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Is wool the most sustainable clothing fibre?

 
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I’m interested to hear other peoples’ thoughts on which clothes are the most sustainable. I think there is a lot to think about with sustainabilty, and it goes beyond how something was grown. Some things that I think matter are:

  • How long it lasts before it needs mending
  • How easy it is to mend
  • How much of it you need to own (some clothes get stained or smelly more easily than others and need to be washed more frequently)
  • How resilient it is to weird weather events to produce?
  • Does it need irrigation to grow it?
  • How does it get processed? Does it use a lot of energy or chemicals?
  • Can it easily be grown and processed on a homestead scale?
  • Is it grown locally? Can it be grown locally?


  • With these thoughts in mind, I keep thinking of wool. There’s lots of different breeds of sheep for different climates. Sheep can be grazed on land that’s not suited to cropping, and can thrive naturally on a no-till polyculture diet. Sheep can be integrated into existing cropping systems to provide fertility to the land.

    The wool clothes my family has owned have outlasted all our other clothes. For babies I’ve found that when cotton clothes get slightly damp they need to be changed right away, where as wool clothes can get damp and won’t feel cold. Cotton clothes also seem to get smelly much faster than wool ones, so if a cotton garment only lasts one day before it needs washing, we’ll have to have one to wear while it’s in the wash basket, another one to three to wear while it’s being washed and is drying on the line, and then maybe another one spare, where as with wool we can get away with only owning two or three of each thing. So with wool, less fibre needs to be grown and processed in order to clothe us than for other fibres.

    I’ve also found that wool doesn’t stain as easily as cotton.

    Linen is lovely to wear too, but my favourite linen clothes don’t seem to last as long as wool ones before the fabric has worn too thin in many places, but maybe me expecting 4+ years from a dress is expecting too much? I wonder if there are types of linen that are stronger than others? Is there any grams per square metre (GSM) rating for linen fabric where anything above a particular weight would indicate that it will last longer? Would heavy/upolstery-grade linen make uncomfortable clothes?

    What are your thoughts on this? Is there anything else that needs to be considered when thinking about whether a fibre is sustainable or not?
     
    pollinator
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    I think I would find it challenging to wear wool all year in my hot climate.  I agree with your points on sustainability, but in hot climates, it may not be practical.

     
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    there are many good hemp ropes, but white cotton won't bleed onto wet cloths,
     
    gardener
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    As with so many questions like this, exactly how the raw material is produced and how it's turned into clothing will impact on sustainability.

    For example, a friend of mine has been growing flax. He's not used any "artificial" inputs other than some irrigation to get it to germinate, and he may have used his rototiller (although I've been trying *really* hard to get him to stop as it only helps short term - but he's got that mind-set.) His wife has some chickens. It occurs to me, that if he save some of the seed for replanting, there'd still be a bunch of seed left over. The chickens would love that. If the chickens were fenced on the patch for a week at a time over several months after harvest, they'd clean up the seeds, any sprouts, any bugs, and fertilize. Seeds that were surplus but captured could make an oil source, or I soak them and add them to bread when I make it. Since my friend grows the plants close to encourage long straight stems, they protect the land before planting a different mixed crop of veggies. So linen can be grown sustainably with simple techniques.

    Cotton, as mentioned by bruce Fine, can also be a versatile crop in the right ecosystem. Humans have made it unsustainable, not nature. In fact, I wonder if it were grown in fewer numbers as a polyculture, how significantly would that reduce the pest pressure? Some plants like to be grown with their own kind, others prefer to have lots of distance - is the problem "cotton" or the problem "monoculture"? I do know that cotton is very comfortable to wear, and I often choose it as the bottom layer. I suspect I'm mildly allergic to wool, although it was worse when I was younger, so maybe it was wool reacting with how it was laundered?

    From what I've read about wool here on permies, it absolutely has the ability to make a major resurgence in an effort for sustainable clothing. I'm going to make much more of an effort to watch for woolen clothing at thrift shops and see what I can come up with.

    As with so much of modern society, this question has an incredible diversity of factors. I bought my husband a second hand "warm wear" jacket to use on the farm - 15 years ago. Yes, it's artificial, and we've since learned that it gives off micro-fibers which is bad, but we've kept it out of the landfill for 15 years at the cost of one new zipper. Knowing what I know now, I will avoid buying it in the future, but the pants my son loves to wear are no longer sold in cotton, but only in artificial fibers. Much of the cotton clothing I've seen recently, is made so poorly out of such thin material, that it doesn't stand up to regular use for long. So the problem is much more complex and will require a major shift in human mind-set to make any dent in the incredibly unsustainable world of "fashion industry".
     
    pioneer
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    I've worn light merino tanks, and even a sun dress, that were comfortable in summer weather and not itchy at all.  Addressing the OP, cotton twills and jersey, and merino wool are my favorites all around.
     
    Kate Downham
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    I agree Jay. I think the length of time that something will last is hugely important, and I've noticed a decline in the quality of many clothes, and also that there seems to be less second hand clothing available now than there used to be, it makes me wonder if all this fast fashion gets wrecked so quickly that it ends up in landfill rather than op shops.

    If the same amount of fibre grown can be used to make something that's going to last 1 year or 5 years, the 5 year clothing is 5 times more sustainable than the 1 year piece of clothing.

    A culture of mending is also important, sometimes people discard things if a button is missing or it needs a tiny bit of darning, but these are easy skills to learn that greatly prolong the life of clothes.
     
    Kate Downham
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    Catherine Windrose wrote:I've worn light merino tanks, and even a sun dress, that were comfortable in summer weather and not itchy at all.  Addressing the OP, cotton twills and jersey, and merino wool are my favorites all around.



    I've worn merino singlets in very hot days in summer and they're not noticeably hotter than other fibres, or itchy. I wear merino wool or wool/silk mix as a base layer most of the year, and wool socks every day of the year.

    I like the thin merino and wool/silk mix base layers a lot, I'm not sure what it would be like trying to produce and use such fine fibres on a homestead scale.
     
    Jay Angler
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    Kate Downham wrote:

    I like the thin merino and wool/silk mix base layers a lot, I'm not sure what it would be like trying to produce and use such fine fibres on a homestead scale.


    Even two thousand years ago, many "special" things like this were produced by the village specialist, even if less fine versions were produced on the homestead scale. Returning to the "every homestead must be self-supporting in everything" I see as an incredibly difficult goal, even with multi-generational homesteads which would have been the norm. One of the losses caused by the Industrial Revolution was the loss of so much that was being produced locally, shifting first to "within the country" to "within neighboring countries" to "half-way across the planet". Add to that the "economic goal" of producing everything cheap and fast and designed to wear out quickly, and we find ourselves with our current mess.
    We don't have to go all the way back to the stone age to create a sustainable, humane, permaculture planet! (IMHO - or maybe not so humble...I can be pretty opinionated!)
     
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    I really appreciate the efforts toward more sustainable clothing. Natural fiber clothes seem to getting harder to find, and most is of such poor quality when I find it. I am determined to avoid adding microfibers to our waterways: seems like the major sellers of such should be supporting finding a way to launder their clothes without the huge contamination factor. But for me: I would love to learn of your favorite places to buy quality natural fiber clothes.
     
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    Being sheep farmers, my wife feels compelled to wear wool.  Almost everything she wears is wool, and on many days EVERYTHING she wears.  Ibex used to make wool underwear (and are relaunching the brand after an absence) as well as a number of merino- based companies.  
    I wear Darn Tough socks every day, they have a lifetime replacement guarantee.
     
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    I've nearly purchased all of my clothing secondhand & have always bought natural fibers, wool, silk, cotton, linen, cashmere, or a mix of those. To me there is nothing that compares to natural fibers. They wear extremely well & second hand prices are very reasonable compared with the new cost. Second hand clothing offers styles sizes & colors that may not be found otherwise. It does tend to flow in groups tho, the 90's offered silk clothing galore & now not so much. Now cashmere is abundant, much to my delight! I've always found natural fibers to wear better & are always more comfortable. I know secondhand is not self produced, but very sustainably when I can buy a cashmere sweater for $5!!!
     
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    I think there are many issues at play here when we talk about wool sustainability.

    First, durability. The type of wool and how it's spun dramatically impacts how long an article will last (assuming clothes moths don't find it, but that's another story). In general, the finer the wool (think Merino) the less abrasion resistance it has. But coarser wools (often used for carpets/upholstery) aren't comfortable against the skin. Also, woolen spun fibers (which give a "fuzzy" yarn) tend to be less durable than worsted spun fibers (a smoother yarn). Factors like number of plies in the yarn, the amount of twist, and so on also have an impact.

    Second, breed of sheep. Some breeds do quite well with minimal care and input (ie grass and hay with little grain, easy lambing, good mothering, minimal shelter needs) and others don't. In general heritage/landrace breeds seem to be lower input and commercial breeds (Suffolk/market lamb types around here) seem to be more delicate. Bottom line, you need to take a look at how the needs of the animals you're considering fit with your production system.

    Third, processing impacts. Some breeds of sheep (Merino comes to mind) have wool that is notoriously greasy and takes a great deal of water, soap, and energy to scour it (removing the grease to produce a clean fiber), so they may not be good choices where water or energy is in short supply. Other breeds have much less lanolin in the fleece (Shetland, Navajo-Churro), so the input needed to clean the fleece is less.

    So can wool be sustainable? Absolutely, if you match the breed of sheep to your production system and create clothing that makes the best use of the fibers. One reason I keep Shetland sheep is that they are hardy, easy keepers, and produce fleeces ranging from finer than Merino to almost as coarse as Blue Faced Leicester. I match the fleece characteristics to my use--fine fleeces get made into "against the skin" things like scarves/shawls and (especially when plied with silk) undergarments. Coarser fleeces end up outerwear like sweaters and socks.

    And yes, I have wool sweaters that I've worn for years that are still in good shape--but the quality of wool was high, they were well made, and they've been cared for correctly. Ditto for wool socks--I find that they last through at least the same amount of wear as those made from man-made fibers, and I have no problem darning heels and toes to extend their life....
     
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    As it is currently done commercially, not so much.

    Currently, about 80% of the wool on the commercial market is from Australia.  They don't scour (clean) their wool, for the most part, so it gets shipped to China for scouring and possibly carding.  Then, it gets shipped to woolen mills around the world (mostly South Africa, Turkey, Italy, Germany, elsewhere in China) to be made into yarn.  That yarn is either turned into fabric in the same plant, nearby, or shipped around the world to whatever customer wants the yarn.

    Even without counting the oil-based chemicals used in scouring, dyes, and superwash treatments, the oil used in transporting all that wool is astronomical.  Add in the water needed to clean and create wool fabric, and it's definitely problematic.

    Now, if you're talking a local sheep farmer, local spinner who uses less water and oil in transportation and scouring and processing the wool, that's different.

    In all reality, the oil used in transporting fibers for clothing as well as the final products is a huge part of the problem few people talk about.
     
    Catherine Carney
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    Thanks for addressing transportation issues, Carina! You're right that it's overlooked and needs to be considered. Once that's factored in I suspect that commercially produced wool isn't all that eco-friendly.

    Here in the US there are local fiber shows (local as in within a few hours drive) where people can buy anything from raw fleeces to spun yarns from local producers (lots of commercial stuff too so you have to pay attention). So it's possible to buy locally sourced fibers and supplies if you're willing to drive a bit.

    And as far as dyeing, you can get lovely and durable colors using natural (vegetable and a few insects) dyes if you're willing to learn how to do it. Onion skins and alum (you can use the alum used for pickling in a pinch) are a great gateway dye experience, for example.

     
    Jay Angler
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    I will suggest here that just as there is a "craft beer" resurgence, there is plenty of room for a small scale, but larger than homestead scale, resurgence in fibre processing, spinning, and possibly even weaving.  There are people out there trying to rescue the type of machines that allowed for sustainable community level manufacturing. To keep it truly sustainable and non-polluting, it may need to be done seasonally, rather than today's attitudes that the 'Widget Company' should be making widgets 365 days of the year. I can remember some women in my community who were thrilled that they got to work for a certain company for 3 months every year, but could manage their homes and properties the rest of the year. They didn't need full time paid income, but were delighted to have some income, and also some product in trade.

    From the "human function" perspective, having to do certain jobs seasonally or for 1 week/month or 1 day/week is much more what our bodies and minds were evolved to do. One of the reasons assembly-line jobs traditionally paid well for what was required is because those jobs were often unpleasant, hard on the body and/or mind-numbingly boring.
     
    Carina Hilbert
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    Be careful of natural dyes. Many are amazingly toxic. Make sure to follow all safety precautions for natural as well as synthetic dyes. There are entire areas in Europe, Africa, and Asia where they can't use the soil it's so poisoned from ages of natural dyes being done there.
     
    Catherine Carney
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    Some of the MORDANTS are amazingly toxic (tin and chrome, for example), and I won't use them. Alum as a mordant is pretty safe, as are tannins. Ammonia, iron, and copper aren't things you'd want to eat, but they're not going to kill you if you splash some on your hands or clothing..

    I haven't run across too many natural dyes that are toxic in any way. Onion skins are edible, as are carrot tops and dandelions.....In many cases you'd have to ingest a lot of a pretty vile tasting dye pot to make yourself sick.

    BTW, as an aside, cochineal (a red dye from Mexican scale insects) is used as a food coloring....

    From the standpoint of safety, I keep dedicated dye equipment that's never used for cooking,  and wash up the kitchen counters and stove before I do food prep or eat. For anyone getting started with natural dyes, there are a number of good references out there. Do your reading, start small and simple, and go from there.
     
    Catherine Carney
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    I think the biggest barrier to creating sustainable approaches is people's suspicion about anything different. Around here if it doesn't fit in with the mainstream paradigm (monoculture agriculture, commercialism, consumerism) it's automatically viewed with suspicion, and dismissed as being something only "those crazy hippies" would do.

    That mindset, thankfully, is changing as the old guard dies off. And it gets easier to make changes as things like craft beer proves small/local industry is viable. Hmmm, now I wonder if community level manufacturing might be especially useful in small rural areas like mine.
     
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    does anyone here have experience with carding Angora rabbit 'wool' ? Can l mix their hair with other fibre - such as Alpaca ? I just received my first two & am excited to get started! Thank you!
     
    Catherine Carney
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    I've blended angora with shetland wool and silk and it's absolutely lovely. Usually about 70% shetland, 20% angora, 10% silk, but that varies depending on what I have on hand. I've also done wool/llama or alpaca and silk blends that have been gorgeous in similar proportions.

    Regular hand cards will work on angora, though usually it won't need much carding compared to wool, and make sure your cards are clean before you work with the angora.

    Have fun!
     
    gardener
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    Interesting thread,

    I guess my thought would be bamboo.  It grows very fast, but truthfully I just don’t know what all is involved in processing it so that might put a crumpet in that thought.

    Another thought would be hemp for much the same reason.

    Eric
     
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    Lately, I have been seeing ads coming across my social media feed: underpants made from bamboo fiber. I haven't tried them, but sustainability is their main marketing angle, as well as being (they claim) the most comfortable. Well, bamboo, in the right climate, is certainly renewable, and as a perennial, it does not need the annual cycle of tillage and replanting that cotton or flax requires. But taking into account the other factors mentioned in the OP -- where is it grown? How much processing does it need? Bamboo is a warm- to tropical-climate plant, so it obviously cannot be locally produced in much of the temperate zone. Without knowing how it is processed, I cannot evaluate whether it is feasible on the homestead scale, either.

    I own one pair of pants that is a cotton-hemp blend. A lot of people are promoting hemp as some sort of cure-all, saying that it heals the land, makes better paper than wood fiber and without cutting down trees, and so on. But I'm one of those people who gets more skeptical the bigger the claims are. Then, too, I have never found clothing made purely of hemp, but only blended with cotton. I have to ask why this is. It could be economics, hemp being more expensive than cotton; but then, it could be a matter of wearability.
     
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    Catherine Carney wrote:I think the biggest barrier to creating sustainable approaches is people's suspicion about anything different. Around here if it doesn't fit in with the mainstream paradigm (monoculture agriculture, commercialism, consumerism) it's automatically viewed with suspicion, and dismissed as being something only "those crazy hippies" would do.

    That mindset, thankfully, is changing as the old guard dies off. And it gets easier to make changes as things like craft beer proves small/local industry is viable. Hmmm, now I wonder if community level manufacturing might be especially useful in small rural areas like mine.



    What about other plant fibers, like bamboo? Not growing much bamboo in Montana but family members who live on "flyover country" often have it near streams. It seems to be prolific.

    And then there's my crazy vegan sister who, at 75, spends her weekends protesting the Canada Goose store on downtown Chicago, regardless of the weather. She will not wear animal products at all and if she wants to keep warm out there her fabric choices are limited and may include manufactured products.

    I have not yet seen mention here of buffalo wool clothing. I broke the bank purchasing a pair of mittens for my girlfriend but she loves them and expects them to last forever.
     
    Jay Angler
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    Eric Hanson wrote:Interesting thread,

    I guess my thought would be bamboo.  It grows very fast, but truthfully I just don’t know what all is involved in processing it so that might put a crumpet in that thought.

    Another thought would be hemp for much the same reason.  Eric

    I grow 3 types of bamboo that I planted myself, so I did a fair bit of research on this one and was totally disappointed. From what I could find out, it was essentially the same as making rayon - highly mechanized, chemical, and polluting. I suspect its only saving grace may be that it might actually biodegrade, unlike many of the modern artificial fabrics.

    I wasn't totally surprised by my search results - the Japanese made an incredible variety of things in the past out of bamboo and rice stalks, but I'd never seen any reference to bamboo clothing. That's OK, silk goes very nicely with wool in my opinion! Did the traditional Japanese have anything approximating wool? I know at one point, here on the North West Coast, dogs for "wool" were present, but I think they were introduced. Anyone up on their knowledge base on that?

    As for hemp, it has a long history of use for nets/rope/sacking etc, but I don't know how much it's been used for clothing in the past. The question there would be if they are having to treat it with energy or chemical means in order to soften it enough to be clothing, or simply harvesting and processing it with clothing in mind. Although I've only seen twine made out of stinging nettle, I understand that at the homestead level, it can be processed for clothing.

    What much of this comes down to is the amount of labor involved. How much embodied human and non-human energy is in a wool sweater compared to an alternative? I'm willing to put in a little extra human-power if the environment benefits and the extra life span of the product is worth it.
     
    Carina Hilbert
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    Most bamboo fiber on the market is an extruded fiber. They take bamboo, shred with, put it in a water and chemical slurry, and then extrude the fibers, much like rayon or nylon. It's natural, but it's not done like flax being made into linen. That kind of bamboo is extremely expensive.
     
    Carina Hilbert
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    There's some evidence that hemp was the first fiber made into cloth (Women's Work: The First Ten Thousand Years). It makes a lovely linen, softer than flax, even. Same with nettles.
     
    Catherine Carney
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    Regarding bamboo: there are species/cultivars of it that are winter hardy in my zone 5 climate--in fact people down the road have a patch. It's fast spreading, and I don't like to think about how invasive it will be if it escapes their cultivation. That said, it's also my understanding that the bamboo "fiber" we see for sale (or incorporated into finished items) isn't entirely a natural product, but created from bamboo pulp using a chemical process much like rayon is created. Perhaps someone here knows more.

    Regarding hemp: I actually bought some pure hemp yarn last year and loved working with it. Very similar to linen, but to me it seems more durable. I don't know enough about how it's processed to be able to say if the bast/stem fibers it produces (the same things that come from flax to make linen) can be processed on flax/linen machinery. Not to mention the whole issue regarding the legality of growing hemp, which is problematic in the US last I looked.

    FYI, nettles (yes, the common stinging kind) also produce bast/stem fibers that are much like flax/hemp. There's some evidence that "linen" items made in parts of Europe, especially during times of war or scarcity, were actually made using nettle fibers instead. I haven't experimented with my nettle patch (yet) to see what such fibers are actually like.
     
    pollinator
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    Catherine Carney wrote:Regarding bamboo: there are species/cultivars of it that are winter hardy in my zone 5 climate--in fact people down the road have a patch. It's fast spreading, and I don't like to think about how invasive it will be if it escapes their cultivation. That said, it's also my understanding that the bamboo "fiber" we see for sale (or incorporated into finished items) isn't entirely a natural product, but created from bamboo pulp using a chemical process much like rayon is created. Perhaps someone here knows more.


    Yes, as I understand it, just about any cloth you will find on the market today that comes from bamboo is going to be rayon.  Rayon is sort of halfway between natural and synthetic.  It uses a natural material: cellulose, in this case from bamboo, but could be from any other fast-growing tree or other cellulose source.  Yet the fiber is produced from that natural material in a lab.  The cellulose is completely dissolved in a chemical solvent, then extruded into a fiber.  So the end product is not made of any synthetic materials, yet it's made in a manner that could not be replicated without synthetic reagents.  The benefit of doing this is that you can tweak the process to create fibers that simulate the look and feel of just about any other fiber, including very expensive ones like silk.

    I have read that some people have taken the bacterial process, called retting, that is used to turn flax fibers into linen, and adapted that process to use with bamboo.  This is very exciting, but I have no idea what products are actually on the market.  I'm sure that any such products will be significantly more expensive than bamboo rayon.

    The OP mentioned that traditional linen is nice, but wears out quickly.  This is certainly the case: flax linen fibers will break after being folded a smaller number of times compared to wool, cotton, etc.  I am curious what durability bamboo linen might have?
     
    Jay Angler
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    Matthew Nistico wrote:

    I have read that some people have taken the bacterial process, called retting, that is used to turn flax fibers into linen, and adapted that process to use with bamboo.  This is very exciting, but I have no idea what products are actually on the market.

    If anyone sees any instructions on how to do this on a home or community basis, please, please post it to this thread or a specific bamboo thread. I've got a lovely bamboo patch which is just waiting for some good uses other than garden stakes, and even if it was only for friends and family, I'd love to be able to make clothing from it!
     
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    I think I would find it challenging to wear wool all year in my hot climate.  I agree with your points on sustainability, but in hot climates, it may not be practical.
    Tyler, it has been my experience that wool clothing is as cool in the Summer as it is warm in the Winter.
     
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    In Morocco I am discovering 'agave' fiber being made into very soft fiber. Many desert cultures have used it historically, but the traditional hand processing is very hard work from the descriptions I've read. It could qualify as a plant source needing few inputs. I've been told that weavers here can buy a commercial grade of yarn and I'm searching for a sample to use in my weaving. Will add an update if I'm successful.
     
    Catherine Carney
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    I've been thinking about fiber sustainability since joining this thread. I think we need to look at more than "is x the most sustainable fiber." Because different fibers have different properties and thus are suited to different uses. It doesn't do a lot of good to use cotton, with its low insulative ability in clothing designed for warmth any more than it makes sense to use wool in applications where an item needs to be washed in hot water to sterilize it.

    So, perhaps the first thing we need to consider is "what fiber has the attributes that match up with my projected uses." If repeated laundering, especially with high heat and agitation, is anticipated, then vegetable fibers might be better choices than animal. And many animal fibers would be better choices than most vegetable fibers for warmth without bulk. And so on.

    Once we figure that part out, the next question then becomes "what's the most sustainable source for the fiber that matches my anticipated needs?" If it's wool, for instance, is there a source close to home that produces the product I require, or is the only source something that has to be shipped in? Is the "close to home" source close enough to meeting my needs, or is the disconnect great enough that the transportation/production costs of the non-local product is actually less when we consider things like efficiency and useful life?

    And finally, we need to consider durability and construction of said fiber item--after all, it doesn't make much sense to buy something with a shorter useful life and replace it multiple times, does it, as we think about efficient and sustainable use of resources. I'll give you an example of my garden spade: I purchased my first one in 1990 when I bought the house, used it for everything you could imagine associated with dirt, rocks, and so on. Wore off the tip, and after almost 20 years of service the metal finally split from tip to handle (yeah, I know, I shouldn't have been using it to pry the big rock out of the ground). Point is, I spent the money up front (over then-hubbies objections) to buy a well made tool (and took care of it, except for the rock) that lasted despite being used heavily. Went back for another shovel and again spent the money up front and this one is also now approaching 20 years of service (and in better shape since I've learned my lesson about rocks).

    Does it take longer to make these sorts of decisions? Probably. Does it make it tougher to do impulse purchases? Absolutely. But if we want to live our lives with intent we need to get into this habit if we can. I'll be the first to admit I struggle with it a lot, but that's OK. Sustainable living doesn't happen overnight, but is a process of steps of all sizes.

     
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    Carina Hilbert wrote:There's some evidence that hemp was the first fiber made into cloth (Women's Work: The First Ten Thousand Years). It makes a lovely linen, softer than flax, even. Same with nettles.

    Yes, that's true. But how to produce that very fine cloth out of nettle or hemp fibers? It's a forgotten skill! It hasn't been done for many decades (or maybe even over a century). It used to be all hand crafts, done by specialists, educated in a system of 'guilds' with 'apprentices' who could become 'masters' only after many years of training. And this was the case for all crafts of the past, when a piece of clothing was made to last a lifetime.
    But never mind: if we want to do the needed research to find back the knowledge of the past, and then do our best to practice our skills, it can all come back. It can even get better. But we must get rid of the 'economic system' in which everything has to become cheaper and cheaper and be made faster and faster ...
     
    Catherine Windrose
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    ^
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    What Inge said.  

    I feel that time and a need to rediscover and make common old skills are the main challenges.  However, even the Comacine masters were human, yeah? :.)  I think the primary challenge is combining old with new to build a more complete knowledgebase for following generations.  Collecting knowledge of old skills and rediscovery through experimentation to find what works or doesn't, and why.  Wool is so multi-functional I think it is here to stay.  What appears to be the simplest of ideas can produce incredible results.  

    The IP protocol comes to mind.  Decades ago, a relative handful of scientists and mathematicians combined skills to create a means of communication now used by billions of individuals.  Far more work went into the effort than meets the eye. (Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet is a great read.) Though Building A Better World In Your Backyard Instead Of Being Angry At Bad Guys (currently 'unavailable'... wonder how that happened ^.^) was clearly not their goal, the world at large has benefited because, together, those individuals made possible the ability to share old knowledge to build upon and new can be created.  Now we are tasked with keeping that particular torch lit.

    I like to imagine new permies are 'born' every day.  Therefore I also think that with time, economics will adapt to some degree because more permies are leading by doing than was the case several decades ago.

    An interesting happy coincidence is permaculture and internets began evolving about the same time.  Nature, individuals, and technology finding voice almost simultaneously.  That unpredicted synergy feels kind of magical.  Entropy rules throughout time and 'our time' now is no exception.  Permies is an order of sorts, invoked by necessity.
     
    This is my favorite tiny ad:
    Rocket Mass Heater Manual - now free for a while
    https://permies.com/goodies/8/rmhman
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