INTRODUCTION TO ANIMAL FIBER
Animal fibers are largely those which cover mammals such as sheep, goats and rabbits with well-known examples such as alpaca, merino, wool, fur and mohair. Animal fibers are natural fibers that consist largely of particular proteins. Instances are silk, hair/fur (including wool) and feathers. The animal fibers used most commonly both in the manufacturing world as well as by the hand spinners are wool from domestic sheep and silk. Also very popular are alpaca fiber and mohair from Angora goats. Unusual fibers such as Angora wool from rabbits and Chiengora from dogs also exist, but are rarely used for mass production. Not all animal fibers have the same properties, and even within a species the fiber is not consistent. Merino is a very soft, fine wool, while Cotswold is coarser, and yet both merino and Cotswold are types of sheep. Such comparison can be continued on the microscopic level, comparing the diameter and structure of the fiber. With animal fibers, and natural fibers in general, the individual fibers look different, whereas all synthetic fibers look the same. This provides an easy way to differentiate between natural and synthetic fibers under a microscope. Wool from sheep is the most common animal fiber and is used widely in fabrics of many different types. There are, however, many different animal fiber types which are manufactured into both luxury and commodity fabrics. Fiber producing animals include angora rabbits, goats and camelids (alpaca, llamas and camels). Each animal breed produces fiber types with different qualities. In order to be suitable for the commercial processing of animal fiber into fabric, the individual fibers need to be of a certain grade and consistent quality. The most luxurious fibers are fine, long and smooth. These give a silky appearance and are soft and warm to wear. Most animals regardless of how fine their coats are will have some more coarse fibers; they are known as guard hairs and are removed as part of the preparation process. This is known as dehairing. Coarse fibers, although making a sturdy and robust fabric, are not comfortable to wear and are more typically used for the making of yarn for rugs and carpets rather than for clothes. The cost of processing these coarse fibers, compared with the low end value, makes them unattractive to commercial producers. Animal fibers are known as protein fibers and are dyed using acid dyes. They take dye well and are available in a variety of vibrant colors. The process of bleaching fibers weakens and damages them; therefore animals bred for their fiber are typically white. There are exceptions to this; the alpaca is bred in 18 different color types, meaning a wide range of naturally colored fibers are available. Below is the major animal fiber producing countries in the world. |FIBER | |MAJOR PRODUCERS | |PRODUCTION | | | | | | | | | | | |Alpaca | |Peru | |4,000 tons | |...
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