The Ultimate Guide to Organic, Sustainable Fabrics
We live in an age where we are constantly being surrounded by and bombarded with choices. Whether it's the type of electronic device to purchase, what kind of milk we want in our coffee or latte, or what type of vehicle we want to drive, the choices are endless! Such is also the case when it comes to the clothing we wear and the different fabric options that are available to us. From polyester and cotton to muslin and bamboo and everything in between, it can be hard to navigate the selection in order to find the right fit for your lifestyle and preference.
When it comes to buying clothing there are so many more things to consider that one might not have known about originally. In this article we will cover:
- The difference between regular fabrics and organic fabrics
- The different types of organic fabrics
- The manufacturing process of each of these different fabrics
- The benefits of purchasing organic fabric clothing
- The economic differences between conventional clothing materials and organic materials
- Pricing differences between the various fabric styles
In recent years, around the world, a dichotomy has started to shift as people have started trying to find healthier, more environmentally conscious ways to live and do things. From the food we eat and the way it's processed to the clothing we wear and the way it is processed. There are a growing number of people in the world that are starting to become more aware of what hurts our world vs what will help, and carefully selecting the clothing and other fabrics we wear/use is important. The first step in understanding this choice is knowing what the term "organic fabric" even means.
When we talk about organic here, we are referring to organic textiles that are grown in controlled settings without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals. Only natural fertilizers are used and the soil and water are carefully monitored. Also included are those fibres that come from animals and various minerals. All of these fibres are considered organic because they originated in nature. If a fiber is “certified organic” its growing conditions have been monitored and certified by one of the several organic trade associations worldwide, such as Oeko-Tex or GOTS. To be considered organic a fabric needs to contain at least 95% of the organic fabric stated.
More commonplace fabrics, on the other hand, are grown using immense amounts of insecticides, pesticides and herbicides, which inevitably start to leach into the soil and eventually the water supplies. Not to mention the air we breathe. These fabrics also use a very large sum of water in their creation process. To give you a rough idea of this, it takes roughly 2,700 liters of water (through irrigation, manufacture and cleaning, dyeing, etc.) to make 1 cotton T-Shirt! That's insane. The downfalls of clothing production are numerous and will be discussed in a later blog post.
Synthetic textiles, on the other hand, are fibres that have been created using chemical processes. During the chemical process a device called a spinneret extracts polymers from the chemical reactions and turns them into fibres that are usable for clothing creation. This process was developed in order to provide more clothing options at a faster and cheaper rate than is possible with organic fibres.
When it comes to your more organic fabric options, there are actually a lot to choose from. I have compiled a list of all the organic fabrics I could find and have provided an explanation of what each of the fabrics are and how they are manufactured into clothing. I have also included the average price of each of the fabrics, as some are more expensive than others.
It may be surprising to some to learn that fabrics we thought were organic may not actually stay organic by the time the final product is finished. A lot of manufacturers will use harmful chemicals in their production processes that essentially turn an healthy, organic fabric option into something full of chemicals. Let’s go ahead and explore these options now.
*Note: this list is not exhaustive, when doing your research I highly recommend digging deeper into the ones that are of interest to you.
**I have also included polyester in this list even though it is not an organic fabric, because polyester is used to make so much clothing, and in order to contrast what polyester really is compared to the other options out there.
What Is It: Bamboo textiles are defined as any cloth or material that is created using bamboo fibres. Once limited to corsets and bustles, bamboo fibres are now being incorporated into other fashion items such as shirts, shirts, pants, socks, bedding and more. Bamboo fibres are all cellulose fibre extracted or fabricated from natural bamboo, but there are many different results you can get, depending on the process that is taken to extract the fibres from the bamboo.
Over time bamboo has been used in many different ways. From using strips to make baskets, to hats and shoes, to being dissolved into fibres to make clothing. Bamboo apparel has many benefits, including being highly absorbent, very breathable, resistant to odor, mold, mildew, and bacteria even after numerous washings, and ultra-soft.
How Is It Made: Textiles labelled as “made from bamboo” are usually derived from viscose rayon. This fibre is created by dissolving the cellulose in the bamboo in order to extrude it to form fibres. When bamboo fibres undergo this process they lose all of their natural characteristics, leaving the final product of fibre as being identical to that of rayon. The downside to this process is that toxic chemicals are required to change the genetic structure of natural bamboo into rayon.
When shopping for something that is labelled “made from bamboo”, be cautious. Although the plant isn’t the problem, the questionable way it is turned into rayon should raise red flags for people.
Average Price: $13.50/yard or $30+ for clothing.
What Is It: Batiste is a fine fabric that is a balanced plain weave made from cotton, wool, linen or a polyester mix. A few of the defining qualities of batiste is that it is both lightweight and thin making it the perfect option to use as a lining fabric for high-quality garments, as well as for items like handkerchiefs, bed sheets and lingerie.
Batiste can be only somewhat opaque, but tends not to be as see-through as more sheer fabrics.
How Is It Made: During the manufacturing process of batiste the material goes through a satin weave that creates the very shiny finish that batiste is known for. It then undergoes a mercerizing process that adds more gleam to the threads and then goes through a no acid wash, this prevents the material from becoming transparent like voiles or organdy.
Average Price: $8/yard.
What Is It: Broadcloth is a dense, plain woven cloth, that is traditionally made out of wool. During the manufacturing process broadcloth is woven to be much wider than its necessary dimensions require. It is then heavily milled and shrunk down to the appropriate width. The milling process is used in order to bring the fibres of the cloth together into a densely bound cloth that is stiff, very weather resistant and is capable of taking a cut edge without needing to be hemmed. This is not something the traditional loom or sewing machine would be able to accomplish.
In today's modern world, broadcloth is used to produce some clothing and is typically made up of a cotton or cotton-polyester blend, but it is typically used for upholstering of furniture and car interiors. There are many different types of broadcloth, designed all over the world. You can explore them more in depth here.
How Is It Made: First industrialized in Holland in the 1400’s, broadcloth was typically woven about 50-75% wider than the finished product required. It had to go through a rigorous milling process that involved the cloth being worked by heavy wooden trip hammers in hot soapy water. This milling was done in order to draw the yarns of the fabric much closer together than could have been achieved with a loom, thus allowing the wool to bind together in a felting process as it was shrunk down to the required width.
Average Price: $5/yard.
What Is It: Cotton fiber is a soft, fluffy staple fibre that grows naturally in many parts of the world, and that humans have been turning into clothing since about the fifth millennium BC, if not earlier. It is the most common natural fibre used in the clothing industry today, accounting for more than half of all fiber needs across the globe.
How Is It Made: To grow successfully and in large quantities, cotton requires a long frost-free growing period with plenty of sunshine, moderate rainfall and soils that are fairly heavy in nutrients. The ideal growing locations for cotton are in the dry tropics and subtropical regions of the world, but nowadays a large proportion of cotton is being cultivated in dryer regions and obtains the water it needs from irrigation.
When cotton is ready to be harvested, it is processed into usable fibres in several complex processes. First the cotton must undergo a spinning process. This process includes taking the compressed staple fibre from the cotton plant and unraveling it, then cleaning it in order to remove the substances that might be sticking to it, like leaves, seeds, etc. Once clean, the staple fibre is processed into sheet-shaped "lap."
This sheet-shaped lap is then combed through to remove any remaining fine dust particles and short fibres. Once cleaned, the remaining long fibers are aligned together into a string-shaped “card sliver.” As they go through the card slivers the fibers are drafted into a loosely formed web. This web is then rolled up to form what is called a “silver lap.”
This web is then combed one more time to remove any remaining dust residue and short fibers that could not be removed during the initial combing process. Once cleaned the fibres are once again arranged in a parallel, uniform pattern. This process is critical in order to produce high quality yarn.
Once aligned, the fibres are gathered together in groups of 6-8 and undergo an elongating process until the fibers are six to eight times their original length. This process is done using a drawing machine and is done in order to straighten out and remove uneven thickness from the fibers. Once elongated to the appropriate length and thickness, the fibres are then spun onto bobbins in different manners, depending on the purpose of the yarn.
Average Price: $10-$40/yard, depending on the quality.
What Is It: Hemp is a sustainable, natural textile that is derived from a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species. The textile material used to make hemp clothing comes from the long strands of bast fibre that make up the stalk of the hemp plant. The plants themselves are grown specifically for industrial use. When compared to other bast fibres, hemp ranks second in ultimate fiber length, aspect ratio, tenacity, tensile strength, and breaking length, and third in cellulose content. They are one of the fastest growing plants - germination to maturity takes between 80-120 days (depending on variety, latitude and field/climate factors), growing to heights of up to 15’ - and they are the first plant that was spun into usable fibres approximately 50,000 years ago.
Originally used for commercial purposes of rope, paper and ship sails, hemp can now be found in more everyday items like shoes, linens, and other types of clothing. Hemp is a long-lasting fibre, 4x more durable than many other natural fibres, absorbent, all-natural and comes from plants that are naturally pest resistant and high yielding, thus eliminating the need for pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizer during growth. Hemp is also easily renewable.
Hemp is very unique in its properties as it has the best ratio of heat capacity of all fibres, thus giving it superior insulation properties and making it more effective at blocking out harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. The nature of hemp fibres makes them more absorbent to dyes, which coupled with hemp's ability to better screen out ultraviolet rays, means that hemp material is less prone to fading. Natural organic hemp fibre ‘breathes’ and is biodegradable, and hemp fibre is longer, stronger, more absorbent and more insulative than cotton fibre.
How Is It Made: Hemp fabric is made from the long strands of fibre that make up the stalk of the hemp plant. These long bast fibres undergo a process called “retting”, in which the fibres, ultimately used for clothing, are separated from the bark. Retting is the microbial decay of pectin, the substance that glues the fiber to the woody core of the hemp stem. These fibres are then spun together until they combine into a long continuous thread. This thread will then be woven into a fabric.
Hemp fabric manufacturing is typically done by a mechanical process instead of a chemical one, keeping the natural quality and health standards of the fabrics, but some manufacturers have turned to chemical processing because it is faster and less labor intensive and therefore more inexpensive for the company.
Average Price: $20+ per yard.
What Is It: Modal is lightweight, stretchy, and breathable. Derived from beech tree pulp, it is a slightly more durable form of rayon. Often blended with other fabrics like cotton or spandex, modal adds a layer of strength and softness to its products. Modal is considered to be a more luxurious fabric and thus is more expensive than other fabrics. This luxury status comes from the benefits that modal brings, which includes, but is not limited to: it is stretchy, soft, breathable, water absorbent, durable, eco-friendly, doesn’t shrink or crease, is biodegradable and more.
Modal is a more eco-friendly alternative fibre to things like cotton. This is due to the fact that beech trees require significantly less water to grow than cotton does, therefore the production process uses about 10-20 times less water right from the start.
How Is It Made: Modal is a bio-based fabric that is made during a special spinning process of the beech tree's cellulose. The process to get the fibres out of the beech trees, however, requires chemicals, so modal is classified as being semi-synthetic.
To make modal fibres we first start with the harvesting of the beech trees. Once the trees are harvested, they are chipped and the cellulose is extracted from the resulting pulp. The extracted cellulose is then made into sheets, which are soaked in sodium hydroxide. After some time, these sheets are broken into smaller pieces and soaked in a carbon disulfate solution. This second soaking produces sodium cellulose xanthate. The cellulose xanthate is then soaked in another round of sodium hydroxide.
After soaking for some time the solution is put through a spinneret, which is a device that has small holes in it with which the fibres are created. The resulting fibres are soaked in a sulfuric acid solution to help it form yarn. Once it has reached a certain stage the yarn is washed, bleached and dried before being spun onto spools.
Average Price: As a higher end fabric modal is typically more expensive than other fabrics.
What Is It: Muslin is a simple cotton fabric of a very plain weave. It is made in a range of weights from delicate sheers to coarse sheeting. Muslin is named after its first suspected location of origin, Mosul, Iraq, although it is now suspected to have originated farther east than that, in the city of Dhaka in Bangladesh. Muslin is known to shrink a little when washed, as it is woven from cotton, so it is highly recommended to read and follow the washing instructions on any muslin product you are looking to wash.
One of the great things about muslin is that it can be and has been used in a large variety of ways throughout time. A few common uses of muslin include:
- As part of the dress making process. When making dresses, dressmakers will often cut out and size a pattern using the cheaper muslin fabric before cutting into a more expensive fabric. This helps dressmakers avoid making potentially costly mistakes. This process is often referred to as "making a muslin." Nowadays the term "muslin" has become the generic term for creating a test or fitting garment, regardless of what it is made from.
- In the culinary world, muslin is often referred to as a cheesecloth and is used for various processes of straining and filtering.
- In the theatre. As a fabric that holds dyes well, muslin is preferred in the theatre for creating nighttime scenes, because when dyed muslin often takes on a wavy type look, with the colors varying slightly, that makes a good representation of the night sky. This helps to mask the background of sets, thus setting the mood for the performance.
- As a backdrop by photographers. Again, because muslin holds dyes so well, photographers most commonly use muslin fabrics for the backdrops of their photoshoots because they can be easily dyed into any design.
- In the medical environment. Surgeons will use gauze made of muslin when performing surgery for aneurysms because the gauze is thought to reinforce the artery and help prevent rupture.
- The earliest aviation experiences. Although not used commercially today, the Wright Brothers used muslin fabric as a covering for the wings and control surfaces of their airplane, because it was lightweight and strong.
How Is It Made: In the 17th and 18th centuries, muslin was being exported by Mughal and Bengal into Europe until the time places like Scotland and England started manufacturing it themselves. Early Indian muslins were handwoven of extremely fine handspun yarns and are woven from evenly spun warps and wefts, or fillings. After weaving the fabric is often given a soft finish, bleached or piece-dyed.
Average Price: $2.50/yard.
What Is It: Percale is a simple plain-weave fabric. With a typical thread count of about 200 or higher, percale is often used for bed covers. The higher thread count of percale makes for a tighter weave than other fabrics, and many other bed sheets for that matter. Coming in at a medium weight, percale is often a smooth, yet firm fabric that does not have any type of glossy look to it. Percale typically comprises cotton, polyester or a combination of blends.
How Is It Made: The percale weave in fabrics is made by a one weave over, one weave under pattern where the wrap thread goes over one weft thread, under the next wrap thread, then over the following weft thread. This continues across the entire fabric creating a strong weave.
Using a different size of thread in this pattern produces fabrics that are stronger than others. Using thicker threads creates a thicker, stronger fabric than using a thin thread would.
Average Price: $40-$150, depending on the thread count.
What Is It: Often referred to as Tabbinet, poplin is a fine but thick wool, cotton, or silk fabric that has a horizontal warp with a vertical weft. Poplin is a strong fabric, formed in a plain weave of any fibre or blend, with crosswise ribs that typically give a corded surface. Poplin is often combined with other fabrics, such as wool, cotton, silk, rayon, polyester, or a combination fabric. It is not common to find a 100% poplin material. When poplin was introduced to the America’s in the 1920’s it was arbitrarily renamed as broadcloth (not to be confused with the broadcloath we covered earlier).
How Is It Made: Poplin is a plain-weave cotton fabric. With its close-knit structure, the weave leaves a uniform and clear pattern on the cloth surface, as well as a smooth, comfortable and silky feel. As a result, poplin products are considered to be of high quality and value, and can be used for a long time.
Average Price: $6-12/yard.
What Is It: Ramie is a flowering plant native to Asia. It is one of the oldest fibre crops in the world and is used mainly for fabric production. The fibres used for fabric production are cultivated from the inner bark of the vegetable stalk and is harvested anywhere from 3-6 times per year.
Throughout history ramie has been used in a variety of manners. From wrapping mummies in China, to being turned into traditional garments in Taiwan, ramie has a unique resistance to bacteria and mildew.
From what we have right now, ramie is one of the world's strongest natural fibres. Ramie is unique in that it tends to get stronger when it gets wet, it’s really good at holding its shape, and has a silky lustre appearance to it. However, although it is naturally a strong fibre, manufacturers will commonly blend ramie with other fibres, like wool or cotton, in order to make the fabric more durable.
Made largely in China, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Brazil, ramie is not exported to America in the quantity that other fabrics are. Large exports of ramie are sent to Europe.
How Is It Made: In order to harvest the fibres out of the ramie plant, you need to wait until the plant starts to flower, or just before it flowers. At this point the plant is at its highest fibre content and is ready to be harvested. To harvest the fibres the stems of the plant are cut just above the lateral roots, or the stems are bent. Both of these actions will snap the core of the plant where the fibres are and allow the cortex of the plant to be stripped.
Once stripped, the stems are decorticated while the plants are fresh. Doing this while the plants are fresh is important, because otherwise the plants will dry up, making the bark difficult to remove. After the decortication process the fibre extraction process then occurs in 3 stages.
First off, the cortex or bark of the plant is removed. This is essentially what the decortication process is. The cortex is then scraped in order to remove as much of the outer bark as possible. Once that is done the residual cortex material is washed, dried and degummed in order to extract the spinnable fibres.
Average Price: Available mostly online from America, ramie can be found for $3/yard or more.
What Is It: Rayon is generated from cellulose fibres that come from natural sources, often wood or other agricultural products. Rayon is often used in conjunction with viscose rayon or viscose fibres. These fibres can be used to imitate the feel and texture of other natural fibres, such as linen, cotton, silk, and wool. These semblances are often referred to as artificial silks.
Rayon is more absorbent than other natural fabrics, like cotton and linen, making it the most absorbent plant based fabric. This absorbency makes rayon a perfect choice, along with cotton, to wear on humid days. Rayon does tend to become weaker as it gets more wet, but it will hold up on a hot day.
How Is It Made: Rayon does not occur naturally, but is manufactured from the cellulose fibres of other natural sources. This process can be done in several different ways, either using some sort of alkali and carbon sulfide or using ammoniacal solutions of copper salts.
Although rayon consists of natural bases, it is not considered eco-friendly because of the chemical processes that it must go through during its creation process.
Average Price: Varies greatly, depending on where you purchase from and its source and type.
What Is It: Tencel fibres can be found in 2 different types of fibres, lyocell and modal fibres. Each one brings its own unique properties to any fabric, but in general tencel fibres bring an added softness that is long lasting, silky smoothness, an enhanced breathability, biodegradability and more.
Tencel is also very absorbent, about 50% more so than cotton, and it's breathable and less susceptible to odorous bacteria, making tencel ideal for gym or yoga wear.
Tencel lyocell fibres specifically are known for their comfort and gentleness on the skin. Their natural comfort and composition allows lyocell fibres to be easily combined with other fibres, including cotton, wool, polyester, acrylic, and silk to create compositions that are functional and strong. Lyocell fibres bring with them a unique natural strength, efficient moisture absorption ability and a soft gentleness to the touch.
Tencel modal fibres, on the other hand, are known for their super softness and flexibility. Modal fibres pair well with other textile fibres that also have a naturally soft quality to them, but also those that don’t, and result in end products that are significantly more soft and comfortable.
How Is It Made: Like ramie, rayon, and many other fibres, tencel is derived from plant cellulose. It is a cellulose fibre, pulled from dissolving wood pulp and then drying it with a special spinning process. Before drying the wood chips are mixed with a special solvent in order to create a unique wet mixture. This mixture is then pushed through small holes in a machine that turns it into threads. The threads are then chemically treated before the threads are spun into yarn.
The entire production process of tencel uses less water and space than other production processes, like cotton for example. The tencel production process uses what is called a “closed loop process”, which means that 99% of the materials and chemicals that are used in the process can be reused, thus minimizing the waste. This process means that tencel products will generally cost more than cotton products, but the environmental impact is generally less.
Average Price: $6-11/yard.
What Is It: There are three types of terry fabrics: the Terry Towel, French Terry and Terry Velour.
The Terry Cloth or Terry Towel is very often 100% cotton based and is unique in the fact that the fabric is woven in a way that results in many protruding loops of thread. It is designed this way to make the cloth absorbent to large amounts of water. In some instances terry cloth consists of a cotton/polyester mix, but these items are not as absorbent. Items made from terry cloth usually include reusable diapers, bathrobes, towels, bed linens, and sweatbands.
French Terry is a type of terry cloth that is used more often to make clothing. This style of terry cloth has the cross loops only on one side, while the other side is flat. This makes it more comfortable to wear as it reduces the scratchy feeling of the loops. Often made into a wrap knit design, the term French Terry is colloquially used for the wrap knitted Terry.
Terry Velour is very similar to the French Terry style of design, but the flat side is often more luxurious and has a more velvety look and feel to it.
The cotton used to manufacture most terry cloth comes out of one of 4 main countries: Turkey, Pakistan, India, or China. Some countries produce a higher quality cotton than others, thus creating the price difference among terry cloth products.
How Is It Made: Terry cloth is manufactured by weaving or knitting process. The looms that are used to mass produce terry cloth items have two beams of longitudinal wrap through which the filler or weft are fired laterally.
Average Price: $11-17/yard.
What Is It: Velour is a soft, plush, knitted fabric that is very similar to velvet or velveteen. Velour is most often made from cotton, but it can sometimes be made from the synthetic material of polyester. Often referred to as natural leather, velour is most often used in the creation of footwear, clothing and upholstery.
The stretchy quality of velour combines the properties of knit fabrics with the feel of velvet. Often used in dance wear, velour can also be used for more warm, colorful, and casual clothing.
How Is It Made: When velour is used for its leather qualities, it is tanned and ground from the inside in order to create a delicate, soft layer on the surface. When used for clothing, velour is quite often woven or knitted in a way that helps it to be stretchy.
Velour is the go to for the manufacture of theatre drapes and stage curtains, done by weaving the two sets of warps and wefts at the same time, with the additional threads becoming the nap in between. The material is then cut apart to produce the two separate tufted fabrics.
Average Price: $6-17/yard.
What Is It: Wool is the textile fibre that comes from different animals. A lot of the wool clothing we own comes from sheep, but wool fibres can come from other animals as well. Some of these animals include: the cashmere and mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, hide and fur clothing that we get from bison, angora from rabbits, and other types of wool from camelids.
One of the things that makes wool unique in the textile industry is that it consists of a combination of proteins and lipids (in a small percentage), whereas other textiles, like cotton, for example are mainly composed of cellulose.
The bulkiness that wool has gives it the ability to hold air well, which will often cause the fabric to retain plenty of heat. This is beneficial in both hot and cold climates. Its very unique thermal resistance inhibits and impedes the transfer of heat from one side of the product to the other. This lack of heat transfer has protected people in both hot climates, like the Sahara, who use wool garments for insulation, as well as people in cold climates who use wool coats to protect them from the cold outdoors, by keeping their body heat inside the coat.
Wool is a very absorbent material and can absorb almost one-third of its own weight in water. This ability makes wool a good water resistant option, as it will still retain 80% of its insulating properties when wet. This is beneficial for those that live in cold, wet climates.
How Is It Made: Wool starts off by growing on animals. To remove the wool animals will undergo a shearing, whereby the wool will be shaved off of the animal and separated into 4 different sections (depending on the animal). These sections include fleece (which makes up the vast bulk), broken, bellies, and locks. Once it is sheared, the wool is scoured, which is a special way of washing the wool to get the animals' remaining skin cells and environmental residue off. From there it is then scaled and crimped, making it easier to later spin the fleece into different things, as the crimping process helps the individual fibres of the wool attach to each other so that they stay together better. The crimping process is also what gives wool fabrics the greater bulkiness that it has over other textiles.
Average Price: Prices vary depending on where you live and what type of wool product you are looking to purchase.
What Is It: Eco-polyester, also known as the new polyester, is some clothing manufacturers' attempts at creating more environmentally friendly alternatives in the manufacturing process.
The eco-polyester production process typically uses 70% less water, energy and heat than standard polyester production.
For more information on eco-polyester production, check out the blog post I wrote specifically about it here.
What Is It: Polyester is a synthetic fibre that was created in a laboratory by creating stable chemical reactions. These reactions result in two or more molecules combining together to make larger, longer molecules with a repeating structure that is stable and strong. Derived from coal, air, water, and petroleum, polyester fibers can form very long molecules that are very stable and strong.
Even though polyester is a completely synthetic fibre, it does have its own unique advantages. It does not absorb moisture very well, but it does absorb oil making it naturally resistant to stains. Polyester can often be preshrunk during the finishing process, in order to prevent it from shrinking again with further washes. Polyester is easily dyeable and not damaged by mildew.
Polyester is one of the most polluting fabrics in the world to develop. From the amount of heat, water and energy it consumes to create polyester, to the harmful chemicals, including carcinogens, that can be emitted into water and air if not treated properly, the production of polyester can cause significant environmental damage. Polyester also cannot be dyed using low impact and natural dyes like more natural fabrics can, creating even more risk for the environment.
How Is It Made: Polyester is derived in different ways, depending on what the end result will be. The four basic forms are filament (each individual strand of polyester fiber is continuous in length, producing smooth-surfaced fabrics), staple (the filaments are cut in to short, predetermined lengths making it easier to blend the polyester with other fibers), tow (continuous filaments are drawn loosely together), and fiberfill (the voluminous form used as insulation in the manufacture of quilts, pillows, and outerwear). In the creation of clothing the filament and staple processes are used most often. You can find more about each of these processes here.
Average Price: $5-15/yard.
The demand for organic fabrics is on the rise, and with it so should manufacturing standards. Buying clothing that states they are made with an organic material isn’t enough anymore. As I have demonstrated, more often than not, an organic fabric is tainted with chemicals that are harmful to the environment and to us as humans. What is the point in spending the extra money on something when we cannot guarantee that it is actually making a difference?
This is something to consider the next time you are out shopping with your family or friends. Shopping for organic products is beneficial because not only is the manufacturing process more environmentally friendly, but the clothing tends to be more durable and have less allergens in it. As you can see above, organic products tend to be more absorbent, eco-friendly, durable, and in a lot of cases are biodegradable once they've finally worn out.
Synthetic fabrics, on the other hand, are much harder on the environment, both in their manufacturing processes and in their disposal. However, they do offer some benefits of being more stain resistant and having a higher water resistance, and they can be cheaper.
Making choices in fashion is no longer as simple as purchasing a shirt made from cotton and being done with it. There are so many different choices available now and it is important to know what you are getting and how the choice you are making is impacting the world around you. In future blog posts we will dive deeper into the differences between organic vs non-organic cotton, the dying process that goes into giving our clothing the patterns and designs that draws us to them, and much more.