Saturday, April 5, 2014

Other Natural Cellulosic Fibers[1-2]
Art Resource

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Preamble
This is the twenty-sixth post in the "Art Resource" series, specifically aimed to construct an appropriate knowledge base in order to develop an artistic voice in ArtCloth.

Other posts in this series are:
Glossary of Terms
Units Used In Dyeing And Printing Of Fabrics
Occupational, Health & Safety
A Brief History Of Color
The Nature Of Color
Psychology of Color
Color Schemes
The Naming Of Colors
The Munsell Color Classification System
Methuen Color Index And Classification System
The CIE System
Pantone - A Modern Color Classification System
Optical Properties Of Fiber Materials
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part I
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part II
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part III
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part IV
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part V
Protein Fibers - Wool
Protein Fibers - Speciality Hair Fibers
Protein Fibers - Silk
Protein Fibers - Wool versus Silk
Timelines of Fabrics, Dyes and Other Stuff
Cellulosic Fibers (Natural) - Cotton
Cellulosic Fibers (Natural) - Linen
General Overview of Man-Made Fibers
Man-Made Cellulosic Fibers - Viscose
Man-Made Cellulosic Fibers - Esters
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Nylon
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Polyester
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Acrylic and Modacrylic
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Olefins
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Elastomers
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Mineral Fibers
Man Made Fibers - Other Textile Fibers
Fiber Blends
From Fiber To Yarn: Overview - Part I
From Fiber to Yarn: Overview - Part II
Melt-Spun Fibers
Characteristics of Filament Yarn
Yarn Classification
Direct Spun Yarns
Textured Filament Yarns
Fabric Construction - Felt
Fabric Construction - Nonwoven Fabrics
A Fashion Data Base
Fiber Construction - Leather
Fabric Construction - Films
Glossary of Colors, Dyes, Inks, Pigments and Resins
Fabric Construction – Foams and Poromeric Material
Knitting
Hosiery
Glossary of Fabrics, Fibers, Finishes, Garments and Yarns
Weaving and the Loom
Similarities and Differences in Woven Fabrics
The Three Basic Weaves - Plain Weave (Part I)
The Three Basic Weaves - Plain Weave (Part II)
The Three Basic Weaves - Twill Weave
The Three Basic Weaves - Satin Weave
Figured Weaves - Leno Weave
Figured Weaves – Piqué Weave
Figured Fabrics
Glossary of Art, Artists, Art Motifs and Art Movements

The Glossary of Terms, Timelines of Fabrics, Dyes and Other Stuff, A Fashion Data Base, Glossary of Colors, Dyes, Inks, Pigments and Resins, Glossary of Fabrics, Fibers, Finishes, Garments and Yarns and Glossary of Art, Artists, Art Motifs and Art Movements have been updated in order to better inform your art practice.

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Introduction
Cellulosic fibers, which are obtained from the stems of plants are known as bast fibers. Hence flax is a bast fiber. The bast fiber produced in greatest quantity is jute.

Bast fiber from the Melalecua Tree (also called a Paperbark tree).

Most bast fibers are used for cordage or sacking, or for industrial purposes. Hessian and burlap are made from jute.

Site name, Gallo Cliff Dwelling, 1100-1200 AD.
Braided cord was used to weave feather and fur blankets, and to hang canteens and seed jars. Yucca fiber.
Size: length - 52.0 cm; diameter - 1.8 cm.

Other plant fibers include coir, which is a very coarse fiber. It is generated from coconut husks and is used to make doormats. Sisal is a fiber produced from the leaves of the agave plant.

Sisal fields.

To put their usage in perspective, the annual production of cotton is three times as much as that for all these fibers put together. These natural fibers have to compete with synthetics for the cordage and industrial market. Nevertheless, improvements in cultivation and processing have kept these natural fibers competitive in the market place.


Ramie
Ramie or grass cloth has been used for several thousands of years in China. It is grown in countries that have a hot humid climate. In the USA ramie is grown in the everglades region of Florida.

Pure Ramie fabric.

The plant is harvested by cutting. After cutting, a new growth starts immediately. Three crops a year may be harvested.

The ramie fiber bundles are removed by a decorticating machine. The machine strips the stalks as it pulls them through a series of rollers, which removes all of the woody portion of the plant. After decortication, the fiber must be degummed in a mild chemical bath. The ramie fibers are longer than any of the other fibers in the bast fiber group. They range from 1” to 12” (2.54 cm to 31 cm) and are usually cut into desired staple lengths before spinning.

When seen under a microscope, ramie is very similar to flax fiber. It is pure white. It is one of the strongest fibers known and its strength increases when wet. It has a silk-like luster. Ramie also has a very high resistance to rotting, mildew and other organisms.

Ramie under a microscope.

Ramie has some disadvantages. It is stiff and low in resiliency, hence it wrinkles very easily. Ramie has the most highly crystalline molecular structure of any of the cellulose fibers, creating its high strength as well as its lack of resiliency. Ramie is low in elasticity; it is brittle, and breaks if folded repeatedly in the same place.

Ramie is used in fabrics resembling linen, such as suitings, shirtings, table cloths, napkins, and handkerchiefs.

Hand dyed fushia Ramie napkins.


Hemp
The history of hemp is as old as that of flax. Because hemp lacks the fineness of better quality flax, it has never been able to compete in the clothing field. Some varieties of hemp are, however, very difficult to distinguish from flax.

Hemp fields.

Hemp production and manufacture is very similar to that of flax. In 1942, the USA government sponsored a hemp-growing program in order to service war needs. Its high strength and light weight made it particularly suitable for twine, cordage, and thread for stitching the soles of soldier’s shoes.

Poster during WW II.

After the war, the demand for hemp declined; it is now one of the less important fibers, although there has been a recent resurgence in interest for its use.

Uses for hemp.


Jute
Jute was known as a fiber in Biblical times. India is the largest producer of jute, having well over several hundred jute mills. Jute is the cheapest textile fiber and it is the second most widely used vegetable fiber, ranking next to cotton. The individual fibers in the jute bundle are shorter than those of other bast fibers. It is the weakest of the cellulose fibers.

Jute out to dry. The soft, stringy part is the outside fiber of the plant, and is the part used for textiles etc. The bundles on the left are the inside of the plant.

The greater part of jute production goes into bagging for sugar, coffee and so forth, or is used in carpet, backing, rope, cordage, and twine. The olefin fibers are now competing with jute in these areas.


A Comparison of Properties
Since all plant fibers are 70-80% cellulose, and contain similar gums, waxes and pectin (a cellulosic gum) they are chemically similar. Their properties differ mainly by virtue of the differing dimensions and crystallinity of their components.

For example, let us compare flax and sisal. Although the fiber bundles have the same overall diameter, it appears the fibers making up these bundles are fine in flax, but thick and coarse in sisal. The comparative fineness of flax means that it is much more supple and flexible. Flax and sisal have similar tensile strength – it takes the same lengthwise pull to break them – but greater rigidity of sisal makes it far more brittle – it is less abrasion resistant.

This difference in properties explains why flax is suitable for clothing textile applications, whilst sisal is used mainly for cordage.

Brazilian Sisal Twine.

Below we shall compare the fibers using three headings: Fiber, Type, Use and Properties.

Fiber: Jute.
Type: Bast.
Use and Properties: Burlap, hessian, bagging cloth, carpet backing, rope and twine.

Fiber: Flax.
Type: Bast.
Use and Properties: Linen (clothing, household linen).

Fiber: Sisal, henequen.
Type: Leaf (agave).
Use and Properties: Ropes, twine, roof insulation, backing cloths.

Fiber: Hemp.
Type: Bast.
Use and Properties: Cordage, linen-type weaves.

Fiber: Abaca.
Type: Leaf.
Use and Properties: World’s most desirable natural cordage – soft and strong.

Fiber: Pina.
Type: Leaf (Pineapple).
Use and Properties: Fine lusterous clothing fabrics.

Fiber: Coir.
Type: Fruit (coconut).
Use and Properties: Doormats, upholstery, stuffing – it is stiff and brittle.


References:
[1] N. Hollen, H. Saddler, Textiles, The Macmillan Company, London (1968).

[2] A Fritz and J. Cant, Consumer Textiles, Oxford University Press, Melbourne (1986).

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