Recently I completed a project with my colleague Meghann Hoult where we had to research natural woven fabrics. I have to admit that this didn’t sound like the most exciting of research topics and it showed in the weeks of procrastination before we finally got down to some serious researching and even then the initial research consisted of googling cute pictures of alpacas and sheep (yes sheep can be cute, just ask my daughter). However, the more we read, the more we researched, it turned out that we were wrong and that natural woven fibres are actually the most fascinating thing ever*
*ok maybe not ‘ever’ but they are quite interesting at least and certainly worth reading about, so buckle up.
Megs and I even completed a fun little talkshow about the interesting facts we found out. It’s a little embarrassing and obviously I hate my voice (who doesn’t hate their own voice), but we may just release it one day when we are rich and famous.
Bear with me, you make think this is just some research paper, but its so much more than that.
Trust me, read on and just like me, you will have the same newfound appreciation of what goes in to make natural woven fabrics and why we’ll be choosing them whenever we can.
So why are natural fibres so amazing…..
A HEALTHY CHOICE Most synthetic fibres cannot match the "breathability" of natural fibre textiles, which create a natural ventilation.
A RESPONSIBLE CHOICE By choosing natural fibres, we can contribute to the economies of developing countries and help fight hunger and rural poverty so you can feel good about yourself as you re-decorate.
A SUSTAINABLE CHOICE Renewable and carbon neutral, natural fibres leave residues that can be used to generate electricity. And they are 100% biodegradable. It’s getting better and better!
A HIGH-TECH CHOICE Fibres that give strength and stability to plants are being incorporated in an ever-widening range of industrial products, so you can claim that you are pretty much at the cutting edge of technology.
A FASHIONABLE CHOICE Eco-conscious designers offer “carbon neutral” collections that strive for sustainability at every stage of their garments’ life cycle.
Okay so I’ve convinced you that natural fibres are great and that you can expect a call from the Environmental Protection Agency patting you on the back for using them, but let’s just take a step back a second and ask the obvious question….
WHAT IS A NATURAL FIBRE?
Not to be confused with the fibre that is in your cereal every morning, natural ﬁbres are defined as “those renewable natural ﬁbres of plant or animal origin which can be easily transformed into a yarn for textiles”. They can be any hair like raw material directly obtainable from an animal, vegetable (plant), or mineral source, which is then converted into woven cloth after spinning the fibres into yarns (thread).
I know what you’re thinking; you’re thinking can I use my own hair as a cheap natural fibre? Well firstly, yes, your own hair does fall under the definition of a ‘natural fibre’. Secondly, eeewww! What’s the matter with you?!?!
Now for some science. Natural fibres include those produced by plants, animals, and geological processes. They are biodegradable over time so great for the environment and don’t worry they won’t start degrading in your living room. They can be classified according to their origin are a commonly broken into three categories:
CLASSIFICATION OF FIBRES
Alpaca, Angora rabbit, Byssus sea silk’, Camel hair, Cashmere, Catgut, Chiengora, Guanaco Hair, Llama, Mohair, Pashmina, Qiviut, Rabbit, Silkworm, Tendon, Spider silk, Wool (sheep), Vicuña, Yak.
So pretty much any cute animal you can think of and silkworms too. Actually, I wouldn’t call camels that cute either now I think about it, not since I saw one doing a poo once at the zoo, (obviously it was in its enclosure, not in the ladies), but you get the picture,
You can break this down even further.
● Wool fibre (Sheep, Alpaca, Llama, Camel)
● Goat fibre (Angora, Cashmere, Mohair) - Finer Silkier
● Silk fibre (the silkworm)
Asbestos………you’re probably not going to want this one in the house so we will move on.
CELLULOSE (basically plants)
Abacá, Bagasse, Bamboo, Coir, Cotton, Fique, Flax, Linen, Hemp, Jute, Kapok, Kenaf, Piña, Pine, Raffia, Ramie, Rattan, Sisal
· Seed fibre collected from the seeds of various plants (cotton)
· Leaf fibre collected from the cells of a leaf (sisal)
· Bast fibre collected from the outer cell layers of the plant's stem. These fibers are used for durable yarn, fabric, packaging, and paper (flax, jute, kenaf, industrial hemp, ramie, rattan, and vine)
· Fruit fibre collected from the fruit of the plant (coir-coconut fibre)
Most textile fibres are slender, flexible, and relatively strong. They are elastic in that they stretch when put under tension and then partially or completely return to their original length when the tension is removed. A bit like a slinky spring.
The appearance, durability and texture of a fabric depends very much on the way it is made – as well as its fibre and yarn (threading).
Yarns can be twisted in spinning, so that they are hard and strong, or they may be loosely twisted to form more softer pliable threads.
It is these threads that are used in the weaving process to create a variety of finishing’s (textiles, drapery, flooring) that we use in our interior spaces today.
From natural jute rugs, woven decorative baskets to upholstery, window coverings, rugs, throws, cushions, blankets to construction materials (insulation / carpet liners etc.)...the list goes on.
Natural fibers can have different advantages over synthetic reinforcing fibers. Most notably they are:
· they won’t provoke any allergies
· and above all they feel real.
· they are pivotal to economic benefits in developing countries and communities who rely on production of the fibre sources to supply the developers of “natural woven fibre products”.
Now the big disadvantage of natural fibres is that they can be a bit more expensive than synthetic fibres, but in terms of quality I believe that you get what you pay for and you can sleep well at night knowing that you did the right thing by the environment and right now the environment needs every bit of help it can get!