Natural Fibres: A Need-to-Know Guide

When you think of sustainable fabrics, natural fibres instantly come to mind. They are renewable and biodegradable, making them kinder to the planet than many synthetic alternatives. Plus, they’re durable and luxurious too!

Here are a few of our favourite natural fibres, found in both fashion and homeware, so you know what to look out for next time you’re shopping.
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Alpaca Wool

Originally hailing from South America, Alpacas can now be found across the world where they are farmed for their thick coat that is made from fine and soft hairs. Once sheared the fibre can be turned into yarn for knitting, but can also be used as raw fibre for bedding and soft furnishings, such as those sold by brand to trust Penrose Products.

Penrose Products mixes UK produced alpaca wool with conventional sheep wool to create its all-natural luxury bedding collections. The material is perfect for bedding due to its naturally temperature regulating properties that help keep you at the right temperature throughout the night.

Top fact: Alpaca fibre is naturally anti-allergenic as the cool and dry material makes it an unwelcoming habitat for dust mites that can trigger allergies like asthma.

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Merino Wool

Merino is a particular breed of sheep that is famous for its soft wool that is used to create premium knitwear across the world. The natural fibres are strong so make durable yet luxurious garments, while it is more elastic than many wool materials helping garments keep their shape for longer.

Flock by Nature are just one example of a brand who chooses merino wool for its sustainable qualities. The brand’s beautiful knitwear is all made in the UK or Italy using premium materials and they offer complimentary repairs to their designs to ensure it remains a treasured item in your wardrobe for years to come.

Top fact: Unfortunately not all merino sheep breeding is humane, some farmers still carry out a practice called mulesing that removes skin from the animal’s buttocks to stop flies laying eggs in this area. Look out for brands such as Flock by Nature that guarantee their merino is mulesing-free.

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Cashmere

Cashmere is one of the most luxurious fibres, revered for its super-soft feel that makes it perfect for cosy knitwear. The fibre is combed from cashmere goats that live in cold and harsh climates, which is why they grow such a warm and insulating coat.

Most cashmere is sourced from Mongolia, and although much of it can claim to be organic this doesn’t mean it is necessarily sustainable. Naadam works directly with herders to ensure they know the story of their materials and are the only company to create a Cradle-to-Cradle certified cashmere yarn.

Top fact: Cashmere is readily available on the high street now, yet these garments normally contain shorter fibre strands that are not as durable and are more likely to pill over time. High-quality cashmere may naturally pill once, but should not continually do so.
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Alpaca Fur

Along with being used for its sheared fibre, alpacas still provide a significant portion of protein to people living in South America, meaning that skins are produced as a byproduct of the meat industry.

The lustre and softness of alpaca fur is unmatched so rather than going to waste is repurposed by companies like Alpaca Plush to create beautiful and luxurious homeware items. Alpaca Plush use the latest tanning technologies to make their rugs and throws to ensure the pieces are of the highest quality.

Top fact: There are two types of alpaca hair, Suri and Hua. Hua is a thick and dense fibre for an inviting and sumptuous feel, while Suri has a longer and silkier texture that captures the air for a lighter look.

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If you enjoyed reading this, you might also like Our Top Ten Clothing Care Tips or Redesigning Materials Second Time Around.

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Sophie Corfan