My decision to stop using silk (Why I Quit Silk) sent me on a search for alternative fabrics to marble on. It was a fascinating journey!
I learned a lot, and discovered a wide variety of new and interesting plant based fabrics. Sadly, many of these are only available to major players in the fashion industry. Hopefully, theyʼll eventually become available to consumers, as well.
Although many of the fabrics I tested turned out to be unsuitable for marbling, I did find some excellent options. I am currently using high quality Pima cotton, a dense and durable high thread count fabric, with a crisp surface that takes color well. I have been using it for my sachets and log slice wall hangers.
There are also other lovely plant based fabrics available that are soft, strong, and breathable, which I am exploring for my wearables.
These include the cellulosics (Rayon, Modal, and Lyocell), fabrics made from the stringy cellulose fiber of trees (like beech, pine, and eucalyptus), as well as bamboo.
Rayon was the earliest of these, dating to the second half of the 19th century, although not in widespread use in fashion until the mid-20th century. It is soft, drapes nicely, and is more absorbent than cotton, but it can shrink or stretch when wet.
Modal, made mostly from beech tree pulp, was developed in the 1950s, and surpasses rayon in wet strength, softness, and durability. It does not shrink or stretch when wet, and retains its softness because it does not absorb minerals from wash water.
Lyocell, made mostly from eucalyptus tree pulp, came along in the late 20th century. Its many advantages include being even softer and more absorbent than the two previous generations of cellulose fibers. It is durable, odor resistant, hypo-allergenic, and takes color well.
And its production can be extremely environmentally friendly. Eucalyptus trees grow quickly and do not require fertilizer, so they are easily renewable and do not pollute ground water. The leading manufacturer of Lyocell, under the brand name Tencel™, is Austrian company Lenzing. Their closed-loop process recaptures and reuses more than 99% of the water and chemicals needed for production, and their solvents are non-toxic and biodegradable.
In addition to the tree based options and bamboo, there are cellulose based fabrics made from the waste left over from processing soy beans, sugar cane, corn, hemp, oranges, and bananas. There are also options made from rose petals and lotus leaves.
These fabrics are relatively new, and detailed information is a bit difficult to come by, but it seems that these plant materials are usually combined with other fibers, so itʼs unclear what percentage of the fabric actually consists of, for example, rose petals. I plan to explore these further.
In addition, fabrics are being made out of the proteins from waste milk products. One of these, “Qmilch,” is 100% natural, soft, absorbent, breathable, non-allergenic, and antibacterial. It is also made without chemicals, and requires far less water to produce than cotton.
I look forward to continuing to explore available options for plant based textiles!