The Experiment – last of the needle-felting trial

Hello All

Yesterday travelling home all roads North were busy with Bank Holiday traffic. The sun was shining and who can blame folk wanting to spend a few days in our beautiful neck of the woods. That was yesterday.

Today the weather is decidedly autumnal: wet and chill. Time for me to hunker down with a large mug of tea, do some crafting and hope our visitors are staying warm and dry by sampling the marvellous eateries and inns of Cumbria.

It felt (no pun) like a good day for me to return to the last three plant fibres and conclude the needle-felting stage of The Experiment. Watch out for my environmental confusion. I have definitely released a can of worms…

Flax (linen)

As I opened the packet I swear there was the faint waft of new cloth. I could have been nasally fooled by the notion of fresh linen. I am easily suggestible. But for a second ….

The natural colour of the skein was darker than most of the other plant fibres many of which appear to have little pigment. Again the staple was pulled easily from the skein.

Flax also had that now familiar sheen.

Like the hemp the flax worked well. I felt at home using it and although I had only given myself a small sample I think I would use it on larger projects as it can be comfortably moulded.

Eco-thumbnail: Flax is one of the oldest textile fibres. Set to make my heart race then! After hemp it is the second most highly productive crop and can be grown without the use of herbicides and pesticides. Usefully it can be grown on land unsuitable for food crops and may even re-cultivate polluted soils. Again it is only beaten by hemp as being the most water efficient fibre. All sounding good? Wait a moment…

Sadly – while it doesn’t need to – production commonly uses agricultural chemicals. Could this be that old conundrum? Too many consumers mean high yields are sought at the cost of the environment? I am not finished either. The usual method of extracting the fibres is by retting and this can be highly polluting to water. Luckily there are other methods: dew or enzyme retting which utilise natural processes to break down the stalks and in the case of enzyme retting contain the pollutants within tanks.

Mint Fibre

No. No. It definitely didn’t smell of mint. It was similar to the majority of the plant fibres, was silky and pulled easily from the skein.

The mint resisted the needle quickly nonetheless it worked well and I was again happy with the result.

Eco-thumbnail: This eco stuff is certainly taking me into unchartered territory. What the heck is ‘cellulose fibre’? You probably know being the wise readers that you are but just in case: cellulose fibres are natural fibres which include plant fibres … gulp how do I check that there are no animal fibres mixed in? I feel my CSE Biology or is it Chemistry .. perhaps physics? …. may be stretched here.

I am going with what I have seen on the inter-web. Mint fibre is a bio-degradable cellulose made from wood pulp infused with mint powder. Again, what?! Apparently the powder is extracted from peppermint leaves and gives the fibre anti-bacterial properties and makes the fabric naturally cooling.

I understand from some of my reading that the chemical solutions (eek!) used to process the fibre are recycled into the system. With there being little waste too this fibre is considered ‘relatively’ eco-friendly.

We have arrived at the last plant fibre I am testing. Thank goodness I can hear you saying. Here it comes. Last but not least:

Rose Fibre

Of course not. There wouldn’t be. There was no smell. Very disappointing on the fragrance front. The peeps at World of Wool describe rose as similar in appearance and feel to bamboo. Meanwhile at Allfiberarts.com the sampler describes rose as similar to banana to spin. I agree with both. I think this is because the majority of plant fibres – with the exception of hemp and flax – have suspiciously similar properties.

Again I found that the rose resisted the needle very quickly as I was felting but once more I was pretty pleased with the results.

Eco-thumbnail: This bio-degradable fibre is extracted from the natural waste of rose bushes and their stems and is considered environmentally friendly. Limited information I know but I will learn more.

That is the end of the needle-felting trial. As you have probably guessed my favourite plants so far are hemp and flax. They felt the most natural, were the most easily understood (by me) in environmental terms and I was happiest working them.

I confess this eco-vegan thing is tricky. I have felt hampered by my lack of knowledge about the manufacture of these fibres. I hope to address this. It may take a considerable amount of reading and talking to the right people but I have the bit between my teeth or perhaps the staple beneath my needle. I will carry on carrying on.

And there I was thinking this was going to be a simple project. I haven’t even begun to look at the environmental perils of dying the fibres!

Time for a lie down in a darkened room….

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

9 comments on “The Experiment – last of the needle-felting trial

  1. Fascinating! Who would have thought that rose and mint could be used in these ways? I was hoping that you were going to report a distinct peppermint aroma. Oh well…. 😁

  2. So the mint fibre isn’t really made from mint fibres? The rose and mint are clearly both rayon and that’s why they have the same properties and why they are the same as bamboo and all the other man-made fibres that have plant cellulose as the base polymer. It is astonishingly difficult to find details of the chemical impact of producing these fibres. And waste rose? Where does that come from? Roses are perennials so if you are wanting the flowers or hips you don’t discard the plants at the end of the season.
    Lots to think about… I must get on and read your other posts…

    • Moke says:

      I am feeling like you. Nothing is clear cut and I certainly have more questions than answers. I will have to dig a bit deeper. Flax and hemp felt like they were directly from the plant and there is a site selling flax seeds so you can produce your own crop…I will steer clear of growing my own hemp! `think you need a licence and no doubt I would accidentally grow the wrong variety… Mxxx

      • He he… I can just imagine the headlines!
        Yes, flax and hemp are definitely spun from the fibres produced by the plant. I understand that there is also something called ‘bamboo linen’ where they use the fibres directly rather than dissolving them in chemicals to make rayon/viscose which sometimes is marketed as ‘bamboo silk’. At least you know a bit better where you stand with the traditional fibres.

      • Moke says:

        Flax seeds it is! I have a friend who is keen to give it a go. If nothing else we will have a laugh along the way. Takes me back to the experimental archaeology that started me on this textile journey years ago. Hope we can meet up sometime and chew over some of these eco issues. Thanks for your comments that are helpful and informative. Mxxx

      • I might be up in your neck of the woods at the end of September

      • Moke says:

        Exciting! Keep me posted. Mxxx

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