Once upon a time, sustainable home textiles were the only choice: wool, linen, cotton and many other naturally grown or harvested fibres were the only raw materials available. Nowadays, there are a plethora of confusing blends, synthetics, pseudo-sustainable and downright greenwashed fabric types that can be used to create the home textiles we use day to day.
Traditional Hand Woven Textiles
Fabrics are the most basic, oldest forms of home comforts. Weaving, spinning and dyeing were invented long before writing, arithmetic and complex technology existed. The art of creating useable fabrics to keep warm, create shade and privacy, or to display status and wealth hasn't really changed much over the millennia, but the materials we use to make them has evolved dramatically since the industrial revolution.
Textile Design Today
Man-made synthetics were designed during the industrial revolution, at a time when exciting new chemical processes, petroleum derived plastic materials and production line processes were overturning traditional industries. New raw materials with interesting properties such as elasticity or water repellancy were combined with faster methods of spinning and weaving, which helped to make the process of fabric manufacturing more streamlined, more predictably consistent and cheaper.
Fibres are still now spun using a variety of raw materials and blends of synthetic and natural fibres. These are then woven or knitted into rolls of cloth, which are then cut, manipulated and sewn to create functional home and clothing textile products that we use every day. However most commonly nowadays, the raw material is synthetic, created using by-products of petroleum to manufacture fibres such as polyesters and nylon, or by chemically processing natural plant cellulose to create artificial fibres such as viscose, acetate and "bamboo silk".
What accompanied the lower prices and higher output during the 20th century was a loss of traditional skills and an increase in waste and harmful by-products released into the environment from the toxic process. Various regulations came into force to protect workers, from, for example, poisonous substances used in cellulose manufacturing, or toxic chemicals being dumped into waterways. Today, there is far more awareness of the sustainable impact of the textile industry, not just on the environment but also the social and welfare of the of the workers who produce the monumental quantities of yarns, fabrics and manufactured textiles we buy.
Home textiles in particular are often overlooked in comparison to the clothing industry, but it makes up around 10% of a $1.6 trillion global industry with much of the production happening in the Far East. less attention is often given to the fabrics used to decorate a home than you would to what fabrics are against your skin, but the impact on the environment is nonetheless significant and small choices between polyester blends or locally produced, naturally sourced fibres can make a difference.
What We're Doing To Be As Sustainable as Possible With Our Home Textiles
At Biggs and Hill we aim to seek out and design using sustainable textiles that have the lowest possible impact on our planet, right from raw material harvesting through to the often hidden environmental cost of the manufacturing process. Check out Why Linen and Indian Block Print articles for a deeper dive into what we use and why we use it for our home textile ranges. On our blogs we'll myth- bust bamboo and de-bunk the denim industry in our quest for truly environmentally friendly sources of raw materials. With our products we do what we can to design around constraints posed by the global and often murky nature of the textile industry.
Locally Made Home Textiles
We've also worked on our global logistics footprint and in the process found artisans and producers who share our mission and vision and are still practicing the ancient craft of sustainable home textile manufacturing right on our customer's doorsteps.
We look forward to sharing their work and our design expertise with you.