Natural Fiber for Clothing
By Editorial Staff
Contributed by Info Guru Angela Hail
People everywhere are getting back to nature.
They are tired of the lab created synthetics which, although versatile, also tend to be hard on ourselves and our world. If you’re looking for some alternatives to petrochemical based polyester and nylon, this list will give you a good starting point.
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Cashmere wool is a super-cozy soft fiber obtained from the undercoat of the Kashmir goat. It is used to make warm, luxurious sweaters and other items of clothing. Considered the finest of all wools, true cashmere is highly regulated in many parts of the world and can be quite pricey.
Made from the bark of the jute plant, this natural fiber is used primarily in the making of sack cloth and other rough materials. However, the use of jute in clothing is on the rise. By mixing jute with other fibers, manufacturers are able to make softer feeling cloth, and have even been able to use finer threads of jute to create an imitation silk (a good option for vegans looking for something elegant).
Flax is the primary fiber used in making linen. Fibers from this plant have been harvested almost as long as humans have been making clothes. It is strong and breathable and makes for a wonderfully reliable fabric. Also, you get pretty blue flowers.
Alpaca fiber is touted as being lighter and stronger than traditional sheep’s wool. It also happens to be naturally hypoallergenic, since it carries none of the lanolin found in their sheep counterparts. A trend that is taking hold in North America, raising alpacas is considered an environmentally sustainable source of textiles. Like a miniature, fluffier version of the llama, these animals need minimal care and can be raised entirely on pasture. The coveted alpaca fleece is shorn from their dense coats once a year.
We have come to the only fiber on our list which derives from insects. Harvested from the cocoons of silk worms, it is still considered one of the finest, most decadent fabrics around. Real silk, used for brilliant scarves, fancy blouses and other high fashion items, is durable as it is luxurious and can be dyed any color of the rainbow.
This is another ancient fiber plant, which is native to East Asia. Cloth made from ramie is similar to linen, but with a silky luster that makes it suitable for dressy attire. It is often blended with other types of fabric to make it more durable.
Sheep’s wool (what most people refer to when they say “wool”) is known for its warmth and high moisture absorbency. You may associate wool with that scratchy wool sweater you had as a kid, but wool can be soft as cashmere, depending on the type of sheep it comes from. Wool is a popular choice for breathable active wear and cold-weather clothing. Boasting herds in over 100 countries, sheep’s wool is the most widely used animal fiber in the world.
Bamboo is a fairly recent addition to the textile industry. Soft and breathable, this fiber comes from the inner walls of the bamboo plant. Bamboo is touted as being a highly renewable resource, since the plant, though strong as any wood, is actually a form of grass. It can be harvested and reharvested in the same place over long periods of time without any ill effects to the surrounding environment. Fabric made from this plant – used in bamboo towels, bathrobes and homegoods – is regarded highly as being naturally antibacterial and extremely moisture absorbent.
2. Organic Cotton
Cotton has been harvested for thousands of years to clothe people across the globe. It is the the most widely used clothing textile in the world. It is also responsible for more pesticide use than any other single crop. Conventionally grown cotton is now 90% genetically modified, and widespread growth of this cash crop and its intensive chemical use causes damage to wildlife and biodiversity. Enter organic cotton. Due to increased concern for the environment, organic cotton cultivation is expanding, giving consumers a clean alternative without giving up the natural, organic cotton fabric they’ve always known.
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Hemp is the hero of natural fibers. It is rapidly renewable, requires no agrochemicals to grow massive crops, captures large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere, and can be used to create a plethora of useful products, including high quality fabric. It is strong and absorbent, and has natural anti-mildew and antibacterial properties. When used alone, hemp cloth is similar in feel and breathability to linen. For a softer product, however, it is sometimes blended with other fibers such as cotton or silk.
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