Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The protein fiber of silk is composed mainly of fibroin and is produced by certain insect larvae to form cocoons. The best-known silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm. This is usually a (sericulture) reared in captivity species.
The shimmering appearance of silk is due to the triangular prism-like structure of the silk fibre, which allows silk cloth to refract incoming light at different angles, thus producing different colours. Silk is produced by several insects, but generally only the silk of moth caterpillars has been used for textile manufacturing.
There has been some research into other types of silk, which differ at the molecular level. Silk is mainly produced by the larvae of insects undergoing complete metamorphosis, but some insects such as web-spinners and raspy crickets produce silk throughout their lives.
Cotton is a fluffy staple fiber. The plant is a shrub native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including the Americas, Africa, and India. The greatest diversity of wild cotton species is found in Mexico, followed by Australia and Africa. Cotton was independently domesticated in the Old and New Worlds.
The fiber is most often spun into yarn or thread and used to make a soft, breathable textile. Cotton use has been around since prehistoric times. Specific evidence dates back to the Neolithic era from 6500 BCE to 2500 BCE. The Cotton Industry is one of the major successes in the Industrial Revolution.
Linen is a textile made from the fibres of the flax plant. Linen is laborious to manufacture, but the fiber is very absorbent and garments made of linen are valued for their exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather. Linen is known to be the world’s strongest natural fiber. It is so durable it’s even used in paper money to increase strength! It is thicker than cotton.
Linen textiles are some of the oldest in the world, dating back thousands of years. Egyptians sometimes used linen as currency. Use of the flax plant is believed to date back to approximately 8,000 BC.
Linen fiber has variable lengths, most of which are very long. This contributes to strength, which contributes to longevity as items made from linen lasts a very long time.
Wool is a textile fiber obtained from sheep, goats and other animals. Types of wool include cashmere and mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, angora from rabbits, and other types of wool from camelids.
Wool has several qualities that distinguish it from hair or fur. It is crimped and elastic.