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Substitutes For Cotton

On account of the high price of cotton various experiments have been
made in an effort to replace it with fiber from wood pulp, grasses,
leaves, and other plants.

=Wood Pulp.= A Frenchman has discovered a process, la soyeuse, of
making spruce wood pulp into a substitute for cotton. Although it is
called a substitute, the samples show that it takes dye, bleaching,
and finishing more brilliantly than the cotton fiber. It resists
boiling in water or caustic potash solution for some minutes, and does
not burn more quickly than cotton. The fiber can be made of any
length, as is also the case with artificial silk. The strength of the
yarn apparently exceeds cotton, and the cost of manufacture is much
lower. Arrangements are being made in Europe for the extensive
production of this fiber.

=Ramie.= Ramie or China grass is a soft, silky, and extremely strong
fiber. It grows in southwestern Asia, is cultivated commercially in
China, Formosa, and Japan, and is a fiber of increasing importance.
Ramie is a member of the nettle family and attains a height of from
four to eight feet. After the stalks are cleaned of a gummy substance,
insoluble in water, it is known as China grass, and is used in China
for summer clothing. In Europe and America by the use of modern
machinery and chemical processes the fiber is cleaned effectively and
cheaply. After it is bleached and combed it makes a fine silky fiber,
one-half the weight of linen, and three times stronger than hemp. It
is used in Europe to make fabrics that resemble silk, and is also used
in making underwear and velvets. With other fabrics it is employed as
a filling for woolen warps. It will probably be used widely in the
United States as soon as cheaper methods of cleaning are devised.

=Pineapple and Other Fibers.= Other fibers, of which that from the
pineapple is the most important, are used for textile purposes in
China, South America, parts of Africa, Mexico, and Central America.
Their use has not been extensive on account of high cost of
production. The silk from the pineapple is very light and of excellent

=Spun Glass.= When a glass rod is heated in a flame until perfectly
soft it can be drawn out in the form of very fine threads which may be
used in the production of handsome silky fabrics. Spun glass can be
produced in colors; but on account of the low elasticity of these
products, their practical value is small, though the threads are
exceedingly uniform and have beautiful luster. Spun glass is used by
chemists for filtering strong acid solutions.

A kind of glass wool is produced by drawing out to a capillary thread
two glass rods of different degrees of hardness. On cooling they curl
up, in consequence of the different construction of the two
constituent threads.

=Metallic Threads.= Metallic threads have always been used for
decorating, particularly in rich fabrics. Fine golden threads, as well
as silver gilt threads, and silver threads and copper wire, have been
used in many of the so-called Cyprian gold thread fabrics, so renowned
for their beauty and permanence in the Middle Ages. These threads are
now produced by covering flax or hemp threads with a gilt of fine

=Slag Wool.= Slag wool is obtained by allowing molten slag (generally
from iron) to run into a pan fitted with a steam injector which blows
the slag into fibers. The fibers are cooled by running them through
water, and the finished product is used as a packing material.

=Asbestos.= Asbestos is a silicate of magnesium and lime, containing
in addition iron and aluminum. It is found in Savoy, the Pyrenees,
Northern Italy, Canada, and some parts of the United States. Asbestos
usually occurs in white or greenish glassy fibers, sometimes combined
in a compact mass, and sometimes easily separable, elastic, and
flexible. Canadian asbestos is almost pure white, and has long fibers.
Asbestos can be spun into fine thread and woven into rope or yarn, but
as it is difficult to spin these fibers alone, they are generally
mixed with a little cotton, which is afterwards disposed of by heating
the finished fabric to incandescence. Because of its incombustible
nature asbestos is used where high temperatures are necessary, as in
the packing of steam joints, steam cylinders, hot parts of machines,
and for fire curtains in theatres, hotels, etc. It is difficult to

Next: Appendix

Previous: Artificial Silk

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