Did you know some plants contribute to the fashionable clothes you wear? Your favorite cotton shirt could have been once a thriving young plant.
Jokes apart, some plants indeed produce fibers that can be spun into a yarn. A yarn is a continuous length of interlocked fibers that can be sewed, knitted, or weaved.
These plants are of great economic value. You could grow some of these in your backyard!
Let us study more about them.
I bet you were least expecting bananas to be on the list. The yarn derived from the bark of the banana tree is strong, glossy, and resembles silk.
It has a textured feel and absorbs dye colors pretty well.
Banana plants grow well in well-drained, sandy soils that contain traces of organic matter. Additionally, the soil must be maintained at temperatures of around 60-68°F for germination to take place.
Cotton should not surprise anyone as it has been used for ages to weave clothes. The yarn is extracted from the fluffy white inflorescences called “bolls.”
The fabric is highly durable, lightweight, and comfortable.
If you intend to grow cotton, ensure that you plant them around spring when temperatures are moderate.
The plant prefers highly fertile, well-draining soils with pH ranging from 5.5 to 7.5.
Please note that cotton plants cannot survive frosty weather.
Yet another historically significant plant-based fabric is linen which is woven from the fibers of the flax plant.
The fabric is robust, fast-drying, and highly absorbent. However, linen wrinkles pretty quickly and is more expensive than cotton.
It is usually preferred in hot and humid areas due to the added comfort.
The plant must again be sown around spring during moderate temperatures. The plant prefers full sun and well-drained sandy soils.
The bamboo plant finds so many uses that it is not at all surprising to find it here. Bamboo strands harvested from the stalk of the plant are very strong, durable, and smooth.
It is also used extensively as a baby yarn, thanks to its anti-bacterial properties.
Do take care while growing bamboos, as some varieties can multiply and spread quickly across your yard.
The plants require frequent watering and grow fast under full sun. They prefer loamy, fertile, and well-draining soils.
Also known as China Plant or China Grass, Ramie has been used as a fiber plant for more than 6000 years.
The fabric is wrinkle-free, strong, and highly absorbent. It breathes pretty well, making it a preferred clothing choice for warm and humid climates.
Ramie plants are closely related to nettles and prefer highly fertile, sandy, or loamy soils.
Soy is yet another unusual entrant on the list after banana. It was first used to manufacture fabric in the United States during the 1940s.
However, synthetic fibers derived from petroleum soon took over. They were easy to produce on a large scale and economically viable.
The fiber derived from the soybean is initially pretty coarse. It is modified by breaking down the protein structure using heat and enzymes and smoothened.
The result is a luxurious, lightweight, and free-flowing fabric that has a cashmere feel to it.
Soy is an excellent alternative to cotton and is environmentally friendly.
Growing Soy Beans
Soy plants must be sown during late spring or early summers. The plants require a soil temperature of at least 60°F to germinate.
The plants prefer loose, fertile soil rich in organic matter and usually thrive best under full sun.
The fiber extracted from the pulp of the eucalyptus tree is known as Tencel. Owning to the substrates used in the extraction process, the fiber falls in the semi-synthetic category.
However, the entire process is eco-friendly, and 99% of the water and solvents are recovered.
The end fabric has a silky smooth feel, just like the banana fabric. It has excellent strength and is highly absorbent and hypoallergenic.
We usually associate the pineapple plant with its long, cylindrical spiky fruit that is sweet.
However, fiber can be extracted from pineapple leaves, albeit with laborious manual processes involving scraping, washing, and drying.
Consequently, two different variants of the fiber are produced:
- Bastos is strong, and course and is used for making decorative household items such as rugs.
- Liniwan is fine, smooth, and silky in texture and is used for weaving clothes.
The fabric is preferred in regions with subtropical climates as formal wear and as a leather alternative in making shoes, bags, and accessories.
Pineapple plants prefer warm and sunny weather year-round and can grow with very little water.
The plants are resilient and can survive in poor nutrient-deficit soils as well.
Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibers around. It has long been used for making ropes, gunny bags, baskets, carpets, mats, decor products, handicrafts, and whatnot.
Belonging to the bast fiber category, jute is derived from the flowering plants of the genus Corchorus. The extraction takes place from the phloem (skin) of the stem.
The plants are manually harvested with the help of a sickle. The stems are then bundled up and submerged in water, undergoing a process known as retting.
During retting, the outer layer of the stem is separated from its woody core.
The farming of the crop is water-intensive, and regions with adequate rainfall are best for optimum growth.
Jute plants grow best in plain alluvial soil.
Seaweed has some excellent health benefits associated with it. It is a rich source of iron, iodine, amino acids, and various essential vitamins.
Imagine what positive effects it will have when you wear it close to your skin.
The fabric is usually derived from brown algae called Ascophyllum nodossum, a whole subclass of seaweeds. During the process, cellulose from the plant is first dissolved in a solvent using a closed-loop method.
After undergoing washing and retting, the solution is filtered and passed through spinnerets to produce filaments that are solidified to yield the fiber.
The woven fabric is breathable, light, and absorbs sweat fast.
Wearing it has many benefits, including the transfer of essential vitamins and nutrients via skin contact.
The material also contains various antioxidants which slow down aging.
It is amazing to know that we are so dependent on plants for our everyday needs. Whether it is for food, shelter, oxygen, or medicines, plants are indeed non-dispensable.
The plants used to make clothes are unique too. They are the plants we wear.