Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why Natural Fibres are Best

It's amazing that after all of the technological achievements we've seen over the past Century, we still rely on natural fibres for our clothing. Part of this is the abundance of natural fibres which makes them cost effective, but even with our modern technology, there are certain properties of natural fibres which we struggle to replicate with man-made synthetics.

What Makes Wool Amazing?

Wool is one of those natural fibres which successive generations have relied upon for warmth and comfort for Millenia. Natural wool has a host of properties which make it ideal for clothing manufacture, such as wool's ability to absorb moisture, regulate body heat and act as a superb insulator from cold weather.

Wool is actually even more amazing than that... each fibre has a natural 'crimp', which leads to clothing which traps air - great for really cold conditions as this is the basis for many modern fibre designs. A layer of still air is a fabulous insulator, which is why this is designed into modern insulated layers for mountain climbing, ski jackets etc.

The Humble Cotton Tree

Cotton starts life as a protective bundle or boll around seeds of the cotton plant (genus Cossypium). As these bundles are made from almost pure cellulose they make a great insulator and have a wealth of properties which really lend the cotton from these plants to clothing production.

Cotton is used in clothing by first spinning the cotton bolls into threads by teasing out the fibres from the boll and creating a continuous thread. This creates soft, flexible threads which can be woven into cloth using a manual or automated weaving machine.

The material produced exhibits some fantastic properties such as sweat absorbtion and cooling whilst allowing the wearer a degree of insulation, which makes cotton a favourite for manufacturers of children's clothing such as Scotch and Soda with their Scotch Shrunk range as this type of natural fibre lends itself to the types of activities children generally take part in.

What About Hemp?

Hemp is another natural fibre which has been used for clothing for many millenia and is again gathering popularity amongst environmentally aware people as it uses less water for growing than cotton and offers many benefits over other natural fibres, including the fact that hemp absorbs more water than cotton, is a more efficient insulator and also acts as a UV barrier so is great to wear out in the sun.

Hemp is actually made from the Marijuana plant 'Cannabis Sativa' so it's production is closely regulated, however this fibre has such a wealth of benefits that it's hard to ignore as a serious player in the natural fibre arena, such as offering the ability to produce hypo-allergenic clothing which exhibits a strange ability to fight off bacteria, requires very little in the way of water to grow and will grow very nicely without any pesticides or fertilizers... infact growing hemp naturally fertilises the soil for other plants.

It's clear that natural fibres, far from being a throwback to the past, will always be with us as they offer the sorts of benefits which man-made fibres cannot.

I Dream Elephants offers a great range of cotton and wool clothing from fashion designer Scotch and Soda with the Scotch Shrunk range of clothing for boys and Scotch R'belle range for girls.

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