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Seven Sustainable Fabrics to Help the Planet

Since our Green Week blogs last September, we have been more aware of the importance of building our sustainable fabric range which you will see from our growing range of organic fabrics and the newer sustainable fabrics on the scene. But we thought we would share the information with you so you can make better decisions about your makes. The other key thing we can do is make less and wear more, which if we are making our own clothes we probably do anyway, because no one wants to waste all that time at the sewing machine for just a few wears. 

So these are the fabrics to look out for if you are thinking about how to help the planet…

 

1. Tencel

 

Tencel floral green fabric

 

Tencel is the brand name of Lyocell (Lyocell is the umbrella name for new viscose fabrics like Tencel, Newcell and Excel) and is made by a company called Lenzing. Tencel is made from wood cellulose, just like viscose. However, unlike viscose in that it uses less harmful chemicals in the spinning process and Lenzing produces Tencel using sustainably sourced wood.

Tencel fabric can be an alternative to cotton because it has even better absorbing capabilities, absorbing nearly 50% more moisture than cotton; it is highly anti-bacterial and it can be spun into many different weights of cloth, so the end product can be used for anything from sportswear to floaty dresses.

Tencel is also naturally a bright white colour making it much easier to dye, and meaning you don’t need a huge amount of harmful bleach to get it to a white colour. Another big tick for end to end circularity is the fact that it is 100% biodegradable. Although like all sustainable products, it is not a cut and dry case, since Tencel is only sustainable when its production is tightly controlled. For example, if we forest the trees badly, and don't recycle the chemicals, then the sustainability of Tencel decreases. 

 

2. Modal

 

Dressmaking modal jersey fabric

 

Modal was first made in Japan in 1951 and is made specifically from beech tree cellulose. Again, it is manufactured like viscose, but it uses far fewer chemicals. The company that makes the most sustainable modal is again Lenzing as they recycle the water and solvents that are used in the production process. When this cloth is made by Lenzing, it also meets the Oeko-Tex 100 standard giving another guarantee that is won’t be full of nasty chemicals.

Like Tencel, Modal is a good alternative to cotton, but it is also an alternative to silk and viscose too. It is especially good for sportswear because of its breathability and natural anti-pilling properties. This cloth has a lot in common with Tencel both in the production and the qualities of the final fabric. But like Tencel, it is important to remember that the sustainability is not guaranteed. Remember to look out for the trade mark. 

 

3. Linen

 

Linen Fabric

As the Summer months are upon us (hopefully fingers crossed) our attentions have already started to turn towards linen. Linen is a sustainable choice because it uses fewer resources than cotton, such as water, energy and pesticides . Unlike cotton, it can also be grown in unhealthy soil that can’t be used to grow food. When making a sustainable choice you aren’t just looking at how it’s made but also how long it will last. Linen is very strong and will endure washing and wearing hundreds of times.

Another key part of linen's sustainability is that when it’s beyond wear, linen biodegrades quickly, which adds to its end to end circularity). However it is important to say that when it’s heavily bleached or coloured linen's sustainable qualities lessen . As we have said, no fabric is perfect….

 

4. Organic Cotton

 

Organic cotton jersey eucalyptus print

Cotton is one of the most recognisable and well known fabrics in the world, and although it comes from a natural raw material, the practices around its production are not always good for the planet. For example, the amount of water used to make a single t-shirt is the same as a human will consume in their whole life-time. Shocking huh?

Well, one way to avoid making a bad choice for the planet is to use organic and fair trade cotton. By choosing organic cotton you are choosing a fabric which uses 62% less energy and 88% less water than conventional cotton. Now although we have mentioned a lot about the pros and cons of cotton before, another thing to bear in mind is the fair trade part, as without meeting those specifications, you are risking the people who made the cotton receiving little pay and working in less than okay conditions. 

Look out too for our cotton fabrics which are approved by The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), or just Better Cotton for short. Better Cotton is a global sustainability initiative for cotton whose mission is to help cotton communities survive and thrive, while protecting and restoring the environment.

 

5. Bamboo

Now bamboo fabric can be quite tricky to get hold of, but when you do it is well worth it from a sustainability point of view. Again, like many of the options we have already spoken about, it is made into a fabric in a similar way to viscose which can be done sustainably (or not of course) but once made, it has many similarities to cotton. 

You may have seen it pop up a lot more recently as a great underwear fabric because of its unrivalled softness. The raw material of bamboo has many plus points, it grows fast and the trees themselves absorb more CO2 which is great while we still produce so much. At Fabrics Galore London, we are constantly trying our best to find more responsibly grown bamboo fabrics, so keep your eyes peeled….

 

6. Ecovero

Ecovero is yet another sustainable alternative to viscose and once again, it is made by Austrian company, Lenzing, also manufacturers of Tencel and Modal. Ecovero's sustainable credentials are die to 60% of the wood used to make it is from local forests in Austria and Bavaria, lowering emissions. Just like modal and Tencel. Ecovero uses  fewer chemicals during  production, as well as a massive 50% less water,  emissions and energy.

Ecovero fabric is fantastic for dresses and blouses due to its excellent drape qualities. Sadly we don't have any in stock at the moment but we are keeping a look out so keep watch on the website in our New In collection.

 

7. Oeko-Tex 100 Fabrics

 

OEKO-TEX 100 fabric label

 

We hope we have managed to educate our readers a little in previous blogs about the advantages of choosing fabrics which meet OEKO-TEX 100. Essentially, this important global standard ensures that no harmful chemicals have been used in a fabric's production, which is always a win for the planet. 

From jumbo cords to jersey to cotton, from sweat-shirting to poplin, at Fabrics Galore London we have been working hard to increase our range of OEKO-TEX 100 fabrics so do check out the collection for chemical-free fabric.  

 

Choosing Sustainable Fabrics

Now you are more up to date on the more sustainable fabrics you can choose to do our bit as makers to help the planet, it might be an idea to look at our ideas on the perfect capsule wardrobe from our previous Green Week Blogs. We outline all the pro and cons of various well known fabrics and some ideas for clothing that you can wear again and again on different occasions….

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