Understanding fibers is the first step to mastering textiles.
But with a countless list of things to learn, diving into the world of fibers can be overwhelming.
That’s why I made this Fiber Dictionary – to serve as your quick reference when learning the fibers that shape fashion. I also made sure to include some pictures to help you remember them!
So, whether you’re a fashion student, a freelance fashion designer, or an in-house designer eager to understand the basics, this guide is your ticket to all the must know fibers used in textiles.
Why am I qualified to write about this stuff? In my 15 years of experience in the fashion industry, I’ve journeyed from being an in-house designer, starting my own brand (yep!), to growing my freelance career to $100,000+. Now, with all the knowledge I’ve learned along the way, I want to help fashion designers (and PDs, TDs, etc.) like you make it in the industry.
Abaca: Natural fiber from a species of the banana plant, known for its strength and durability. Often used for rope, bags, and coarse textiles.
Acetate: A synthetic fiber with a silk-like appearance, known for its luxurious feel and draping qualities.
Acrylic: A synthetic fiber that is lightweight, soft, and retains its shape well. It is often used as a substitute for wool.
Alpaca: Natural fiber derived from alpaca animals, known for its warmth, softness, and hypoallergenic properties.
Angora: Natural fiber from Angora rabbits, known for its softness and silky texture.
Bamboo: Natural fiber made from the pulp of bamboo plants, valued for its eco-friendly and antibacterial properties.
Banana Fiber: Natural fiber extracted from banana plants’ stems, valued for its eco-friendliness and durability. Used in textiles and crafts.
Carbon Fiber: A strong, lightweight synthetic fiber known for its high tensile strength. Widely used in advanced composites for aerospace and sports equipment.
Cashmere: Fine, soft, and luxurious natural fiber sourced from cashmere goats, renowned for its warmth and softness.
Coir: Natural fiber derived from coconut husks, known for its durability and water-resistant properties. Used in doormats, brushes, and geotextiles.
Cotton: Soft, breathable, and absorbent natural fiber derived from cotton plants. It is one of the most widely used fibers in the textile industry.
Fiberfill: Synthetic filling material, often made from polyester, used in quilts, pillows, and padded clothing for insulation and softness.
Flax: Natural fiber from the flax plant, commonly known as linen. Known to be strong, durable, and absorbent.
Fur: Animal pelts used for their soft, insulating properties. Used in luxury fashion items like coats, hats, and accessories.
Hemp: Natural fiber from the hemp plant, known for its strength, durability, and sustainability. Used in textiles, paper, and eco-friendly products.
Jute: Natural fiber commonly used for making burlap and other coarse fabrics. It is derived from the jute plant’s stem.
Kapok: Natural fiber from the kapok tree’s seed pods, known for its buoyancy and softness. Historically used in life jackets and pillows.
Lotus Fiber: Natural fiber obtained from lotus plant stems, prized for its softness and lightness. Traditionally used in Asia for clothing and textiles.
Lurex: Metallic yarn or fiber often blended with other fabrics to add sparkle and shimmer to garments and accessories.
Merino: Soft, fine wool obtained from Merino sheep. Known for its exceptional warmth and softness, used in high-quality woolen garments.
Milk Fiber: A protein-based fiber made from casein, a milk protein. Known for its smooth texture and moisture-wicking properties.
Modal: Semi-synthetic fiber made from beech tree pulp. Soft, smooth, and breathable, commonly used in underwear, pajamas, and casual wear.
Mohair: Natural fiber from Angora goats, characterized by its silky texture and sheen. It is often used in luxury fabrics.
Mulberry Silk: High-quality silk produced by silkworms fed exclusively on mulberry leaves. Known for its smooth texture and luxurious sheen, used in premium silk garments.
Nylon: Synthetic fiber valued for its strength, elasticity, and abrasion resistance. It is commonly used in activewear and hosiery.
Pima Cotton: High-quality, long-staple cotton known for its softness and durability. Commonly used in luxury T-shirts, sheets, and other fine textiles.
Piña: Natural fiber from pineapple leaves, used primarily in traditional Philippine textiles like the piña cloth.
Polyester: Synthetic fiber known for its durability, wrinkle resistance, and color retention. It is versatile and used in a wide range of fabrics.
Ramie: Natural fiber from the Chinese nettle plant, similar to linen but even stronger. It is resistant to mold and mildew.
Rayon: Semi-synthetic fiber made from cellulose, offering a silky texture and excellent drape. It is often used as a versatile substitute for silk.
Silk: Luxurious and smooth natural fiber produced by silkworms, known for its sheen, softness, and temperature-regulating properties.
Soy Silk: Natural fiber made from soybeans, recognized for its softness and moisture-wicking properties.
Spandex (Lycra/Elastane): Synthetic fiber with exceptional elasticity, commonly used in stretch fabrics for activewear and form-fitting garments.
Suede: Soft, velvety leather with a napped surface. Often used in jackets, shoes, and accessories for a luxurious appearance.
Tencel (Lyocell): Eco-friendly fiber made from wood pulp, known for its softness, breathability, and environmentally friendly production process.
Vinyl: Synthetic material made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Waterproof and versatile, used in raincoats, boots, and accessories.
Viscose: Semi-synthetic fiber made from wood pulp, offering a soft and smooth feel. It is often used in linings and summer clothing due to its breathability.
Wool: Natural fiber from sheep, known for its warmth, insulation, and moisture-wicking properties.
But if you’re eager to learn more about fibers and textiles, I definitely have more for you!
You can go check out my guide on the Fabric Burn Test, where you’ll learn how to identify your fabrics through a quick experiment.
And if you want to learn more terminologies, you can head over to my Fabric Dictionary, where you’ll learn the commonly used textiles used in fashion.
So, next time you’re scratching your head trying to remember that one term, make sure to bookmark this fiber dictionary guide!