Zooming into your T-shirt

Aug 19, 2012 at 11:33 AM by Rakhat Zholdoshalieva

1. Hey, many of us know that cotton production is highly dependent on huge amount of water and good weather, if farmers do not use fertilizers that are harmful to environment. So, we will now learn whether there are other alternatives that have been explored to take away that burden on earth and take a step towards sustainable development. So, let’s read about these alternatives.

a. Hemp: Yes, hemp ☺ Google it for its image. Did you find it? Okay, how does it look? Okay, it is not what you think? Many people may associate hemp with marijuana only. But as one of the environmentally sustainable plants, it is also used for producing textiles, clothing, even paper, and bio-fuel. Did you know that hemp is also used in food products? Can you find out what food products are they used? Do you think you use hemp in your food? How does it taste? If you haven’t tried it before, in your opinion, how would it taste? Find out more about which countries produce hemp for health food products, textile, bio-fuel, and please share your information with us. They say that hemp is one of the environmentally sustainable plants that require less fertilizing to yield good harvest. So, unlike cotton, hemp is heat resistant, and it absorbs and disperses moisture easily too. They also say, that the clothes produced of hemp are durable too. Yes! But hemp has to be blended with other fibers such as cotton, flax, and silk. Let us hope that our expedition members, Kristina and Nic, will be lucky to visit hemp fiber producing textile factory in China.

b. Flax: Sounds familiar? Have you ever heard flax as health supplement? Well, it is one of the ancient fiber crops that were produced for clothing items and other household items. Ancient Egyptians had used it for different purposes. What do you think which countries may produce it now? Can you find out about them? (See this webpage for interesting facts: http://www.prairieflax.com/flax%20history.html) Although, it is considered less elastic than cotton, flax is definitely known for its durability. What is usually produced of flax? Do you think you have anything with flax fiber? Let’s find out it later. Flax requires fewer fertilizers, but needs good soil with organic matter. Flax is cheaper to grow than cotton, as it requires little irrigation that means lesser burden on our water resources. Flowers of flax look so beautiful. Want to see it? ☺ Did you also know that flax is also known as a symbol in many countries? Roscheider Hof Open Air Museum in Konz, Germany prepares skits where one can learn how in the old days people produced flax fiber. Want to see it? Visit this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rhof-flachsbearbeitung.ogg. Don’t forget that flaxseed is also identified as nutritious food and many people enjoy its taste and benefits.

c. Bamboo fiber production (known as bamboo rayon) does not seem to have had easier time than other fibers due to its short fiber (3mm) despite this plant’s giant size. I hope you know what I mean. Due to shorter fibers, bamboo fiber is a controversial alternative that seems to require a lot of chemicals to make it useful for textile purposes. Bamboo is mostly used as building materials and food source in South Asia, South East Asia and East Asia. And bamboo has been used as symbols in these cultures. In China, it means a symbol of longevity and I guess it is because of its durability and strength. But have you seen or have anything that is made of bamboo? Any clothing item? Hmmm… I don’t think I have anything made of bamboo.

d. Wool: Unlike previous fiber crops, wool is produced from animal, and it is considered one of the natural fibers. They say that it is a natural insulator that means it will protect you from cold or hot weather so you can feel comfortable because wool absorbs excess heat or moisture from the body. It is durable and water repellent. What I like most about wool is that it is naturally wrinkle resistant. More importantly, it attracts us as one of the renewable resources as sheep wool can be sheared annually. In my country, in Kyrgyzstan, it is produced from free-grazing sheep and it is mostly used to produce beautiful warm sweaters, winter socks, carpets, and other traditional household items. This website provides interesting information about wool fiber production and qualities: http://library.thinkquest.org/C004179/wool.htm. We will learn more about how wool is produced and how sheep are grazed and treated in the process, when Nic and Kristina will head off to Australia. But meanwhile, during their expedition throughout Asia, Nic and Kristina will definitely encounter some sheep, goats, and herding communities and individuals on their way. Let’s wait for their stories about wool.

e. Silk: This is an interesting addition to other alternatives to cotton. It is produced of silkworms and it is considered as natural protein fiber. Historically, it goes back to 3500 BC to China. So, there comes the name Silk Route/Road, a historical trade route between China and the Roman Empire. Kristina and Nic are riding along this route and meeting different communities, encountering beautiful landscapes and animal world on their way. Back to talking about silk. Yes, silk is also known as expensive and luxurious fabric used in the clothes. Domesticated worms, Bombyx mori, are fed mulberry leaves. The worms spin their cocoon to produce long strands of fiber. The processes of silkworm growing and producing silk fiber are interesting. But let us wait whether Kristina and Nic will be able to visit a traditional silk textile factory in Margelan, Uzbekistan or on their way in China. But for now, let’s learn how silkworms can be spared from being killed in the process of making this luxurious fabric: http://www.thebetterindia.com/135/ahimsa-silk-silk-saree-without-killing-a-single-silkworm/

This is not a list of all alternatives to cotton. I think we could do more research on Internet to find out whether they are other many alternatives that are identified, scientifically tested, and whether textile industry is already using them to produce our clothes.

This post was edited on: 2012-08-20 at 09:22 AM by: Rakhat Zholdoshalieva (Moderator)