When buying clothes, or searching for fabric, your first thought might not necessarily be; “where did this fabric come from,” but maybe it should.
It is easy to pop into a store, reach for the latest fashions and not question what they’re made from. If a garment fits, looks good and doesn’t cost the earth, then it is normally considered a win. To the checkout we go!
Thinking about what fabric your clothes are made from, normally goes as far as; is it made from cotton, silk, or polyester?
There are a wealth of fabrics and textiles available and each one has its own characteristics. They also have their own sets of positive and negative traits and reasons why they are used. But do you ever stop to question if the fabric used is actually good for you? Not just for you, but also the planet?
We know, it is a lot to consider when you are just looking to update your wardrobe, or embark on a new craft project. But hopefully as you read this post, you’ll see that the topic of natural fabrics is a passionate and important one, and naturally want to delve deeper into its layers.
What are natural fabrics?
Natural fabrics are textiles made from natural fibres. Used for hundreds and even thousands of years, some natural textiles include:
- Linen – the oldest fabric known. Derived from the flax plant. Resists sunlight, washable, taut and non-allergenic
- Cotton – the most versatile fabric. Breathable, durable and easy to care for. Also soft and hypoallergenic
- Hemp – derives from the cannabis plant. Very strong and durable, holds its shape well, naturally resistant to mould
- Silk – a protein based fibre spun by the silk worm. It is strong, drapes well, breathable, hypoallergenic and has a beautiful natural lustre
- Cashmere – a fibre obtained from cashmere goats and other types of goats. Luxurious, soft, silky, smooth and very warm
- Wool – a protein based fibre that can be blended with man made fibres. It is durable, warm, flexible and dyes well
- Jute – a bast fibre. Long and shiny fibres spun to make coarse, strong threads. 100% biodegradable and recyclable
- Bamboo – fibres derived from the bamboo plant. Super soft, breathable, durable and easy to care for
- Mohair – derives from the Angora goat. Very soft to the touch with high lustre and sheen. Heat regulating properties
- Leather – animal based product. High tensile strength, resistant to tear, strong, durable, smooth
As you can see, the list includes fibres derived from both animals and plants. Fibres are spun to create yarns, which are made into fabrics. These textiles can be used to make everything from clothing, to upholstery, to furnishings. They are even used in other areas, such as industrial and medical.
Advantages of natural fabrics
Good for you and great for the environment, natural fabrics can categorically have a positive impact on both.
As well as being environmentally sustainable, the majority of natural fabrics are biodegradable, moisture wicking, breathable, durable, heat responsive and naturally repellent to mould and dirt. Fibres such as cotton also have the option of being grown organically, which, although more expensive to produce and purchase, ensure that the use of pesticides and chemicals isn’t used in its production.
High absorption qualities in natural textiles are a huge plus. The moisture wicking abilities allows ventilation through the fabric, to pull dampness away from the skin leaving you feeling dry. So, if you are prone to feeling hot, or in particular during the warmer months, fabrics such as cotton and linen will help keep you cool and comfortable.
What makes natural fabrics good for sensitive skin?
Many people are born with sensitive skin, or allergies, which can be worsened by wearing synthetic fibres. Materials such as polyester, nylon and viscose can cause very sensitive skin to react badly, causing rashes, skin irritations and more.
Textiles such as linen, silk and cotton are naturally hypoallergenic. They also have unique anti-bacterial qualities, therefore making them ideal for sensitive or allergy prone skin. For newborn and baby skin, wearing these fabrics is ideal. The softness and hypoallergenic qualities are almost guaranteed to be kind to baby’s skin.
Why natural over synthetic fabric?
It is possible that when some people think of natural fabrics and fibres, that they associate them with rough, burlap sack type materials. Very rustic, scratchy and not very fashionable. They couldn’t be more wrong. Yes, a lot of these textiles derive from plants such as flax, cotton, jute and cannabis, but natural fabrics today are very different to the original textiles made from them.
These days, there are a wealth of materials created from natural beginnings, which are just as fashionable, stylish and chic as anything that comes from synthetics. Silk, cashmere and mohair are animal derived fabrics, known to be the most elegant and luxurious available – man made or natural. Many fashion designers, established and up and coming, choose to use natural fabrics in their collections, to produce ethical clothing.
Natural fibres can even spun with man made yarns, to produce fabrics which deliver the best of both worlds. With so many options available, it is well worth a little time and effort to look more closely at the fabric you choose.
Should you choose natural over synthetic fabrics?
As well as being beautiful, natural fabrics are environmentally sustainable and renewable. They come from trees, plants or animals, which can continue to be replaced, raised or regrown. Unlike many synthetic materials, natural options are biodegradable and decompose harmlessly. They are easily recycled and can be reused without harming the environment.
Why aren’t natural fabrics more widely available on the high street and beyond?
Natural fabrics are around, you just have to know where to look for them. Most shops carry products made from the more well-known textiles, such as cotton, silk and linen, but there are so many more options available. And you shouldn’t have to hunt them out, or go to specialised distributors to find them. We are passionate about providing a wealth of fabric and textile options to our customers, and listen closely to the demand from them. As consumers are becoming more aware of what they wear and where it comes from, the demand for natural fabrics is growing, but it needs to grow more.
There is, and always will be, a high demand for synthetic fabrics. Why? They are cheap, easy to get hold of, easy to care for, and easy to wear or use. Research and developments in the textile industry continue to produce more and more synthetic, or man made, fabrics. Made to have the appearance and feel of natural fabrics, but with the ease of care of synthetics.
Where does Contrado come in?
We strive to be as sustainable as possible. Our over 100 strong fabric collection includes a mix of natural, synthetic and combined textiles. We are constantly looking for ways to include more and more natural fabric in our collection. From textiles made from milk and banana, to ones made with soy and coconut husks, our passion for natural fabrics have led us down some interesting and quirky rabbit holes.
However, we are led by demand. There is always a high demand for synthetic fabrics, and from what we have already seen, it is easy to see why. This demand though, must extend to natural fabrics. Without it, we cannot invest in more natural fabric options. Furthermore, these textiles come with a plethora of advantages, which are mutually beneficial to both the consumer, and the environment.
As we stand, the selection of natural fabrics available at Contrado ranges from everything from cotton, denim and silk, to linen, organic cotton and bamboo. But we want to keep adding to this. This is only possible therefore, if our customers and consumers on the whole demand it.
Feel the difference between different types of natural fabrics and explore over hundred other materials with your very own fabric swatch pack. Understand the texture, strength and finish of the fabrics by taking a hands on approach.
I am sensitive to VOC’s and many other chemicals. I find most fabrics affect me even 100 percent cotton or linen. What chemicals are used in fabrics? How can I avoid them?