Not all bamboo clothing is what it seems. Conscientious clothiers are working to distinguish themselves from those who use materials, mainly viscose rayon fabric, that require toxic production methods. By Haniya Rae. Some of the biggest U.
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- Fabrics to avoid and embrace if you want to make more sustainable fashion choices
- Is Bamboo Fabric Really Durable?
- Material Guide: How Sustainable is Hemp?
- What Is Viscose? 6 Facts About This Misunderstood Fabric
- Is “bamboo fabric” plastic? And Biome’s purpose in stating it is.
- Linen Most Useful: Perspectives on Structure, Chemistry, and Enzymes for Retting Flax
- How Linen is Made
- Behind our production...
- How Viscose Rayon Fabric Masquerades as Bamboo Clothing
Fabrics to avoid and embrace if you want to make more sustainable fashion choices
Technically, linen is a vegetable. Linen fabric is made from the cellulose fibers that grow inside of the stalks of the flax plant, or Linum usitatissimum, one of the oldest cultivated plants in human history. Flax is an annual plant, which means it only lives for one growing season. From seed-planting, it is ready to be harvested in about a hundred days.
Unless the weather is particularly warm and dry, flax requires little watering or attention during this time. It grows to about three or four feet tall, with glossy bluish-green leaves and pale blue flowers, though on rare occasions, the flowers bloom red. Flax is cultivated around the world not only for its fine, strong fibers, but also for its seeds, which are rich in nutrients such as dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
Flax oil is also a popular drying oil amongst oil painters. To date, no method of flax cultivation has been discovered that maximizes both quality and yield of both seed and fibers. To obtain the highest quality flax fibers, one must harvest before the plant fully matures, which results in poorer-quality oil.
Conversely, if harvest is undertaken after maturation to obtain the best oil, the fiber quality deteriorates. This type is fairly short and produces many secondary branches, which increases seed yield. The taller the flax plant, the longer the fiber. Flax can grow in a variety of climates, but it flourishes in cool, damp environments.
It cannot tolerate extreme heat, so the planting schedule of flax varies from country to country depending upon regional climatic conditions. For instance, in warmer regions flax is sown in the winter so that harvesting can be undertaken before the heat of early spring. Because it requires a lot of organic components, flax grows best in deep loams and alluvial soils such as the Nile River valley.
Flax is ready to be harvested for its fibers when the stem begins to turn yellow and the seeds turn brown. On some farms however, the plant is harvested prior to seed germination.
This yields exceptionally fine fibers, but leaves the grower without any seeds for the next planting and subsequently dependent upon foreign imports.
The stems of the flax plant are preferably pulled up with the root system somewhat intact, rather than cut at the base. This maximizes the quality of the fiber in several ways. First, the valuable fibers run the length of the stalk all the way into the roots, so pulling up the plant by the root increases the length of the fiber produced. This practice also prevents the plant sap from leaking out of the cut stalk, a process which dries out the fibers and ultimately results in poorer-quality fabric.
Although the agricultural industry has made great strides in mechanized farming, machine harvesting of flax is still unable to preserve the root system during harvest. For this reason, despite the extremely laborious process of manual harvesting, the highest quality linens are still made from flax plants that were pulled out of the earth by hand. Fabric made from hand-harvested flax is finer, more supple, and more highly prized than fabric made from flax that is machine-harvested.
After harvest, flax stalks are allowed to dry in open air for several weeks before they undergo threshing , or removal of seeds from the stalk by crushing open the dried seed pods. Hand threshing is usually achieved by simply beating the dried stalks until all the seed pods have been crushed, then shaking the seeds free.
Flax fibers are considered bast fibers. Bast fibers are fibers collected from the phloem , or the inner-bark of the plant. Aside from linen, a few other fabrics made from bast fibers include hemp, ramie, and rattan. You may remember from your Biology class that the phloem is one of the two vascular structures inside of plants that carry nutrients throughout the organism the other is the xylem , or the woody core. These fiber nodes are also what make linen fabric flexible without being brittle.
This is achieved via a process called retting --or, literally, rotting. And yes, with the same awful smell! Plants hold themselves upright by increasing water uptake into their cells, which causes the plasma membrane to swell and increases internal pressure against the cell wall.
This pressure keeps the plant structures stiff Biology review: Turgor pressure. Prolonged water exposure during retting eventually causes the cells of the phloem to lyse , or burst open, and allows local micro-organisms that break down the sticky pectins to invade the plant cell.
The image to the right is a c ross section of a bast fiber: "X" is xylem; "P" is phloem; "C" is cortex; "BF" is bast fibers. How do these micro-organisms break down those sticky pectins? A man named Sergei Winogradsky figured out the answer to this question back in the s. Prior to this discovery, scientists believed that all autotrophs were dependent upon sunlight for energy production remember photosynthesis?
But Winogradsky found a little bacterium living in the root nodules of legume plants that changed everything. He identified it as Clostridium Pasteuranium , an obligate anaerobe that, by definition, cannot survive in the presence of atmospheric oxygen O 2. The presence of this autotrophic bacterium inside of the root nodules, without access to atmospheric oxygen and therefore also without access to sunlight, led Winogradsky to investigate how it managed to survive.
He found that C. Pasteuranium uses water molecules to break up the sticky pectin bonds that hold the bast fibers to the phloem, a process called hydrolysis.
It then uses the chemical pieces of the broken up pectins to create ammonia NH 3 out of free, bioavailable nitrogen N 2 in its surrounding environment, which can then be utilized by the bacteria in its metabolic processes. This is is called nitrogen fixation.
Scientists have since isolated more than 22 different kinds of autotrophic, pectin-dissolving bacteria from retted flax, mostly belonging to the Clostridium family. Dew retting is the preferred method in areas where water sources are limited but that enjoy warm daytime temperatures and heavy nighttime dews. Flax stalks are spread out evenly across a grassy field, where the combination of air, sun and dew causes fermentation, which dissolves much of the stem within weeks.
Dew-retted fibers are typically of poorer quality and more darkly pigmented than natural water-retted fibers. Tank retting takes place in large vats that are typically made of cement, as the acidic waste products of the bacteria corrodes metal. Stalks are first leached, or soaked, for hours to removedirt and pigment from the bundles. This water is then changed, and the bundles allowed to soak for more days to complete the retting process. Flax can also be retted chemically, which speeds up the process.
It is, however, more harmful to both the environment and the fibers themselves, and is therefore not preferred. The retted stalks, called straw, are dried mechanically or in natural air, and are then usually stored for anywhere from a few weeks to months in order to allow curing to take place.
After curing, the woody stalks that still cling to the bast fibers are further broken, usually by passing the brittle straw through rollers that crush the wood into smaller pieces that can be more easily removed, a process called scutching. Scutching involves scraping a small wooden knife down the length of the fibers as they hang vertically, pulling the broken woody bits away from the fiber. This is a labor-intensive process.
One person scutching can produce only about 15 pounds of flax fibers per day; less if the fibers are coarse, hard, or have been poorly retted. The small pieces of leftover bark that remain after scutching are called shive , and are sometimes used as a filler in thermoplastic composites. The separated bast fibers are next heckled , or combed through a bed of nails that splits and polishes the fibers, and removes the shorter tow fibers from the mix. These tow fibers can then be spun into a coarse yarn from which low-quality linen products are made.
The longer fibers sometimes as long as three feet! The at long last separated flax fibers, called stricks , are traditionally spun by hand using a distaff. A distaff is simply a long vertical pole that attaches to a spinning wheel from which the fibers are hung. This helps keep the fibers organized and prevents them from turning into a tangled mess.
Spinning involves twisting together the drawn out strands of fiber to form yarns, then winding the yarn onto a bobbin, or spool. The yarn is often slightly dampened during spinning, which helps prevent fly-away strands from escaping the twist and creates an especially-smooth yarn check out this really cool photojournal of a woman hand-spinning flax. Flax is always spun very finely--especially the longest of the fibers--resulting in a thin yarn.
In order to create a thicker yarn, multiple skeins of this thin yarn can be spun together, a process called plying. One ply: thin and sufficient. Two or more ply: preferred! The resulting yarn usually 3-ply or thereabouts is typically finished by boiling for several hours in soapy water, which gives it a nice shine.
Linen yarn is generally woven into sheets--a process wherein multiple threads are interlaced both horizontally and vertically on a loom. Occasionally, linen yarn is also knit , or formed into fabric by creating consecutive rows of loops that intertwine with one another. By virtue of these loops, knit fabrics have a degree of stretch inherent in them, and because linen yarn has no elasticity, it is quite difficult to knit and so more frequently woven.
Because the process is still so laborious, even mechanized flax production actually requires a great deal more handwork than other mass industrially-produced textiles like cotton and rayon. Check out this awesome timelapse video, called The Art and Science Linen, to see what mechanized flax production looks like today.
So that's how mechanized production turns flax into linen, but where in the world is it done the best and why? The quality of the linen fabric is greatly dependent upon the retting process. For example, as you already learned, over-retting produces a mushy, weak fiber, and under-retting makes the bits of shive difficult to remove such that the fibers can be damaged during scutching; factors entirely under the control of the retter.
Read about it here , and the best linens tend to originate from the enclaves within Europe that have long traditions of flax cultivation:. The map below shows the major centers of linen production in Europe. The best quality linen is retted in slow-moving natural water sources such as streams and rivers. In fact, the highest quality linen in the world is retted in Belgium in the River Lys , though to this day chemists have been unable to determine what makes the waters so conducive to the retting process.
Harvested flax is sent to Belgium from France, Holland, and even as far away as South America to be retted in the magical waters of the River Lys, which is typically crowded for miles with weighted down flax bundles. The climate in Ireland is quite favorable for flax processing, and the slow Irish bleaching methods inflict minimal damage on the fibers. European linens are the next finest, with the French producing the whitest and most delicate of textiles.
Scotch linen is generally considered of medium quality, and German linen quality ranges from good to poor. We wondered this, too. So we decided to look in depth read, microscopically! Cart 0. How Linen is Made Technically, linen is a vegetable. I'd like to receive more original and curated content from Deck Towel.
Sustainable fashion is about more than just organic cotton. We believe in slow fashion, buying fewer and better, sourcing materials with respect for the earth, transparent supply chains, and valuing the people involved at every stage of the production process. The future of fashion is respecting the environment and working with nature instead of against it. By continuing to source as many sustainable materials as possible and working with as much sustainable processes as possible we encourage a more mindful fashion sense. The small detail matters… our buttons are also recycled and biodegradable. Made from fibres of products used in the food industry and recycled paper.
Is Bamboo Fabric Really Durable?
Fabric comes in all shapes, sizes, weights, and constructions. It can be natural, synthetic, or manufactured. Some fabrics have more stigma than others. In this blog post, we will be asking the question; what is viscose?
Material Guide: How Sustainable is Hemp?
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With caring comes change. Yes, plastic is a heavy word. Being plastic is not necessarily bad as we rely upon plastics in many aspects of our life, but being fully informed makes us empowered consumers. So please let us explain. But, we understand that it is not clear cut, so in this post I explain our rationale. There is a fabric called Bamboo Linen that looks like a rough coarse linen fabric. The yarn is made directly from bamboo plant fibres that are extracted by mechanical means, essentially mulching bamboo. This is the only fabric that can be called bamboo. It is rayon viscose, lyocell, modal are types of rayon. Rayon is the official textile industry term for the fibres and the resulting yarn and fabric manufactured from plant cellulose such as wood, cotton, bamboo or sugar cane.
What Is Viscose? 6 Facts About This Misunderstood Fabric
Hemp provides all the warmth and softness of a natural textile, but with a superior durability seldom found in other materials. Hemp is extremely versatile and can be used for countless products such as apparel, accessories, shoes, furniture, and home furnishings. Chinas Bambro Textile specializes in the research, development, and application of the new-typed eco-friendly textile material, Bamboo fibre, which fills a new niche in green natural fibre in textile industries.
Technically, linen is a vegetable. Linen fabric is made from the cellulose fibers that grow inside of the stalks of the flax plant, or Linum usitatissimum, one of the oldest cultivated plants in human history. Flax is an annual plant, which means it only lives for one growing season. From seed-planting, it is ready to be harvested in about a hundred days. Unless the weather is particularly warm and dry, flax requires little watering or attention during this time. It grows to about three or four feet tall, with glossy bluish-green leaves and pale blue flowers, though on rare occasions, the flowers bloom red. Flax is cultivated around the world not only for its fine, strong fibers, but also for its seeds, which are rich in nutrients such as dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Flax oil is also a popular drying oil amongst oil painters. To date, no method of flax cultivation has been discovered that maximizes both quality and yield of both seed and fibers.
Is “bamboo fabric” plastic? And Biome’s purpose in stating it is.
The components of flax Linum usitatissimum stems are described and illustrated, with reference to the anatomy and chemical makeup and to applications in processing and products. Bast fiber, which is a major economic product of flax along with linseed and linseed oil, is described with particular reference to its application in textiles, composites, and specialty papers. A short history of retting methods, which is the separation of bast fiber from nonfiber components, is presented with emphasis on water retting, field retting dew retting , and experimental methods. Past research on enzyme retting, particularly by the use of pectinases as a potential replacement for the current commercial practice of field retting, is reviewed. Protocols are provided for retting of both fiber-type and linseed-type flax stems with different types of pectinases. Current and future applications are listed for use of a wide array of enzymes to improve processed fibers and blended yarns. Finally, potential lipid and aromatic coproducts derived from the dust and shive waste streams of fiber processing are indicated. The history of flax Linum usitatissimum L.
Linen Most Useful: Perspectives on Structure, Chemistry, and Enzymes for Retting Flax
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How Linen is Made
Best of all, it's an inspiration to read, allowing each of us to see our way to becoming a part of the design solution needed for a sustainable future. If you are a designer, you need this book! Designers may be surprised by the variety of projects shown that are great examples of residential sustainable interiors. Issues of sustainability and environmental consciousness have been increasingly important to designers of residential interiors.
Behind our production...
Linen is laborious to manufacture, but the fiber is very strong, absorbent, and dries faster than cotton. Garments made of linen are valued for their exceptional coolness and freshness in hot and humid weather. This word history has given rise to a number of other terms in English, most notably line , from the use of a linen flax thread to determine a straight line.
How Viscose Rayon Fabric Masquerades as Bamboo Clothing
Linen yarn is spun from the long fibers found just behind the bark in the multi-layer stem of the flax plant Linum usitatissimum. In order to retrieve the fibers from the plant, the woody stem and the inner pith called pectin , which holds the fibers together in a clump, must be rotted away.
The bamboo plant, which is a grass that is found all over the world, produces tall poles that are known for their resilience. Bamboo fabric is made from the bamboo fibres that are taken from bamboo shoots that are about four years old. These shoots, because of this level of maturity, make for a very durable bamboo fabric base material. The goal is to produce a durable bamboo fabric that is also very soft, absorbent and antibacterial.