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NATURAL TEXTILES

What is your idea of natural textiles? Do you think that everything natural is organic? Let us look at fabrics made of cotton, flax and hemp from a different perspective.

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COTTON

You may be surprised, but cotton is often considered as the dirtiest crop in the world. Conventional cotton is grown using intensive agricultural methods. Genetically modified seeds, pesticides and artificial fertilizers are used, and soil erosion occurs during its cultivation.

Harvesting is mainly done using machines. First, the plant is defoliated with a defoliant spray (a type of herbicide) and then harvesting machines enter the plantation, breaking cotton bolls and collecting them in the hopper. Cotton is then freely dried, usually in the field, and transported to a ginning mill. Ginning is performed using saw (partly cylindrical) ginning machines, where seeds are separated (torn off) from cotton fibres. The cycle is performed twice to 3 times, obtaining short fibres - linters in the last yield.

Cotton is further processed using toxic chemicals (e.g. chlorine). During the whole production process, fabric is washed several times and thus synthetic substances that improve its properties get into the water.

In the case of organic cotton, the situation is more positive (natural insecticides, natural defoliation, hand-picking etc.), but still water consumption during cotton production and lower yield are big negatives.

It should also be noted that there are a large number of types of organic cotton and not all of them are “organic “. On the one hand cotton is quite problematic, on the other hand it is pleasant to the touch, has good moisture sorption, especially sweat, and is partly warming.

LINEN

Linen textile fibre is obtained from the stem of the flax plant, and is one of the oldest - ancient Egyptians used it for mummification and as currency. (The oldest linen products date from the 7th century BC). Linen fabric is creasy, but on the other hand it is durable, strong, highly absorbent and breathable. Growing flax and producing fabric from it is relatively time consuming. However, it is a resistant plant (it also grows in our country), nor does it require as much water and pesticides as cotton. Linen processing is waste-free - every part of the plant is used.

When harvested, the whole plant is plucked from the ground and left in the field to soften, thus making it easier to separate the fibres. This is followed by soaking, which is done using three methods - with water, dew or enzymes. Then the fibres are spun - long fibres under wet, and short under dry conditions. The higher price of flax is caused by the time required for production and the large share of manual work.

In interiors linen fabric is used as upholstery materials, curtain fabrics, technical textiles, linen hand threads, tying twine and oakum.

HEMP

Cannabis sativa or technical hemp is an annual plant with a long stem, about 1 m long. Interestingly, hemp is capable of producing more cellulose than wood per acre. It grows fast, and is considered a “low-impact” crop (with a minimum impact on the environment)

Fabrics made from hemp are moisture and rot resistant, strong, antimicrobial and antiseptic. At the same time, hemp fibres are coarse, so they are mixed with cotton or bamboo.

Growing this plant is low-cost. It has strong roots, thus protecting the soil from erosion. In addition, hemp belongs to the plants that are capable of phytoremediation - it can “cleanse” the soil from harmful substances (e.g. heavy metals) and, at the same time, does not require a lot of water. However, hemp processing is more difficult, but the fibre yield per acre is threefold!

Textile production from hemp fibres is quite similar to flax, or hemp is “cottonized”.

Are you looking for organic textiles for your project? Do you want to learn more about this subject, which is broad and includes other factors such as transport, renewability or recycling? Contact NORTHERN DESIGN - its managing director Pavel Řádek will be happy to help you personally.