Mohair is the hair produced by the Angora goat. It is a durable fibre that has a high sheen. Mohair fabrics provide warmth in winter, and coolness in the summer. The fibres are easily spun, and take dyes relatively easily. The scales of the fibres are shallow, and the hairs are therefore generally combed, rather than carded. Mohair fibres are often mixed with other, cheaper fibres. 

Hair from a North American animal, the moose, has traditionally been used as a textile fibre and thread. In North America, moose hair was particularly used in the northeast of the continent. Moose are known as elk in Eurasia and have the species name of Alces alces. It is the largest member of the deer family.

Muga silk is a wild silk generally associated with the state of Assam, in northeast India. It is a very strong fibre with a pale brown or golden yellow colour. Its use was formerly reserved to royalty. It is often used in chikan work from Lucknow.

Nettle bast fibre is obtained from the stem of several different species of nettle plants of the family of the Urticaceae. There are many different types of nettle, especially those of the genus Urtica, that can be used for making a thread. Urtica dioica and Urtica urena, for example, were used in Europe for making ‘nettle cloth'. Ramie, another bast fibre, is also of the Urticaceae family, but from the genus Boehmeria.

Pashmina is an ultra-fine form of cashmere, and derives from the extreme northwest of the Indian subcontinent. The name is Persian in orgin (pashm, 'wool')).

Piña is a fibre that is made from the leaves of the pineapple (Spanish: piña). It is especially used as such in the Philippines. Piña cloth was widely applied in the Philippines, especially for the barong tagalok, the embroidered shirt which is still being worn, especially for formal occasions.

Ramie is the fibre obtained from the inner bark of various species of the genus Boehmeria, of the family of the Urticaceae (nettle). In the late twentieth century, most commercial ramie came from the Boehmeria nivea. Ramie is also called China grass, or white ramie.

Rayon is a generic fibre category that includes manufactured fibres composed of regenerated cellulose (mainly from wood pulp). Specific types of rayon include lyocell (also sold as Tencel), modal (often made from beech trees) and viscose. Rayon is characterised by its high absorbency, its draping qualities, its lustre, as well as its ability to be dyed with bright colours. Rayon is often used for clothing and household textiles.

Various chemists were working on adapting cellulose to make fibres in the latter half of the nineteenth century, but it was not until 1894 that the English chemist, Charles Frederick Cross, and his colleagues patented an artificial silk that was commercially viable. They called the new fibre 'viscose'. The first commercial viscose rayon was produced by the British firm of Courtaulds Fibres in 1905. The term 'rayon' was officially accepted in the USA in 1924, while in Europe the term 'viscose' remained in use.

Also known as: artificial silk or wool silk.

Source: TORTORA, Phyllis G. and Ingrid JOHNSON (2014). The Fairchild Books: Dictionary of Textiles, 8th edition, London: Bloomsbury, p. 500.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 27 June 2016).


Shahtush is a type of fibre, and the name of the fabric woven from it, that derives from the down hair of the Tibetan antelope (chiru; Pantholops hodgsonii). This animal is now nearly extinct, and hence the collection and processing of shahtush is forbidden in many countries, although the wool's use is known to continue in isolated parts of Kashmir and neighbouring lands.

Silk is a general term given to the continuous filament (fibroin) secreted by various species of insects, especially the larvae of the caterpillar Bombyz mori, generally known as the (cultivated) silkworm. The silk from the silkworm is secreted as a viscous fluid from two glands in the lateral parts of the body.

Sleave silk (or sleeve silk) is a late sixteenth century English term for floss silk or unspun silk, which can be used for embroidery.

Straw is the dried stalk of a cereal, as for instance barley, oats or wheat. Straw is sometimes used to create a woven cloth or as material for embroidery

Tussah (or Tussar) silk is the principal type of wild silk. It often has a coarse, light brown colour. It is produced from cocoons of moths of the Saturniidae family, particularly the species Antheraea pernyi, a native of China. Not to be confused with tussah that is a plain weave fibre with a rib effect.

Wild silk is obtained from the cocoons of caterpillars living in a wild state or in semi-domesticity, mostly from the genus Antheraea, but also from others. See also Tussah silk.

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