Fibre to Fabric

We change our clothes many times throughout the day. When you go to school, you wear a collared shirt but when you come back home you wear a casual t-shirt. Now, think about the material of these two garments –  the shirt has a more synthetic feel whereas the t-shirt is quite soft. Why do these garments feel different to us? It is for a very simple reason – they are made of different fabrics. 

In this lesson, we will learn about the various different fabrics and their sources and we will briefly learn about the process of production of these fabrics.



Now, let’s think of some common articles of clothing that all of us have come across. These include:

  • Tshirts
  • Sweaters
  • Sarees

T Shirts are most commonly made of cotton.

Sweaters are made of wool.

A very common material for making sarees is silk. 

So far we’ve focussed on clothing materials. But bags such as school bags, gunny sacks, handbags, etc are all made of different materials as well.

  • Jute is commonly used for making sacks and totes.
  • Leather is popularly used for making handbags, wallets, purses. 

Now, very often we have seen small threads coming out of an old piece of fabric. These threads are nothing but yarns. 

Definition of Yarn : Yarn can be defined as a continuous length of interlocked fibres.

Textile is made up of yarn. Yarn, in turn, is made up of finer, interlocked strands and these strands are made up of even thinner strands called fibre.


Fibre—> Strand—> Yarn—> Cloth 


Fibres can be both natural as well as synthetic.

Natural fibres are those fibres that are obtained from natural sources such as plants, animals or mineral sources.

Plant Fibres:

Cotton : 

  • Cotton is obtained from the cotton plant
  • The fruit of the plant yields cotton
  • Commonly grown in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana

The fruit of cotton plants, cotton bolls, grow to the size of a lemon after which they burst open and seeds covered with cotton fibres can then be seen. 

How is cotton extracted from these burst fruits?

  • From the bolls, cotton is picked by hand
  • Combing is done to separate the fibres from the seeds
  • This process is known as ginning.

Jute :

  • Jute is obtained from the jute plant
  • It is obtained from the stem of the plant
  • Commonly grown in West Bengal, Bihar, Assam

The extraction is as follows:

  • The jute plant is harvested at the flowering stage
  • The stems are then allowed to rot in water for a few days
  • The jute fibres are then separated from the stem

Animal Fibres:


Silk is obtained from silkworm.

  • Silk is obtained from the cocoon of silkworm
  • Cocoons are collected and kept under the sun or boiled or exposed to steam
  • Then, the silk fibres are separated from the the cocoon 

Now as we can see the process of silk extraction is not only quite complicated it also requires the sacrifice of silkworms, which is why silk products are markedly more expensive.


Wool is most commonly obtained from sheep. 

  • Shearing – Removal of fleece from sheep is the first step
  • Scouring – The sheared fleece is washed to remove dirt and grease
  • Grading – The wool is then sorted on the basis of length, colour, texture and the ease with which it can be dyed
  • Drying – The wool is then put through rollers to squeeze out as much water as possible and finally it is used to make yarn

These are the most commonly used fabrics and their sources.


Spinning –

From the mass of coton, fibres are drawn out and twisted to make fibres. This is one of the earliest methods for utilizing cotton to make fabric. 

The charkha or spinning wheel is one of the oldest instruments used for spinning cotton fibre. 

The charkha is historically significant as it was largely popularised by Mahatma Gandhi during India’s struggle against independence. Mahatma Gandhi urged Indians to use charkha to make clothes from homespun yarn and to boycott British made clothes and thus the charkha has a very significant place in Indian history.

There are two basic ways in which cotton fibre is used to produce cotton fabric:

  1. Weaving   2. Knitting


Weaving is a technique of textile production in which two sets of yarn are interlocked at right angles to each other to produce the fabric.

Weaving is usually done on looms which can be operated manually or with power.

2. Knitting:

Knitting is a method of textile production done through interlooping of yarn. The basic action of knitting – putting a loop through a loop.

For example if you pull a loose thread on a knitted scarf, the entire scarf will come undone!

The reason behind this is that only a single set of yarn is used during knitting.

Points to remember:

Variety of materials

  • Yarn and fibre
  • Sources of materials(plant and animal sources)
  • Significance of Charkha
  • Weaving
  • Knitting

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