Over the last ten years I have developed techniques to minimize my environmental footprint, resulting in minimum waste and sourcing of eco-friendly fibers. I don't believe I need to compromise my ethics of minimal waste and environmental impact to create pieces with beautiful aesthetics. I use one of the worlds most environmentally friendly fibers, tencel, and dye the yarn using as little water and chemicals as possible, while achieving deep luscious colors.
Get ready for the origin story of tencel! I first used Tencel yarn when I was a graduate student. I was drawn to it for its shiny luscious soft feel, gorgeous draping, and its love of soaking up dye of any color.
When researching the fiber I discovered its origin story and that solidified why I now use tencel for almost all of my creations. Tencel or lyocell was invented in 1972 by American Enko Fibers right here in North Carolina! Talk about a small world moment. They named the fiber "Newcell' at first, but the name was changed when development continued in the 80's in the UK. Tencel is an ALL NATURAL fiber made from wood pulp. The wood is collected from tree farms consisting primarily of eucalyptus and beech trees. These trees are quick growing and thrive in fringe farmland that is not suitable for food crops or grazing. This means the Tencel yarn is fully biodegradable! In fact I compost the smaller scraps that I can not re-purpose in my weaving practice. The wood pulp is processed in a closed circuit loop, which means the water and 98% of the NON_TOXIC chemicals are recaptured and reused to keep making this stunning fiber. This makes tencel one of the most sustainable and eco friendly yarns out there!
To make this an even more magical fiber it is softer than silk, strong when wet or dry, and is stronger then cotton! All of this is why I have a deep love affair with tencel and tell everyone I can about it. I source all of my Tencel from mills in North America and from woman owned companies. I have dreams of finding a mill in North Carolina to make tencel and tencel blend yarns, bringing it back to where it originated!
In addition to using environmentally responsible yarns all my items are handwoven by me in my home studio. In doing so I am able to keep track of each step in the making process. My small batch items use less water than manufactured goods. I use synthetic dyes in small quantities measured to achieve the desired color, which means there is little to no wasted dye. My dyes are chemically bonded to the fiber using Soda Ash- sodium carbonate, which is used to raise the Ph of water. This allows the dyes to chemically bond with the plant fibers. Soda ash is often used in items around your home like laundry detergent and safe to pour down the kitchen sink! I use a special textile soap that was designed to be Eco-friendy that is alcohol free. This allows me to process the yarns with 1/3- 1/2 the water it would normally take to wash the hand dyed yarn in preparation for use.
If you have any questions about my process,or supply chain I am happy to share what I know. I love to share my knowledge and help spread the message about how textiles can have a smaller environmental footprint.