Natural fibers are hair-like raw materials that are continuous filaments like pieces of thread. There are two types of fibers: natural fibers and synthetic fibers. These natural fibers can be spun in to filaments, threads or ropes. Now a days these natural fibers are being used in the textiles, building, plastics and automotive industries. Natural fibers are further classified according to their sources like vegetable fibers, animal fibers and mineral fibers. In vegetable fibers cellulose is the main component, whereas these fibers are further classified into the following types,
• Seed fibers - These are the fibers from seeds or seed cases for example cotton and kapok.
• Leaf fibers - These fibers are collected from leaves, example- sisal and agave.
• Bast fiber or skin fiber - These are fibers which are collected from the skin or bast surrounding the stem of plant source. These fibers have higher tensile strength than other fibers. Hence these fibers are used for durable yarn, fabric, packaging and paper. For example flax, jute, kenaf, industrial hemp, ramie, rattan, soybean fibre and even vine fibers and banana fibers.
• Fruit fibers - These fibers are collected from the fruit of the plants.
• Stalk fibers - These fibers are really the stalks of the plants like straws of wheat, rice, barley and other crops including bamboo and grass.
In 19th century, the use of natural fibers significantly decreased and there was a massive rise in the production of synthetic fibers. Whereas now the situation has especially due to the environmental concern in favor of natural fibers as they are biodegradable and sustainable material. India has huge resource of natural fibers like banana, khus, sisal, korai grass, talipot, palmleaf, coconut, pineapple, screw pine, golden grass, jute, sabai etc. The rural artisans converted these fibers into value added finished products like bags, table mats, cushion covers, hats, floor coverings and lamp shades etc., which provides a large employment to the rural poor, especially the underprivileged class.
Lamp shades are one of the earliest discoveries of man-made lighting. In early 17th century, Paris streets were lit with oil lamps those were fit with reflectors above and alongside in which the flame projected the light downward and from side to side. Then those oil lamps were followed by gas lights and were filtered by opal glass or shades with fabric stretched on a wire frame but the drawback of these gas lighting were over heating of air and high oxygen consumption which pollute the environment.