Firstly to repeat a couple of important things (for more, see parts 1 & 2):
1. When it comes to clothing - it isn't easy being green ...
2. A great deal of the environmental impact of our clothing lies with the end user - that's you & me. The person who buys, wears, washes, irons (?) mends, re-purposes, and ultimately decides when and how that garment is disposed of
3. Listing is alphabetical and it'll go over several posts
4. I will update it as I discover more information - I'm Australian so the info is sometimes Ozzie-centric
5. I knit a lot (so I'll look at fibres often made into yarns but perhaps not so often found in commercial clothing)
6. I've tried to cover all aspects 'from cradle to grave'.
--- --- --- ---
Mercerised Cotton - Cotton treated by dipping into a strong alkaline (usually caustic soda) to give the thread a lustrous appearance, improved dye absorption, greater strength and a smoother, softer feel when handled. Sometimes the thread is also singed to remove stray fibres.
From an environmental point of view, improved dye absorption is a good thing as it means less (usually chemical) dyestuff to produce the colour but where does the alkaline go and if the thread is also singed - this is done by passing it over a flame ... so that means fossil fuel consumption etc
Microfiber / Microfibre - synthetic fiber finer than one denier ... extremely fine, really extremely fine. Microfibre is very fine polyester, polyamide (this means nylon) or a mix of man-made synthetic fibres. As a non-scientist / non-industrial-chemist I think of synthetic fibres as basically being plastics made from petrochemicals.
I'll go into greater depth when I get to those man-made fibres - but I think most of us familiar with the environmental problems of polyester & nylon. Fabrics that don't really biodegrade but do shed tiny particles of plastic when washed - micro-plastics which are now causing great environmental concern and plastic fibres are the most common form of micro-plastic pollution.
From the Global to the Personal - Microfibre sounds far more sophisticated than Polyester but when very fine threads of some-form-of-plastic are woven snugly together to made a fabric, that resulting fabric lacks breathability to an even greater degree than the older styles of Polyester fabric. It isn't very pleasant to wear and can result in your becoming less than pleasant to be around.
The synthetic fabrics don't 'breathe' and they don't biodegrade but they do burn ... and melt into sticky very hot goo ... well it is melted plastic ... not nice if you happen to be wearing it !
Minki - I'm including this because I'm seeing a lot of products labelled 'Minki' - so what is it?
|Mink - not minki|
It is often made into blankets - - -
Rant Alert - I've tried to maintain a distance and not assert too many opinions in this series of Blog Posts - BUT - polyester blankets ?
Minki blankets are often sold as suitable for children !!
Polyester doesn't 'breathe' and it is a fire-hazard. In the unfortunate event of a fire, polyester burns fiercely (like the petroleum product it is) and then goes to a black, sticky and Very Hot goo which sticks to things and emits heat (just imagine what that does on skin).
OK - Rant Over.
Modacrylic - a form of acrylic. Modacrylic is flame-retardant but it is prone to pilling so needs careful laundering. It is used for protective clothing, fake fur fabrics, soft toys and wigs.
Modal - when it is not a misspelling of 'model' this is yet another type of Rayon. Rayon will be addressed in full when I get to the letter R but Rayon is reconstituted cellulose - basically it starts as plants which are turned into a cellulose soup - and then chemically hardened and extruded into fibres. In the case of Modal the plant material should come from plantation beech trees.
|The European Beech|
Modal was developed by an Austrian company called Lenzing - Lenzing Modal is made from sustainably managed beech tree plantations in Europe and their process was developed to minimise environmental impacts by recovering and reusing the chemicals used in the process.
However, not all garments labelled 'Modal' are made of this more environmentally friendly fibre. Some manufacturers have been accused of forest destruction in Indonesia and garments labelled 'Modal' and manufactured (sewn) in China are often made with Indonesian Modal.
So - the advice is to take care when choosing things labelled Modal and preference garments manufactured in Europe over those made in Asia.
Mohair - Mohair comes from Angora Goats but Angora comes from Angora Rabbits - it would be less confusing if we renamed the goats but both animals are named for Ankara in Turkey. Some people think of mohair as scratchy and in the past it often was; but when mohair has come from well-fed young animals - then it should be soft, with a lovely 'halo' of fluffiness and slightly sheeny.
Mohair is a long fibre, lustrous and almost without scales (the microscopic barbs that can make wool feel scratchy) - the lack of scales also makes mohair difficult to felt / full / shrink (all 3 being basically the same process). Mohair is regarded as a luxury fibre and is used for knitting yarns, it is woven into top-end suit and coat fabrics (often blended with wool) and is made into fur fabrics for the more expensive soft toys - in the past it was used for dolls' hair and still is for OOAK and customised dolls.
Growing it - Angoras are smaller than standard goats and they are not as tough; good feed is needed especially if you want nice fleece from them. In Australia the feed and water requirements are about the same as for sheep - with the same considerations about hard hooves doing soil damage. Goats will also devour leaves and bark from trees and have a higher reach than sheep.
Angora goats are usually shorn twice a year and can produce 5 to 8 kg of fleece per annum. Today, South Africa is the world's largest producer of mohair.
Processing it - Mohair grows in uniform locks and it is a single-coat - so there are no long, coarse guard hairs which have to be separated from the desirable fibre. The fleece does need cleaning (scouring - with water and strong detergents) but this is easier than with sheep's wool as there is much less lanolin. Mohair takes dye very well - so it requires less dyestuff than some other fibres.
Spinning & weaving mohair is done very similarly to other natural animal fibres.
Caring for it - This is also similar to other animal fibres such as wool or alpaca. Mohair should be washed with care and as few chemicals as you can manage; keep in mind that mohair is often blended with wool which can shrink. Store safe from insect pests by using a scent disruptor (I've found that ground white pepper is very effective, also it is cheap & long lasting).
Burning and Biodegrading - Like wool, mohair is flame resistant and, being natural, it will biodegrade in landfill.
Nylon - A synthetic polymer - a smooth thermoplastic that can be melt-processed into fibres, films and shapes. Wallace Carothers working for the Du Pont company developed nylon during the 1930s - the first commercial use being for toothbrush bristles in 1938, closely followed by women's stockings ... then during World War II most nylon production went to make parachutes - for the canopy and the cords.
Rationing helped to make nylon stockings immensely popular but after the war nylon Du Pont cleverly marketed Nylon for other uses including nylon fabrics for lingerie and fashionable clothes. All those filmy 50s frocks (nylon) with big bouffant skirts - held out by tulle petticoats (nylon).
The Name - Unfortunately the story that 'Nylon' stands for New York & London is an urban myth. This is what Wikipedia says
Processing it - Nylons (there are many forms) are plastics made from petrochemicals (from coal or petrol) though it is possible to make a type of nylon from castor oil (that's from a plant) ... Du Pont hold that patent too and they call it Zytel.
Nylon is very useful - it is strong, durable, resistant to insects and molds / fungi (because it is synthetic) and it is fast drying (because it is non-absorbent). Nylon is used for umbrellas, raincoats, flags, strings for musical instruments, fishing lines, machine gears, broom bristles, sausage skins ... all sorts of things - even Kevlar is a variety of Nylon. However, for clothing Nylon is no-longer so popular as we have problems with that non-absorbency.
These days we aren't likely to find a garment tag that says 'Nylon' (except on something vintage) but you might find Polyamid or Polyamide ... this is a renaming of nylon. Also, nowadays nylon (sorry, polyamide) is usually blended with other fibres to make it less 'sweaty'.
Caring for it - Although nylon is a fairly tough plastic - it can be melted (so don't iron it or tumble dry it) and it can be damaged by some chemicals. If you do own vintage Nylon - especially if it is white - avoid drying it in direct sunlight and do not use chlorine or chloride bleach on it as these things will cause a white nylon to yellow.
Orlon - see Acrylic - Orlon was an early trademark name for acrylic. Orlon was also used for knitting yarn and like most acrylic yarns it pilled badly.