Fabric plants

Another section by popular demand. If you want to talk about anything else that grows that is not livestock, herbs, fruit or vegetables here it goes.
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green_pea
Barbara Good
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Fabric plants

Post: #237745 green_pea
Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:24 am

I've recently started knitting and sewing more (right now trying my hand at crochet hearts, what a way to spend the morning of your 21st :lol: ) and would eventually like to provide my own yarn and cloth, I was inspired by reading the ken fern book where I think he mentions how paper mulberry plant can be used for paper and fabric making, there was another one too which I can't recall but it was a fibrous shrub (I think?) which can be used in place of cotton thread.
I usually knit with cotton, but I was wondering if anyone knew about any alternative plants which would be viable for growing (not necessarily in UK climate, but also Mediterranean) for clothes making purposes. I know you can get bamboo cotton but I've no idea how this is made, or if it's possible on a small scale, I had a look on the internet but to no avail which is why I thought I'd ask here.

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Davie Crockett
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Re: Fabric plants

Post: #237746 Davie Crockett
Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:51 am

I've got some bamboo clothing...it's superb stuff! I found this: http://www.paviyarns.co.uk/shop/413/231/828/ as an alternative to cotton/wool

What about nettles? I've heard they make a great soft denim type fabric so a suitable yarn would crochet.
have a look here: http://www.suite101.com/content/plant-fibers-stuff-of-paper-ropes-and-cloth-a145158
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Annpan
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Re: Fabric plants

Post: #237747 Annpan
Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:09 am

you can use nettle fibres on a small scale.... I've seen youtube videos of how to do it (lots of stamping on nettler to break them up) a bit of a google might set you in the right direction


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Davie Crockett
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Re: Fabric plants

Post: #237748 Davie Crockett
Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:18 am

http://www.thehempire.com/index.php/cannabis/printer_friendly/1721/

Snipped from the article above
“Nettle fibre is much thinner and more elastic than hemp fibre, resulting in a very fine fabric,” says Peter Ruckenbauer from the Institute of Agrobiotechnology in Austria. He has spent the past few years cross-breeding different varieties of nettle to produce the perfect commercial nettle breed. “We have selected different types of nettle from across central Europe and crossed the high-fibre genotypes,” he explains. The result is a sturdy nettle plant that grows easily and gives high yields of fibre.

There is no danger of being stung by nettle fabric, since the stinging hairs are not used in the fabric. The tingling sensation of a sting is caused by the tiny, poison-filled hairs on the outside of the plant, which break off when you brush past and inject their poison into you. But nettle yarn is spun from the long, stringy fibres inside the stem of the plant. Hence the importance of breeding high-fibre varieties of nettle for making nettle fabrics.

Until now one of the major difficulties in producing nettle fibre has been extracting the fibres from the stem. Each of the fibres is glued together by a natural chemical called pectin, more commonly known for its ability to help jam and marmalade to set. To extract the fibres the pectin needs to be dissolved in a process called “retting”. Traditionally this was done by cutting the nettles down and leaving them in bundles in the field, to be rotted by the action of the rain and the wind. Sometimes people would speed the process up by soaking the nettle stems in water. But either way it was a slow and time-consuming process. For this reason, nettles, and crops such as flax, fell out of favour and other fabrics such as cotton became more popular.

Now a team of scientists has developed a more efficient way of retting nettle fibres, opening the way for nettle fabrics to be mass-produced. Melvyn Askew from the Central Science Laboratory in York has been part of the team working on producing the perfect nettle for spinning a velvety yarn.

Their big breakthrough has been to develop enzymes that like to destroy pectin. By adding these to the retting process, the useful nettle fibres can be extracted from the stem quickly and easily. For the past few years the scientists have been experimenting with different retting conditions, varying the temperature, acidity and concentration of enzyme. Now they think that they have the perfect recipe, and they are ready for nettle fabrics to hit the high street.

Askew is very enthusiastic about the environmental benefits of using nettle fibre. “Nettles manage well without much water and they need little protection from pests or weeds,” he says. “In addition nettles like to soak up nitrates from the soil, meaning that they can be grown on over-fertilised fields and old rubbish dumps.” Another major benefit is that nettles are well suited to the UK climate. “They can be grown and harvested locally, reducing transportation costs and providing jobs for people in the UK,” says Askew.

From an ecological point of view, nettles are superb. Their undisturbed cover provides a haven for more than 40 species of insect and many small birds. Some species, such as the Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell larvae, are completely dependent upon nettles for a home. Meanwhile, aphids like to snuggle up among the nettle leaves during the winter, only to be gobbled up by ladybirds and blue-tits in the spring.


Pectin enzyme is readily available from home brew suppliers. (Brewers cracked that one long before the textile scientists!) Oh and Many Happy returns of the day!! Sorry I missed that in your original post :oops:
Time flies like an arrow; vinegar flies like an uncovered wine must.


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