Man-made Fibers

Acetate

A synthetic fiber made from the cellulose acetate. Solution and spun-dyed acetates are colorfast to sunlight, perspiration, and air pollution; others may not be. Acetate is often used for very luxurious fabrics as it resembles silk; it is also occasionally mixed with other fibers to give additional sheen or to lower the cost. Acetone (which is part of most nail polish removers and some perfumes) destroys acetate.

Acrylic

A synthetic fiber made from acrylonitrile, which comes from coal, air, water, petroleum and limestone. Acrylic is lighter in weight for the warmth it gives than other fibers and is extremely popular for blankets as a substitute for wool.

Asbestos

A mineral fiber which is non-metallic. Its greatest virtue is that it is nonflammable. It is used in combination with other fibers for theater curtains and in industrial clothing where flame proofing is essential. Asbestos is often used in ironing board covers and potholders.

Blends

A combination of fibers that produces a fabric which has the good qualities of both fabrics. The development of blends of polyester and cotton, producing fabrics which require a minimum of ironing, has been one of the most significant developments in fabrics during the past 65 years. Correctly the term blend refers only to fabrics made from yarns which have been spun to combine the two fibers in one yarn. The term “mixture” should be used to describe fabrics in which, for instance, the wrap thread is polyester and the filling thread is cotton.

Nylon

Nylon, the first of the synthetic fibers, is very strong, resists abrasion and resists wrinkles. It has a natural luster, holds body heat and resists moths.  Nylon dyes well but fades in the sunlight, may pill and melts under high heat. Nylon is naturally mildew resistant, which has led to its popularity for such things as mosquito netting used in the tropics. Nylon is a thermoplastic man-made fiber synthesized from petroleum.

Polyster

Probably the most versatile and widely used of the man-made fibers. It is extremely strong, has excellent wrinkle and abrasion resistance and resists mildew and moths. It may be warm and clammy when used as apparel as it holds body heat. It may pill and attracts lint.

Rayon

The first successful man-made fiber. Rayon was originally called artificial silk. It is made from cellulose and is weak when it is wet. Rayon is soft and comfortable and dyes well, but is weakened by exposure to sunlight. Because of its low wet strength, rayon may shrink or stretch unless treated.

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