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 co
ton 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