How to use natural fabrics in eco-crafting
Discover the beauty of natural fabrics with Gurdrun Sjödén. We show you how you can incorporate natural fabrics into your eco-crafting and wardrobe!
People are becoming more and more passionate about using natural fabrics and materials in their wardrobes, homes, and craft sessions. It's come with the rise in eco-crafting, a movement that encourages crafters to become more eco-conscious when selecting their craft supplies in order to reduce waste and help the planet. There's plenty of ways you can make your crafts more sustainable (crafting itself is already greener than buying from fast fashion) and that's through carefully selecting the materials and fabrics you use. You can select vegan yarns or opt to colour your fabrics using eco-dyeing but one of our favourite ways is by choosing natural fabrics over synthetic fabrics. With the help of Gudrun Sjödén who uses a huge range of eco-friendly natural fabrics in their collections, we're going to explain exactly what natural fabric is and why it's great for you. We're also going to share our top natural fabrics for eco-crafting so you can craft guilt-free!
What are natural fabrics?
Natural fabrics are fabrics that are made from naturally occurring fibres. These fibres are found in leaves, stems, seeds, minerals and even animal fur. Natural fibres have been used for thousands of years and were turned into clothing, bedding and shoes to protect humans against the natural elements. Many natural fibres take a long time to process and although land and farming are required to grow and harvest the fibres they're often better for the environment. Natural fabrics made from these fibres tend to last longer, they're bio-degradable and cause less damage to the environment through factory pollution. Not only this but natural fabrics are often great quality and have a luxurious look and feel which makes them desirable. It's important to note that the processing of natural fabrics can often include many chemicals so it's best to look for organic manufacturers when choosing your material.
8 natural fabrics for eco-crafting
Linen is a brilliant fabric that's lightweight and breathable. It's a natural fabric as it's made from the long fibres of the Flax plant which is then turned into the linen we know today. Linen has been used to create clothing for centuries but many modern manufacturers now use chemical retting to speed up the processing of the Flax fibres. This method is neither sustainable nor eco-friendly which is why it's best to choose approved dew-retted linen.
Dew-retting is an ancient way of processing the stalks of the Flax plant into a workable fibre. The Flax stalks are cut and laid out in the dew and the rain until the woody material comes away easily and the fibres can be turned into fabric. Linen can be used for eco-crafting in plenty of ways but its most popular use is for clothing. Gudrun Sjödén uses this dew-retted linen throughout their spring collection and has turned it into beautiful, wearable pieces like their dresses and woven trousers.
The commonly used term silk refers to both the fibre and natural fabric we know and love. The art of silk-making was a closely guarded secret in ancient China that has globalised becoming one of the world's best-loved fabrics. Wild silk is spun by silkworms and collected from their cocoons. Over 1000 meters can be collected from a single cacoon and each is unique, with a coarser more irregular texture than cultivated silk. Silk is a stunning natural fabric that can be used in dressmaking, silk screen printing and can even be made into silk paper.
Organic cotton is an amazingly versatile material and can be used in so many ways. Grown straight from the ground, it's a natural material that can be made into clothing, homewares and so much more. The longer the fibres, the higher-grade the cotton and it's important to pick your cotton from an ethical producer. There's plenty of ways you can ensure your cotton remains natural and eco-friendly. Natural dyeing ensures no wet processing is used (a method that has a huge environmental impact) and cotton can also be recycled from textile industry scraps. There's plenty of organic cotton suppliers on the internet and you can use this natural fabric to create everything from bargello quilts and chair cushions to beautiful clothing like Gudrun Sjödén's “Desert” organic cotton blouse.
Viscose is a material you'll see in the label of much high street clothing and it's made from plant cell walls. The fibres are made from naturally grown organic material, usually, cellulose (AKA plant cell walls), which is then dissolved and regenerated into Viscose. Although viscose comes from plant material the manufacturing process uses lots of chemicals making it less eco-friendly than lyocell and modal. Viscose fabric is often used in a wide range of craft projects including dressmaking (see Gudrun Sjödén's viscose woven fabric trousers below) and upholstery.
Lyocell and Modal
Lyocell and modal are very similar to viscose but they're much more eco-friendly. They too are made from regenerated fibres but lower concentrations of sodium hydroxide are used when processing making them much better. The fibres in modal also undergo much more processing which makes the final material lighter and more breathable. This natural fabric is the one preferred by Gudrun Sjödén thanks to its soft touch and sustainable processing. They have used the fabric to create dresses, tops, and skirts as seen in their cotton/modal blend range. You too can natural fabric made from lyocell and modal to sew your own eco-conscious clothing.
Bamboo fibres can be turned into natural fabrics like bamboo viscose and bamboo lyocell. It grows in tropical regions of Asia and can be cut down and turned into regenerated fibres. It grows fast making it great for speedy production and it even has antibacterial properties! You can buy organic bamboo material online and turn it into clothing items like socks.
Although natural fabrics are made from natural fibres these don't always have to come straight from the source. Recycled fibres are a great and eco-conscious way of making your crafting more sustainable. You can now buy material that is made from scraps from the textile industry. These fabrics are often made from scrap cotton, polyamide, and wool - all-natural fibres which have been reused and recycled into a new fibre. Recycled fibres can be used for a huge number of sewing, quilting, and embroidery projects and Gudrun Sjödén uses many of these in their fashion production. Their Serefina windcheater is made from recycled polyamide and is as pretty as it is waterproof!
Wool isn't a natural fabric but it is one of the oldest natural materials out there and it can be used to create beautiful pieces. It's heat-insulating even when wet and contains lanolin which is dirt-repellent and self-cleaning. Merino, Cashmere, Alpaca and Yak wool all have different benefits but for the most eco-friendly brand, it's best to ensure the wool you buy is local and organic. Merino sheep are the most valued breed for wool production but if you want your merino wool to be cruelty-free ensure it's mulesing-free as mulesing is a painful practise that involves the sheep. Alpaca yarn also has great benefits as it doesn't contain lanolin meaning less energy and water are used in the cleaning process. Wool is great natural material to use in your eco-crafting and is used by crocheters and knitters alike to create comfy jumpers, socks and cushions. Gudrun Sjödén uses all four types of wool in their clothing, specifically in their long line cardigans.
We hope we've inspired you to start using natural fabrics in your crafting! Be sure to check out Gudrun Sjödén's spring collection over on their website.
Phoebe has worked for Gathered, and our sister magazine Mollie Makes, for 3 years. She manages our Arts & Crafts section and specialises in social media and content strategy. She has a background in all things marketing, a flair for Pinterest and a knack for finding the next big craft trend. Previously she worked as Digital Campaign Executive for Fat Media. You may recognise her name from Mollie Makes Social Media magazine, where she shared her expertise and top tips on becoming social media savvy.