Natural Fibre fashion is an ethical alternative to the fast fashion that is so prevalent. It’s also a fun way to make your own fabric!
Have a look at the labels in the clothes you are wearing. What are they made of? Where were they made? If they were made on the other side of the world, why is that? What impact does that have on the environment? How about on the workers who make them? If you are interested in this, have a look at No Sweat‘s campaigns or this quick summary from Do Something.
What fabrics are your clothes made of? Think about how these fabrics are produced. You could research how cotton, polyester and other common fabrics are made.
These fabrics can cause lots of problems in the environment. For example the high water use in producing denim; chemicals used in bleaching/dyeing; and microplastic pollution caused by polyester.
You could also explore some more sustainable fibres, such as some forms of bamboo fabric.
Natural Fibre Fashion
Here is a quick guide to making string from nettles:
- Wearing gloves, carefully pick nettles from low down the stalk -long, thick stems are best.
- Strip off the leaves and lay the stems over a flat surface. Use a mallet to gently bash up and down the length of the stem.
- Open up the squashed stem, and carefully snap it – the woody centre will break, while the outside flesh will stay intact.
- Carefully peel the centre away from the skin, and hang the skins up to dry in the sun.
- Once the stems are dry you are ready to make cordage – dip the dry strands in water to make them more pliable.
- Just off centre of one of your strands twist in opposite directions to make a loop or eye. Hold your loop in one hand and twist the strand on the right away from you, keeping it twisted bring it over the strand on the left so the strands have swapped sides. Now continue twisting the right strand and passing in front of the left, each time holding further down the forming cordage. With practice you can create a very fine cord, but initially you will end up with quite a chunky piece of string.
If you have a lot of people, or lots of time, you could use your cordage to make a string bag. Alternatively, you can use a smaller amount of cordage to make a lanyard. Place items in the bag or hang from the lanyard to test its strength.
It may seem like a crazy homemade process, but. it is possible to make fabric from nettle fibres. During the first world war, Germany had limited access to cotton, so made clothing – including soldiers uniforms – from nettle fibres.
Making clothes from nettles might not be practical but what other steps could we take to reduce the impact of our clothing and fashion on the environment? How about buying second hand items, washing items like jeans less often, or learning to make our own clothes?
As well as taking individual actions like these, we can be part of the campaign to change the current system, where clothes are manufactured cheaply and treated as disposable items.
Take it Further
For more activities about the environment, check out our page about the Climate and Ecological Emergency. You also might want to continue your delve into fast fashion with Teddy’s Upcycled Togs – if you’re a bit old to be making clothes for a teddy still check it out. as there is a great video about fast fashion that is worth watching, even if you don’t do the activity itself!