All about Natural fibres

We here at New Zealand Natural Clothing create and sell beautiful and practical garments. That’s our promise - from our family to yours.


A big part of the ‘practicalness’ of our garments is that they are made with the right fibres for the job. This can be a little overwhelming because there are so many great choices and just not enough cupboard space!


It’s important for us that you know exactly what you’re buying (especially if you’re not in NZ and can’t speak to an expert in-store).  


So we have done all the fibre-research for you so you know the good, the not so good and the downright wonderful features of all the fibres we carry within our products.


Plus we have highlighted our personal favourites, because we love what we make just as much as you love wearing it!


Different fibres fulfil different roles, just like you wouldn’t build a paper house, you wouldn’t wear a silk item out on the farmland. I mean you could, you would look very very fancy but it wouldn’t protect you from the elements like Possum fibre does.




Possum is a great all rounder. Not only does the hollow fibre trap heat but it is lightweight and feels super luxurious.


This is what we love about Possum fur;


  • It’s really silky. It feels great to wear and soft to the touch.
  • It’s unfreezable.You could hang it in a walk-in freezer for days and it wouldn’t freeze (the only other fibre that can do this is polar bear fur!)
  • Mixing up Possum and merino wool creates a low pill and anti static fibre which basically means your Possum piece will look as good in years to come as it does today
  • It’s light as a feather. Possum fibre is hollow which means it is really lightweight.
  • It doesn’t get smelly. Totally odour resistant! This is because Possum fur takes moisture away from the body and releases it into the air.
  • The collection/use of the fibre also assists New Zealand in this introduced pests management.


We really like the Koru zip jackets for when it’s icy cold! It’s a fantastic option for a lightweight, toasty, smell free jacket for nights that rival the arctic. And because of the breathable aspect of the possum, you’ll get a lot of use out of it on those slightly warmer days too.


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We like to use the finest merino wool, typically 18 to 20 micron, out there because;


  • It wicks better. This means it expels moisture as opposed to holding it in
  • Merino feels really soft on your skin
  • Low allergenic; always good news for those of us who are prone to itchy reactions!
  • Merino helps garments to hang better. No one likes a fibre that just doesn’t hang right.


Merino is the leader in knitwear blends and when it’s flying solo too. The value of a garment increases as the micron gets lower because of how fine that wool is. In the Merino world, this has triggered a rapid cost increase because of the demand.


We love merino wool so much that it’s the base layer in our head to toe garments and accessories. The quality of our merino can’t be beaten in our opinion.


Not all merino garments are created equally.


The label may state 100% merino but be aware that there are many different grades of merino, spun thicker & thinner and knitted to different specifications.


Feel your merino, bunch it in your hand, pass it through your fingers, experience the difference in the garments you’ve bought. It won’t be long before you will be able to pick out the quality garments by touch alone!


If you want a superfine base layer, you need it to be around the 19-20 micron range. We have superior base layers in store that will exceed your comfort expectations!


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Sheep Wool

If you need your workwear to be tough, durable and built to cope with all kinds of outdoor work, then this coarse wool is for you.


This wool often needs no blending - it’s the master of workwear knitwear in its own right.


Jerseys are usually 100% high quality crossbred wool (often Romney breed), and some are made from a blend of wool and nylon - for enhanced durability.


The nylon makes the garment easier to wash. It doesn’t pull and make a run when it’s snagged. Which is why it’s so great for workwear!



Who doesn’t love a touch of silk? Silk makes everything feel like it’s been steeped in luxury!


We adore silk because;


  • It’s soft
  • It’s light
  • It makes us feel like a million dollars


All items from our Koru range use mulberry silk. It’s only the best for Koru, they do this because mulberry silk is known as the highest grade silk you can get in the world. Pure white in colour, it’s more refined than other types of silk.


Silk is valued for its strength primarily, but it's beautiful texture makes it very sought after!



Alpaca fibre can be either light or heavy weight depending on how it is spun. Besides being incredibly versatile in this way, we think it’s great because;


  • It’s durable - it lasts and lasts. We’ve seen alpaca garments passed down through generations!
  • It’s a really soft and lavish natural fibre
  • Alpaca is naturally water repellent and hard to set on fire
  • Warmer than sheep’s wool
  • Hypoallergenic because of the lack of lanolin


We use Alpaca for our hand crochets and knits, such as our beautifully soft brushed Alpaca beanie - Perfect for keeping your ears warm with a touch of luxury!


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Nylon is a great blender. We use it in our socks because;


  • Nylon has very good elasticity
  • It’s really resilient
  • It protests friction


We like to use Nylon in our work and dress socks as it acts as a strengthening agent for wear resistance.


We also use it in our original work jerseys and 10% in our native world gloves and some garments for the same reason.


Making products that not only fit the bill for right now, but last is really important to us and Nylon helps make sure our products can do that for you.


Shetland wool

This is coarse wool made from skirts of the fleece. The bits that get rubbed against harsh terrain. Sometimes called dagg wool.


Shetland wool is great for hard wearing knit fabric because it doesn’t pull, pill or get snagged as easily as finer wools.


The benefits of Shetland wool are impressive…


  • Value for money as the cost of raw materials is much lower
  • It’s a courser wool which makes it very hard wearing, it’s not soft to touch, people working in harsh environments do not need soft to touch!
  • Less or no pilling than some other finer wools.
  • So strong they make carpets from this wool.


Companies will sometimes advertise wool as ‘Shetland Wool’ - but it’s not from Shetland, it’s skirt wool - wool from the belly and leg of the sheep. This is the least expensive clip because it uses a lower grade less sought after skirt sheeps wool.

Hollow Fill Polyester

We know that hollow fill means it’s light, freeze resistant and soft. Hollow Fill Polyester is the synthetic copy of possum and polar bear fibre.


  • These fibres are less expensive than the natural choices.They are mostly mass produced in lower labour cost countries. There are less human touch points, (growing,harvesting and processing for example) than any naturally grown fibres.
  • Synthetic fibres last way longer than biodegradable natural fibres generally
  • Man Made copies of natural fibres can often be a better resource in manufacturing. They can have; higher rates of consistency, the ease of alteration for purpose rather than breeding , grafting or cloning.


We rate this fibre so highly that we use it in the thermal high trek Norsewear sock because of it’s unchallenged durability and heat trapping properties.


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Impregnating cotton with oil makes it oilskin - this fibre sheds water which is why it is used for Norsewear and Swanndri vests and jackets.


Oilskin’s waterproofing properties make it the ideal fibre for outdoor work, oilskin has been used for centuries and is mostly popular with fisherman or sailors due to its water shedding capability whilst still maintaining breathability.


There is a fashion element too, hardy looking long coats are a favourite for train commuters that often get caught on the platform in unpredictable weather.


What’s oilskin got to say?

  • It’s a cotton natural fibre base
  • The heritage of its use sits well beside knitwear as trusted reliable material for shedding weather,for outdoor people.
  • It creates a hardy protective shell for the user; mud, dust, moisture are shielded from the body with a layer of oilskin.
  • Redressing and care of the oil coating can see the fabric last for years much longer than many other fabrics including many synthetics.
  • Designers and Milliners find the fabric easy to sew to make great garments


Flame retardant non current conducting fibres

Not catching fire when working around fire is a hugely important benefit to flame retardant fibres. Motor racing, electrical and hot works are demanding registered fibre garments that meet safety requirements.


We’ve crafted some really useful products using these fibres such as the fire treated smelter electrical sock.


  • Sewing threads like Nomax are used in 100% merino garments for flame retarding (wool won't burn) but you can imagine a nylon stitching burning the skin in vulnerable places! Used in Motor racing, ballistic, and fire suits
  • Aramid threads like; Nomax , Kevlar and Technora are used for suppressing electrical conductivity, and are a requirement for power company staff compliance these days.



Cotton is the girl next door who’s just good at everything. She’s sporty, musical, academic, social, beautiful, friendly and the list goes on.


This is a really fantastic natural fibre because;


  • It’s lightweight
  • Cotton is known for being comfortable
  • It absorbs water
  • It’s breathable


We find cotton to be a much cooler fibre which is why we like to use it in the possum bed socks from norsewear and the paihia shirt from swanndri.

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Lambswool first shear

The lamb’s very first haircut produces a quality of wool that is smooth, strong and more elastic. A favourite for rural Kiwis because it;


  • Is 27 micron which means it’s sensationally soft
  • Gives that homespun look because it’s natural
  • Needs minimal processing
  • Less prickly

We highly recommend the palliser guernsey and the pom pom hat, socks and gloves made with this delectable fibre! More about our Palliser Ridge range here.


Eco (Everyday) Possum Fibre

This is made up of the short fibres that drop out of the machines and blended with 28% short fibre possum, 42% merino wool, 28% nylon and 2% lycra to create a yarn that we know is a superb option for our socks, gloves and hats because;


  • Lower cost of the fibre deemed as lower grade compared to the long fibre (100% use of the fibres) gives a lower yarn cost
  • Eco status due to zero waste using these shorter fibres
  • Used in the dual layer lining of the 36.6 range keeps garment costs lower than the use of luxury yarns.



So elastic it could rival Elastigirl from The Incredibles. Also known as spandex or elastane. Lycra is a polyether-polureacoploymer which was invented by chemist Joseph Shivers in 1958.


This is a fab fibre because;


  • It’s super stretchy
  • Easy to purchase in quantity and grades required to add stretch in garments
  • Lower cost to produce and manufacture product than elastic
  • It is more durable to heat and washing than elastic
  • Keeps the cyclists and gym junkies happy because of it’s great form and fit


We use this in our socks to get that stretch as well as in some merino garments to give them a little give.


Rabbit fur and rabbit leather

Rabbit is a wonderful fibre and definitely one we would flag for the more luxurious of garments.


We think rabbit fur and leather is fabulous because…


  • Rabbit leather is very soft and luxurious
  • Rabbit fibre is soft
  • Rabbits can be farmed easily for sustainability of supply
  • A good alternative to Possum for luxury feel

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Leather and Suede

Leather and suede are both traditional natural fibres that have been used for thousands of years.


They are great fibres because they are;


  • Natural product that sews well onto knits for wear protection in high rub areas
  • Sustainable product for trims and garment aesthetics


Coolmax (TCP)

Invista developed a range of polyester fabrics and gave them the name coolmax, which is cool. What is even cooler is the fact that these fabrics are;


  • Hydrophobic, which means they absorb little fluid (moisture wicking)
  • They dry quite quickly
  • Stands for Tetra Coolmax Polyester (brand type of coolmax)


Athletes generally have sweaty feet after a tough workout and no one wants to be swimming in their shoes which is why coolmax is definitely the fibre for the job of sports socks.



Acrylic is a modern master.


It offers so many opportunities for vibrant colour at lower cost. Acrylic does a great job of copying wool in feel but the biggest pros are…


  • Acrylic is easy to dye and get exact consistent colour matches
  • Much lower cost to manufacture than many fibers
  • The soft feel
  • More resistant to sunlight and harsh chemicals than wool


There you have it!

An overview of fibres so you have the information you need to stock your closet with the best quality garments that are best suited to what you need them for.


At New Zealand Natural Clothing we are giddy about garments - which means we know what it is made of, how it’s made, how to take care of it plus all the pros and cons.


If you have any questions or want to pop into a store and have a cheeky feel of the different garments so you have the experience to say which you prefer, please pop in. Our store is your store!


If you’re a little farther away, you can connect with us using the chat box. One of our knit-kings or sox-perts will get back to you asap.