HeaderBarGreen1a1a1a SUSTAINABLE FIBRES AND FABRICS HeaderBarGreen1a1a1a


Abacá: The leaves of the Abaca plant produce Manila hemp fibres.

Ahimsa philosophy: A Sanskrit term meaning non-violence which is part of the three thousand year old Jain Indian philosophy (also shared Buddhism and Hinduism). It is a rule of conduct not to harm any living thing and supports the philosophy of karmic consequence.

Ahisma peace silk: Made from the cocoons of several species of wild and semi-wild silk moths and is promoted in parts of southern India as ethical silk.

Alpaca: Vicugna pacos, a domesticated species of the camelidae family, it is the principal South American fibre-producing animal.

Alpaca Fleece: The term for marketing fibre from huacayas alpacas (also see Alpaca Suri).

Alpaca Suri: The term for marketing fibre from suri alpacas (also see alpaca fleece).

Angora: A specific breed of goats, rabbits and cats that share a similar type of hair fibre. The name is derived from the city of Angora (Ankara) in Turkey.

Angora (rabbit): Leporidae family, French, German, Awn, Satin and Giant are the principal breeds of the fibre producing rabbit.

Artificial fibres: Man made fibres regenerated from cellulosic origin.

Art silk: A textile term originally coined to describe artificial silk, or viscose rayons.


Bactrian: Camelus bactrianus, a species of camel from which camel hair fibre is produced.

Bamboo Kun: Natural cellulose contained within bamboo, which is used in fibre processing. It also protects the plant from pests and biological pathogens, which can create disease in the host plant.

Bast fibres: These are obtained from the phloem or inner skin of a plant and are separated from the xylem or woody core.

Biella: An important textile (primarily woollens) producing town near Milan Italy.

Biodegradable: The process by which organic substances are broken down by enzymes produced by living organisms.

Biopolymers: Naturally occurring polymers produced by living organisms such as starch & sugar.

Biotechnology: The term used for any technology that uses biological systems, living organisms and derivatives to make, modify or process products for specialist use.

Blended: The mixing two or more fibres together prior to spinning.

Bollgard ®: A registered trade mark for a quality of transgenic (GM) cotton.

Bolls: The ‘fruit’ capsules contain seeds covered in white hairs, which are the cotton fibres.

Bombay Hemp: See sunn.

Bombyx Mori: The cultivated silk moth, which feeds on the leaves of the mulberry tree, it has been overbred to be both blind and flightless.

Bonding: Attaching two or more layers of fabric together often by an adhesive heat treatment.

Botany wool: It is Merino wool originating from Botany Bay, where the first Merino sheep landed in Australia.

Bt cotton: Naturally occurring soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis is referred to as Bt cotton.

Burlap: American English term for jute or Hessian.


Carded/Carding: The process of brushing raw or washed fibres to ensure that they are thinned-out and evenly distributed to facilitate the spinning process.

Carding can also be used to create mixes of different fibres or of different colours.

Carding machine: See carding.

Cash crop: Crops grown for money as opposed to domestic subsistence.

Cashgora: A blend between cashmere and angora-mohair. It is one of three types of fibre produced by Nigora goats.

Cashmere: The fine downy undercoat produced primarily but not exclusively from the Himalayan Mountain goat, Capra hircus laniger, popularly known as the Cashmere goat.

Cebu hemp: See Manila hemp.

Cellulose: An organic compound, which is the primary structure to all green plants, discovered and isolated by a French Chemist in the mid 19th century. Natural fibres and artificial fibres, can be derived or re-generated from plants.

Cellulosic: Made from the naturally occurring plant compound.

Chacu: An Inca ritual involving the communal rounding up of vicuña, once every three to four years, for shearing and then releasing back into the wild. This practice continues today as part of the Peruvian government’s vicuña conservation policy.

Charkhi or churka: An Indian precursor to the cotton gin, used for long staple cotton but not adequate for short staple varieties.

China Grass: One of two types of ramie, a bast vegetable fibre of the nettle family, also known as white ramie.

Chiru: see Shatoosh.

Chrysalis: Pupa case, the third of four life stages (embryo/larva/pupa/imago) of the silk moth undergoing its metamorphosis.

Cocoon: Pupa casing made by the silk moth larvae.

Clip: A generic term applied when clipping or sheering a herd of angora goats.

Colour fast: Resists fading.

Coloured Angoras: Hybrid Angoras.

Combing: An additional process to make fibres smoother prior to spinning.

Cooking: A term in silk processing that refers to the cocoons being immersed in boiling water to soften the sericin, also referred to as maceration.

Cottonised: An alternative processing method used for hemp and flax.

Cotton Gin: (Abbreviation for cotton engine) A machine that separates the cotton fibers from the seedpods. The American inventor Eli Whitney is credited with inventing the modern gin in 1792 then patented in 1794.

Cotton Picker: A machine used to remove the cotton from the boll without damaging the plant.

Cotton Stripper: A machine that strips the entire boll from the plant.

Cotton belt: A term used to describe the cotton growing regions of the U.S.

Cotton system: A term for a spinning system used for cotton and similar fibres.

Cottonising: Processing linen fibres by using cotton fibre processing machinery

Creole cotton: Gossypium barbadensse, long staple cotton.

Crimp: A natural or artificial wave to the fibre or yarn.

Curaca: One of four types of llamas – a classic or light-wool (also see ccara -tapada – lanuda)


De-cortication: The manual or mechanised removal of the hard outer bark from plants such as ramie.

De-gumming: Removal of sericin as part of silk production. In the production of ramie it is one of the processes of extracting the fibres prior to spinning.

De-hair: The removal of coarse outer guard hairs from the soft under down in preparation for spinning.

Denier: A unit of measurement used to measure the linear mass density of fibres. Several filaments together are referred to as total denier. The system is used in Britain and the US for hosiery.

Denim: A cotton twill fabric where the wefts pass under two or more warps producing a diagonal rib effect. The fabric was originally called serge de Nîmes from the French town where it was made.

Drawing and Finisher Drawing: Two additional processes, which are both part of what is generically termed spinning. To further improve the evenness and regularity of the yarn, prior to final spinning.

Dromedary: Camelus dromedaries, the single humped Arabian camel; it is not used in the production of camel hair fibre (also see Bactrian).

Ductile strength: The mechanical property describing how much deformation a material can sustain before fracturing.


Egyptian Cotton: Gossypium hirsutum & Gossypium barbadensse,

A term applied to an extra long staple cotton produced in Egypt.

Eri silk moth: Philosamia ricini, a type of wild moth found only in India, it feeds on the castor plant and is considered to be ethical and equivalent to organic rearing

Eri Silk: A type of wild silk.


FAIRTRADE: An independent labelling scheme, initiated in the Netherlands for food production, it is now been extended to textiles; particularly cotton. The label assures the consumer that the product has met the international fair trade standard for production and is eligible to carry the fair trade mark, which guarantees that the farmer has been paid a premium above the market value of their commodity.

Felt: A non-woven (usually wool) fabric matted and condensed together.

Filament: May be natural (silk), or man-made (polyamide), and are fibres extruded in one continuous long strand.

Fibre: A long, thin flexible structure.

Fibroin: The protein that makes up liquid silk.

Flax: plant: Linum usitatisimum, an annual herb of the linaceae family used to make linen.


Gauge: Describes the fineness or chunkiness of a knitted garment; achieved by needle size and spacing.

Gin: The term refers to the building where cotton is processed (see cotton gin).

Ginning: Generically implies the complete process of preparing cotton.

GM cotton: Genetically modified or transgenic cotton.

Green chemistry: There are twelve principals that explain what the definitions should mean in practice. There aim is help to define the true ecological, ethical and sustainable credentials of a raw material or product.

Grease-wool: The term used to describe wool before it has been cleaned and scoured, also known as wool-in-the-grease.

Green ramie: One of two types of ramie, a bast vegetable fibre of the nettle family.

Greige: Raw state cloth before it has been bleached dyed or finished.

Guanaco: Lama guanicoe, a member of the South American Camelidae family.

Guard hairs: Coarser outer hairs that protect the finer under hairs or down on many animals.


Hackling: Combing out the short broken fibres or tows, leaving only the long desirable fibres, which are then ready for spinning.

Hair sheep: A type of sheep that does not produce wool.

Hank: Unsupported coil of yarn. The ends are tied together to maintain the shape also called skein.

Halo effect: The effect created by the fine downy surface of angora yarn that, in pale colours appears slightly luminous in the light.

Hemp: The generic name for the entire cannabis family of plants.

Hessian: See jute.

Huacaya: (pronounced wua’ki’ya) One of two types of alpaca, producing a dense, soft sheep-like fibre with a uniform crimp (also see Suri).

Huarizo: An alpaca llama crossbreed.

Himalayan mountain goat: Capra hircus laniger, popularly known as the Cashmere goat.

Hydrophobic: Water repellant; will not absorb water.

Hygroscopic: Readily taking up and retaining moisture.


Icelandic wool (sheep): They have a double-layered fleece made up of fine cashmere-like inner fibre and coarser medium outer fibre.

Industrial hemp: The term given to the variety of hemp grown for fibre and other non- narcotic purposes.


Jersey-wear: Generic term for various garments such as tee shirts and polo shirts which are cut and made from fabric which has been knitted.

Johnston’s of Elgin: Elgin Scotland, the oldest cashmere mill still in operation.

Jute: a bast vegetable fibre that is coarse and strong.


Kemps: Coarse, hollow, stiff opaque outer hair fibres.

Kenaf: A species of hibiscus with visual similarities to Jute.

Keratin: Animal protein found in wool, hair, nails, feathers and horn.


Lanolin: Produced from the protective wool grease that coats the fleece of sheep. Medical grade lanolin is both hypoallergenic and bacteriostatic.

LEA: A U.S. measuring system for grading the fineness of linen - 1 LEA = 1 X 300 yards (yarn) to the pound weight.

Lignin: A chemical compound commonly derived from wood and an integral part of the cell walls of plants.

Linen Board: Established in 1711, The Board of Trustees of the Linen Manufacturers of Ireland was set up to develop the Irish linen industry.

Linen Union: Fabric with a linen weft and a cotton warp.

Linters: Fuzzy down which is removed as part of the ginning process.

Lint: Cleaned cotton, also describes a fuzzy surface linen is lint free.

Llama fibre or (llama wool): Referred to as fibre as technically llama hair is not wool due to its particular structure.

Lofty or loft: Descriptive of the appearance of woolen fibre of fabric implying: volume, supple, soft and springy.

Long-line fibres: One of two categories of flax fibre, the short fibres are called tow fibres.

Luminosity: Colour value, reflecting back to the eye.


Maceration: See cooking (silk cocoons).

Manila hemp: Also known as Daveo and Cebu hemp is produced from the Abacá plant. The fibres are produced from the leaves.

Medulated fibres: Intermediate fibres on an Angora goat, less coarse than the kemp fibres but coarser than the true mohair fibres.

Mercerised cotton: A caustic soda solution applied to cotton yarn and/or fabric to give it a more lustrous and smoother appearance

Merino: A distinctive breed of sheep originating in Spain but now the bulk of the Australian wool production.

Micronaire: A means of assessing the fineness of cotton fibre.

Micro fibre: a fibre that is under one denier.

Microns: A unit of measurement, one micron is s one millionth of a metre.

Mill: The place where yarn and fabric are manufactured.

Mill Washing: Washing treatments to soften, treat & age fabric.

Milled: implies the fabric has been treated to age or soften its appearance, or to blend colours together.

Mohair: The fleece and the fabric produced from Angora goats.

Mommes: (momme: sing.) A system of weight measurement for silk, it quantifies the density of silk as opposed to the thread count.

Muga moth: Antheraea assamensis, a wild and semi wild species of silk moth living in a restricted area in Assam, India.

Muga Silk: A variety of wild silk.

Mulberry silkworm: Bombyx mori, the cultivated silk worm that feeds exclusively on mulberry leaves.

Mosso bamboo: Phyllostachys, the species of bamboo cultivated for textile production.

Multivoltine: Term applied to silk moths producing at least ten batches of eggs per year.

Mungo: Fibrous woollen material generated from waste fabric.


Nap: Raised surface on fabric.

Nep: Entangled fibres or knots.

Naturally Coloured Cotton: Cotton that is naturally plant pigmented.

Nettle: A fast growing bast fibre.

New Zealand Flax: Phormium tenax, or harakeke, in Maori, native of New Zealand and not related to flax, linum Usitatissimum.

Nigora: A cross between an Angora goat and cashmere producing Nigerian dwarf goat.

Noil: Short fibres left over from combing wool or spinning silk, the fibres are weaker than normal fibres and considered inferior.

Nm: Metric measuring system used for linen/flax - the number of 1000 metre lengths per kilogram.


Organic cotton: Grown without pesticides from plants, which are not genetically modified


Paco Vicuña: A vicuña alpaca crossbreed.

Pashmina: A Kashmiri word for shawls made of cashmere. The term is derived from the Persian word pasham meaning goat wool.

Peace silk: (or vegetarian silk) Refers to silk that has been produced without harming the moth that has produced the silk cocoon. The moth is allowed to emerge naturally, before the cocoons are harvested

Pectin: Light substance derived from the cell walls of plants (the non woody parts). Pectin helps to bind cells together.

Peruvian alpaca: Alpaca marketed with its own distinctive branding.

Pima cotton: Indigenous American long staple cotton named after North American Pima Indians Gossypium barbadensse.

Phloem: Living tissue-carrying nutrients.

Protein fibre: Animal hair/wool or silk.

Pygora: A cross between an Angora goat and cashmere producing pygmy goat.


Rambouillet or French Merino: A cross between a Spanish Merino and an English long-wool sheep originally breed at Rambouillet, near Paris France.

Ramie: A bast vegetable fibre of the nettle family, boehmeria niveea.

Raw Silk: The short fibres left over from spinning silk. The term raw silk is often applied to silk noil.

Reeling: Extracting the silk filament from the cocoon.

Retting: A process that is used for all bast vegetable fibres, it involves the controlled separation of the fibre from the stalks.

Rippling: A process in the production of flax for making linen entailing the removal of the seeds by a mechanical process.

Roundup Ready ®: A registered trade mark for a quality of transgenic (GM) cotton.

Roves: Continuous lengths of fibre prior to spinning.

Rovings: Long narrow bundles of fibre with twist to hold them together.


Sea Island Cotton: Gossypium barbadensse, long staple cotton.

Scoured wool: Wool with the grease/lanolin removed. Scouring and Soap Scouring wool bulks up the fabric and gives fullness to the fibre.

Scutchers: See scutching.

Scutching: The process of separating fibrous stalks from the woody stems of bast fibres such as flax for processing it into linen.

Seed cotton: Pre-cleaned cotton.

Sericin: A water-soluble protective gum produced from the glands of the silk worm.

Spinnerets: Openings in the silkworm’ s head that secrete the protective sericin gum.

Sericulture: The process of breeding and cultivation of silk moths.

Shearing: The removing the fleece of a sheep in one piece.

Shetland sheep: These are of Scandinavian origin, their fleece have distinctive fine fibres.

Shoddy: Recycled or remanufactured wool made by tearing apart existing wool fabric and re-spinning it.

Silk noil: See raw silk.

Silk road: Ancient trade routes connecting China with Asia Minor and the Mediterranean.

Silkworm pupae: Pupa (sing). An insect between the usually passive stage of larva and adulthood.

Skein: See hank.

Slivers: Untwisted rope of fibres.

Slubs: An intermittent defect or isolated thickness along the length of the yarn, often perceived to lend a desirable ‘rustic’ feel to the resulting textile.

Spinning process: A generic term for several separate processes collectively called spinning as well as the singular specific process of applying twist to the yarn.

Staple: (fibre) textile fibre characteristics, its length, quality and grade.

Staple fibre: Fibre of finite length.

Sunn: A variety of hemp also known as Bombay Hemp.

Suri: (pronounced soo’ree) One of two types of alpaca, they have silky pencil-fine, mop-like locks (also see the Huacaya)

Synthetics: Man-made fibres derived from petrochemicals (which may be produced in staple or filament yarns). Not to be confused with artificial fibres, which are regenerated and extruded from chemically treated cellulose derivatives.

Super 100’s: An international system that identifies a range of fine worsted fabrics from Super 100’s through to Super 210’s. The higher the figure, the finer the yarn, they are ideal for good tailoring.


Tanguis cotton: A variety of cotton often grown organically in South America and is sometimes naturally coloured.

Tensile strength: A measurement of the stress required to pull something to its breaking point.

Tex: An international system of measurement used to measure the linear mass density of fibres.

Thermostatic: Having, or being able to maintain a consistent temperature.

Throwing: Applying a twist to silk filament.

Thrown threads: A categorisation term for different types of threads used in silk production.

Tow: (In flax/linen production) One of two categories of flax fibre, tow fibres are short, the long fibres are called long line fibres.

Tow: Mass of man-made filaments without twist.

Tram: Twisted threads used as wefts in the silk weaving process.

Tussah moths: (also spelt tassar) Antheraea mylitta and Antheraea proylei, are wild and semi wild silk moths respectively.

Tussah silk: The most common variety of wild silk.


Undercoat: See below.

Underdown: The superfine insulative hair fibre grown closest to the skin by a variety of animals to protect them from the coldest months in mountainous regions.


Vicuña: Vicugna vicugna, the smallest of the South American camelid family. Garments and fabrics should be registered by the Peruvian government, which is the only international body recognised for the task and assures the conservation of the animal.

Virgin Wool or pure new wool: It means the product has been produced from fibres that have not been previously processed.


Wild silks: These are characterised by a rough, ‘slubby’ appearance that differ in colour from farmed silk. The cocoons are ‘damaged’ by the emerging moth eating its way out.

White ramie: see China grass.

Woollen count: Refers to yarns spun on the woollen system.

Worsted count: refers to yarn spun on the worsted system.

Woollen spun yarn: Refers to yarns that have been carded and drawn but not combed.

Worsted spun yarns: Refers to yarns that have been carded, drawn and combed.

Wool Blends: A mixture of different wools and or other fibres.

Wool classes: Grading the wool by its quality prior to spinning, also known as classification.

Woolmark: A registered mark used for branding different types of Australian wool, it is used as a means of guaranteeing a standard of quality.

Worsted spun yarn: Yarns that have been combed as well as carded.


Yamami silk moth: Believed to be an indigenous species to Japan.

Yarn: A continuous length of fibres or filaments with or without twist.

Yarn Count: The numerical expression for size of yarn. [Denotes a certain length of yarn for a fixed weight. The higher the count, the finer the yarn.]

Yolk: The grease on the fleece of an angora goat.



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