
• The process of removing hair from these animals is called shearing.
• The wool is processed to make yarn which can be either weaved or knitted to make woolen clothes.
• Woollen fibres retain a lot of air between them because of which they are fluffy.
• They also trap the body heat so that they are good to wear in winters. Australia is the biggest producer of wool.
• Silk is a natural protein fibre obtained from a protective covering called cocoon made by silkworm around itself.
• The process of growing silkworm on mulberry trees and obtaining silk from them is called ‘sericulture’.
• Silk of Resham is a fibre used widely in India and other Asian countries.
• China, Japan, Thailand are main producers of silk.