In the latest of her monthly blogs for Mpdclick’s Trend Journal, knitwear designer Claire Newberry discusses her passion for eco friendly fabrics and how we should overcome previous stigma’s of certain materials. Claire has extensive experience in the knitwear industry, working with design consultancies on projects like IN.D.EX and Textile View Magazine, and designing in-house for the likes of Fred Perry, Marks and Spencer and House of Fraser. Today, Claire works freelance, designing for Topshop, amongst others, and lecturing the next generation of designers at De Montford University.
I was recently asked to work with knitted hemp fibre for a company on a technical project for the F1 industry. I was initially concerned that the hemp yarn I was using was contorted with spirality problems, slubs and other imperfections within the yarn’s make up. My initial thoughts were ‘what will my client think?’ ‘will this yarn stand up to the their possibly prejudiced scrutiny of striving for perfection? In this world, was there room for my humble knitted fabrics? And why an earth a knitted textile car?!
It’s well documented that the increasingly aware and informed consumer is biting back (grow your own, farmers’ markets et al). We, ourselves are questioning what we put into our bodies, what we wrap around our bodies and more increasingly, what journey has it taken to end up in our wardrobes and with what detriment to the environment? The big retailers are being forced to take heed of consumer needs.
Enter Cannabis Sativa – hemp…..
This poor plant has been misunderstood due to its close association with its brother, the Cannabis Indica for marijuana drug use largely due to the media attention in the 1930’s in the US pushed by the petrochemical industry and timber producers who saw the growing of hemp for an alternative fuel as a potential threat to their businesses. A campaign to demonise hemp because of its link with the cultivation of marijuana producing strains was successfully lobbied, forcing the US government to make the growing of hemp illegal (and still is in US to this day).
It seems hard to imagine that in the UK the cannabis plant was grown widely in Elizabethan times, in fact farmers were fined if they didn’t grow it! Hemp was grown to produce textiles eg ship’s sails, rigging and rope. It was also grown for its medicinal uses. By the late 19th century, however, hemp was in decline due to the industrial revolution and fossil fuel developments were exploited.
Going back to my automotive start, Henry Ford’s Model T was built back in the 1920’s using hemp fibre and what’s more, the engine was built to run on hemp oil too. Sound strangely familiar? Going back to my first paragraph of F1 teams wanting hemp panels, what goes around comes around it seams, there really is nothing new, is there? What’s more, Lotus cars have even built panels for the Elise using hemp fibre grown in the South of the UK. In fact, hemp can be grown anywhere, is far less toxic than conventional fuels when made into ethanol, it needs less space to grow than other crops eg trees-for wood pulp, it needs no pesticides and it only takes four months to reach harvest ready plants. Hemp has many health benefits too in its seed and oil. It can be used to make paper, can be made into building blocks, pet bedding, etc.
In conclusion, let’s grow up! How much longer do we have to withstand this strangle hold from financial giants commanding what’s on the retail ‘market stall’? Unity of consumer spending power will force new ways to produce our eco friendly goods. That’s assuming everybody wants to live in a unpolluted, choice filled world of course!
Image source: furniturehomedesign.com