Did you ever wonder that when you're shopping at your local thrift store or at a one-dollar-a-yard "undetermined fiber content" fabric table at Walmart? Well, I always carry a small lighter in my purse or glove compartment. You simply pull off 3 or 4 threads from the end of the fabric bolt or from an inside seam of a piece from the thrift store, then take it outside to a paved parking lot and carefully light the threads on fire.
If it's a "natural fiber" (like cotton, linen, or silk) or a "man-made" fiber (made from cellulose like rayon), the threads will burn away to just ash, but it won't smell. If it's a protein fiber (like wool, alpaca or cashmere), it will burn to ash, but will smell like burning hair (because that's what it is!). If it's a synthetic fiber (like polyester, or acrylic) it will drip and melt into a hard "plastic" ball when it cools. Of course, sometimes, Lycra will be added to cotton for stretch, or you'll have a mix of bit natural and synthetic fibers, but this usually works!
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