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Grow cloth from your Kombucha !  RSS feed

 
Miles Flansburg
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In the March 2015 edition of popular science there is an article about Suzanne Lee. She gives a recipe for growing a cloth from Kombucha, vinegar, sugar and tea bags!

Popular science article

Anybody want to try it out and let me know how it works?
 
Cassie Langstraat
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What!! This is crazy!

 
Mike Leo
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I feed my extra scoby to the chickens... no more methinks. Semitranslucent waste stream diverted scoby-leather?!? That's a hell of a niche product.
 
R Scott
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Vegan leather? Cool! Even for us omnivores
 
Will Holland
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I'm going to try this immediately. I'm thinking it might make for some really good patches, since I'm always mending my pants. TOO cool
 
Lisa Allen
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Oh, this is incredibly cool - I must try it out one day!!
 
Valerie Dawnstar
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I've never tried making kombucha or vinegar so have no mother.
I am, however, interested in hearing how durable a fabric this method produces.
 
Nate Lang
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Cassie Langstraat wrote:What!! This is crazy!



My wife will kill me but I will definitely try this (small scale) however my scoby could go the mile!
I'll post updates! The hardest part will be trying not to drink the kombucha....o_0

 
Armando Quinn
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Awesome! Here she is giving a TED Talk about it. She's still working on the minor caveat that it absorbs water.

 
Miles Flansburg
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Thanks for finding that Armando !

She talks about all of the other uses for it.
She says that it absorbs lots of water. I wonder if it could be used like a hugelkultur ? Maybe in potted plants ? She does mention that it is biodegradable though.
Seems like it could have lots of other permie uses.
 
Richard Gorny
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Yes, very interesting, with lots of possibilities. First that comes to my mind is to use it at the bottom of pots and seedling trays to hold moisture when I'm away
 
Nick Kitchener
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I was just wondering how it would survive the washing machine...
 
Alex Ojeda
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We have used it to seal the tops of jars. Just to store in the fridge. I'd like to see what would happen with hot liquids like a canning process. Need to try that next time.
 
Sean Henry
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Nick Kitchener wrote:I was just wondering how it would survive the washing machine...


It is considered a "leather" you do not wash leather you clean/condition leather.

I do not have a scoby so I cannot attempt this. If I did I would make a cover for my axe if the material will be tough enough for that.

If some one tries it see if applying a drying oil to one side will help with water repelling or if the oil destroys the integrity of the material, by only coating one side that will allow it to breathe and release the moisture it absorbs.
 
Marvin Warren
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I think I'm going to have to try this. Does anyone know if oiling the fabric has been tried? That the first thing that comes to mind, since one oils leather to make it water-resistant.
 
Armando Quinn
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Miles Flansburg wrote:
She says that it absorbs lots of water. I wonder if it could be used like a hugelkultur ? Maybe in potted plants ? She does mention that it is biodegradable though.
Seems like it could have lots of other permie uses.


Richard Gorny wrote: First that comes to my mind is to use it at the bottom of pots and seedling trays to hold moisture when I'm away


That would be interesting to experiment with!

Last night, I was trying to think of ways to make it water repellent. I had seen videos of superhydrophobic sprays to make street art that shows up when it rains or to coat many materials to make them water proof. My concern is that these sprays are produced in unsustainable ways. Then I realized that these people are just trying to imitate a property found on some plants (of course!). Isn't that how everything is? I wonder if there would be a way to use lotus plants for their superhydrophobic properties to help with the vegan leather to make clothes.

Here's a quick intro to The Lotus Effect

And here's a little video showing what these coatings can do to different materials:



edited to add a link to a pdf from Biocouture on the steps to make vegan leather:
Biocouture instructions
 
Suzanne Cornell
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It occurs to me that this "leather" would make an excellent burn salve for 2nd and 3rd degree burns, keeping it moist with sterile water. Can't help it I'm a nurse and an acupuncturist, my mind goes that way....
 
Tyler Omand
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Even before I read this article in my copy of Pop Sci I've often thought how it would make a great flexible frisbee. We made candy once with dried scoby, ginger, and sugar. We snuck it onto the snack table of a family gathering and watched how people reacted when they ate it. Some relatives loved it, others were appalled when they found out what it was. In my opinion it was wierd vinegary, gummy, sweet and gingery with an unpleasant mouth feel but loaded with probiotics.

As soon as I read the article in Pop Sci I told my wife that is what we should do with the layers of scoby we peel off our constant brew kombucha every couple months.
If the scoby is dried below 105 degrees to preserve the microbes in a semi dormant state the resulting clothing would reanimate when you perspired onto it or it got wet - Probiotic Clothing!

Check out how much we get each time we peel our scobys - it may be enough for a shirt!:
https://www.facebook.com/OmandsOrganics/posts/623791857743542

Imagine how much you could harvest from a commercial kombucha brewery!
 
Will Holland
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ok, I've got one drying right now on a scrap of wood. My house is about 45% humidity. Let's see what happens.
 
Len Ovens
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This looks really interesting. I think preserving it and water proofing it both may come at the expense of the living part. In other words drying and tanning (and oiling as mentioned above) or smoking.

I do question the idea that not using leather would help the environment. I think we have seen that having herd animals is one of the needs the earth has for avoiding becoming one big desert. Once one grows the animal and eats it, the skin is a by-product. It does not have to be Chrome tanned... and it does not have to last forever. So using it as a leather substitute is questionable unless it is truly better to begin with.

It is interesting to me that in the TED talk she said the vest she was wearing was starting to decompose. What does that mean? It means that the biology that formed the garment was all but dead (from starvation?) and that other biology was starting to eat what was left (The same thing happens to untanned skin... and leather in the long run).

In order for the biology to stay alive it needs food and it needs the right PH. Once this "fabric" is washed and dried, the original biology will start to die because the PH has been raised, it is dehydrated, and it has no more food (sugar).

The other uses people have brought up for using it as a water reserve or burned flesh covering look like better ideas, but in the first instance, I wonder how long it would take to rot at the bottom of a plant pot (remember even with water, it has no food and the PH is wrong ... if it is right for the plant). For the second, Doctors are somewhat hesitant to have something known to contain some mix of biology to flesh that is missing it's skin due to burns. One of the big things with burns is ease of infection. I honestly do not know if the biology involved would be a help or hindrance. I have used Kefer on raw or reddened skin with success in the past. I do not know if this is the biology or or the PH

I will be interested in hearing what happens with those who experiment. Clothing from nature is better than synthetic even if it does have to be killed to make it work/last. Or maybe, if a form can be made such that clothes can be made and be cheap enough, they would not be washed, just recycled.

One thing not mentioned is the cost of sugar to the environment.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Let us know everything about it Will !

I don't know why but this stuff has really got my imagination going. I have absolutely no experience with this stuff so I am just throwing ideas out there.

I love some of the ideas that have been mentioned above! Just need someone to try them out.

I wonder if any of the ingredients can be replaced with other ingredients to get different results?

Would it work with a compost tea instead of green tea? Would that add nutrients and color to the "cloth" ?

What would honey do ? Or other "food" for the bugs?

Is there only one kind of bug that gives this result? Or a group of bugs?

Could other, beneficial bugs be added that would be incorporated into the "cloth" without starting a bug war ?

I wonder if it can be made thicker or thinner?

I wonder if it could be cut into small cubes and used for seed starting pots? Seed grows, then put the whole thing into the garden. Might have to add some sort of nutrients?

I wonder if it could be used to grow mushrooms? Add spores to it, will the fungus grow? If it did could you cut the "cloth" into small strips and put them on logs, or into drilled holes in logs, to inoculate the wood?
Would the fungus need wood?

As Len mentioned, is there some point that this becomes toxic or a vector for deseases? Could it be used as a bandage with added healing herbs ?

 
Will Holland
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Miles Flansburg wrote:

I wonder if it can be made thicker or thinner?


I wonder if it could be used to grow mushrooms? Add spores to it, will the fungus grow? If it did could you cut the "cloth" into small strips and put them on logs, or into drilled holes in logs, to inoculate the wood?
Would the fungus need wood?




I actually pulled out two pieces, one really thin and newly formed, and a thicker one.

the stuff already grows mold like crazy if not taken care of, so maybe mushrooms would work?

I plan on using it on some pants to see what happens. I conveniently blew through the crotch of my pants this afternoon as well. I hope it's gonna be dry before the weekend is up. I will try to post pictures tomorrow.
 
Len Ovens
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Miles Flansburg wrote:
Is there only one kind of bug that gives this result? Or a group of bugs?

Could other, beneficial bugs be added that would be incorporated into the "cloth" without starting a bug war ?


In general, the kind of biology is controlled by the environment. What is the temperature, hydration, ph and food source. Sourdough starter/wild yeast culture is started with just flour and water. At first the flour/water/air add a general mix of biology and after a few days most people don't want to use it because it tastes funny because the biology is so diverse. After a few more feedings, the ph lowers and in the end there are only a few bacteria and yeasts left that do well with flour starch and low PH... and a generally lower temperature (lower than yogurt for example). Kefer generally hosts a larger number of species, perhaps because milk is such a complete food source. (as many as 200 species, I am told)

In general, good biology thrives in lower ph and bad biology needs higher ph. This is why Kombucha, yogurt, kefer, sauerkraut, fruit preserves are pretty safe, while vegetable preserves are boiled and sealed. (and tossed if the seal fails)

It is interesting that when much oil was spilled in the gulf of mexico, there appeared a new kind of bacteria that was rarely seen. It seems it ate oil. It was there all the time, but when the food was right, it multiplied like crazy. We live in fungal soup. The manufacture and wide spread use of anti-bacteria is likely to have much broader consequences than we can imagine (aside from ASD multiplying 1000 fold in 40 years). We are sterilizing the world.

ASD = Autism Spectrum Disorder
 
Will Holland
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Sorry for the lack of pictures so far.today I puller the scoby off the wood, and it was the consistency kf fruit leather. I flipped it over to let it dry more.

The second thinner piece shrunk too much and seems unusable. I couldn't even separate it from the wood.
 
Meryt Helmer
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I wonder if it could be dried in my dehydrator on the sheets used for making fruit leathers and stuff along those lines. I would not mind if the organisms are dead so that the product could last longer if it was for the intention of making into clothing or other textiles to be worn. I wonder if it could be grown in a way to be different colors or even have patterns in it. that would be very interesting! the fiber artist in me is very excited and my imagination is now spinning away with thoughts about different experiments to try.
 
Len Ovens
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Meryt Helmer wrote:I wonder if it could be dried in my dehydrator on the sheets used for making fruit leathers and stuff along those lines. I would not mind if the organisms are dead so that the product could last longer if it was for the intention of making into clothing or other textiles to be worn. I wonder if it could be grown in a way to be different colors or even have patterns in it. that would be very interesting! the fiber artist in me is very excited and my imagination is now spinning away with thoughts about different experiments to try.


I think you have the right idea. Living clothes sounds real nice, but growing and wearing conditions would have to be quite similar. Drying or tanning or smoking might help to set the cloth so it lasts.

How long "should" it last? Sometimes I think we tend to look for "forever" when it is not needed. There does need to be a balance between effort to make and length of wear, but if the making also produces other useful things and the cloth is a by-product then the cost of cleaning (cost not meaning money here but effort and resources) may mean it is easier to grow more.

Rather than drying it flat though, I think it makes more sense to dry it in the shape of the finished product. This may require a two step drying process, partially drying flat and then form drying. I think some form of tanning or fixing would be required, the person in the video indicated that sweat made hers melt.

Keeping it "wet enough" that it stays alive may keep it stronger, but most people have an aversion to wearing wet clothing... not mentioning the extra weight.

I think this is the problem the developer is having just now. Making it wearable kills it, but killing it weakens it too. Finding the right biology that feels right to touch, sheds water, etc. in it's optimal growing state is what is needed... Oh, we have that, it is called skin. What does it require? A steady flow of water, oxygen and sugar as well as some way of getting rid of CO2, and used food/toxins. (excuse me I have to take my coat to the out house) It would effectively be making a plant or animal. It goes beyond just a single biological type of life, but a group of biology where each part relies on the other parts for part of it's needs while each part helps supply the needs of all the rest. It would perhaps not need to "breath" or "eat" as we do because it is not trying to move or think and so it's energy requirement for just staying alive is much less. (more than 50% of a humans energy intake goes to the brain) However, I don't think a single organism can do the whole thing. Just reading about the structure of Kefer and the number of different organisms to make the seed makes me think otherwise. I suspect this cloth is more than one organism too.
 
Meryt Helmer
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it is a good point about how long would it need to last. I think for me it would need to last long enough that the process of making more did not become stressful. so at least months with possibly weekly wear at most. I will probably do experiments just because it seems so interesting and fun! I wonder what my friends would think receiving kombucha 'leather' gifts
 
Colin Nelson
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In Florida it attracted flies and would have been a fairly gross cloth to use...

95f temps with 80%+ humidity, It might act differently in a cold climate.
 
Jackie Neufeld
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I wonder how it would work to cover fermented food like sauerkraut.
 
Will Holland
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OK, I've got my kombucha patch sewn on to the crotch-hole of my jeans. it feels pretty strong. sewing it on was pretty easy, too. the kombucha patch feels a bit sticky, but i bet that will diminish over time. I never ever wash my pants, so I'm not worried about that. I couldn't get a good picture so I'll try to post one tomorrow when my wife is around to drive the camera.
 
Will Holland
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Here's a sort of blurry pic and unfortunately the kombucha patch was smaller than the ever-growing hole in my jeans. Good enough to test out its strength, durability, and functionality though.
2015-04-24-20.31.58.jpg
[Thumbnail for 2015-04-24-20.31.58.jpg]
 
Will Holland
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Update after a weekend of hard work: So far the patch is holding up REALLY well. I'm gonna dry out another piece to finish covering the hole that exists in my pants.
 
Miles Flansburg
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That amazes me ! Is it really like cloth? Keep us up to date Will!
 
Will Holland
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Miles, I'm really pleased so far. I like my jeans kinda rough, and like I said, I never wash them. I think it adds a leather-like quality to the denim. I think the kombucha patch blends in nicely in texture and durability with the denim in its current state. So far, I think this method has a lot of viability for me, and I'm gonna go all-in on it.
 
Richard Gorny
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Here are a few pictures of my kombucha patches.

a.jpg
[Thumbnail for a.jpg]
Patches prepared to dry - one on wood, one on cork
b.jpg
[Thumbnail for b.jpg]
Same patches after two weeks
c.jpg
[Thumbnail for c.jpg]
Patches are sturdy, with minimal transparency, remind me a sort of a parchment
 
Will Holland
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Cool! I couldn't grow/dry more patches fast enough to save my pants. The pants I had my patch on had a total structural failure in the crotch, but no fault of the kombucha patch. I will definitely use them again.
 
Richard Gorny
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I'm waiting for a hole big enough in my clothes to use one of these

Since we have morning mists and rains, before using it as a part of my clothes I will make a water test and see how long it will last when wetted.

I'm planing to grow next batch in a square container to have a piece suitable to make a nice bag out of it.
 
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