A History of Applied Fiber and Fabric Enhancements (Part 3)

After leather, early man started to utilize nature as a source for fiber to make textiles and fabric.

For over five thousand years, the following four fibers and a few woven grasses were the only materials available for the manufacture of fabrics.

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5,000+ BC FLAX
Generally considered to be the oldest natural textile fiber. Fine linene was used as burial shrouds for the Egyptian pharaohs.

The largest producer: Soviet States; other large producers include Poland, Germany, Belgium, and France. The largest exporters are Northern Ireland and Belgium.

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3,000+ BC COTTON
The earliest use estimated between 3,000 BC to 5,000 BC.

Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1793 AD revolutionized the processing of cotton. The development of the power loom in 1884 AD brought significant improvements and variations to cotton fibers.

The major producers: United States, Soviet States, China, and India. The lesser producers include: Pakistan, Brazil, Turkey, Egypt, Mexico, Iran, and Sudan.

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3,000+ BC WOOL
Used by people of the Late Stone Age. There are 40 different breeds of sheep, which produce approximately 200 types of wool in varying grades.

The major producers include: Australia, New Zealand, Soviet States, China, South Africa, and Argentina.

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2,600+ BC SILK
Ancient fable tells story of the creation of the first silk thread by a Chinese princess. Silk is made from two continuous filaments cemented together and used to form the cocoon of the silkworm. Silk culture began about 1725 BC, encouraged by the wife of China’s emperor. Secrets of cultivation and fabric manufacturing were closely gaurded by the Chinese for about 3,000 years.

The story goes that two monks smuggled seeds of the mulberry tree and silkworm eggs out of China by hiding them in their walking sticks.

India first learned of sil culture when a Chinese princess married an Indian prince.

The current major producer and exporter of silk is Japan.

 

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