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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Between the Threads: Tencel®, unplugged

Posted by leighann | May 30th, 2012 | Filed under Sustainability, Who We Are
Screen shot 2012-05-17 at 11.29.59 AM

Tencel: Up close and personal (courtesy of Lenzing)

Don’t Touch Me ‘Cause I’m Electric

Shuffle across a nylon carpet, rub a latex balloon on your noggin, maybe even pry a polyester shirt out of the dryer and you’re reminded that there are other forces at work on this planet. This isn’t shocking; like people, many materials—including the fabrics we wear—hold a charge. But every once in a while, there comes along a fabric that doesn’t take sides, that’s indifferent to a little friction.

Enter Tencel®: the newest sustainable fiber in our Spring 2012 line-up. Made from the pulp of sustainably grown eucalyptus trees, this regenerating fiber has been scientifically proven to have “neutral electric properties” which could be one of the many reasons why Tencel® is noticeably  smoother and more comfortable next to the skin compared to synthetic fabrics.

In fact, in a recent study using electromyography, a method developed by orthopedics to detect the excitability of muscles beneath the skin, 100% polyester fibers created a spontaneous electrical body charge when compared to cellulose fibers such as linen or TENCEL® (Schuster 2006). In other words: wear TENCEL® and you won’t be shocked by this finding.

Of course, this is just one of the many reasons why we love TENCEL®. In addition to its not-so-magnetic personality, TENCEL® absorbs water (as opposed to polyester which repels) which allows it to act like a conduit—regulating body temperature and creating a cool, next-to-the-skin feel. Compared to other natural and synthetic fabrics (see pic above), Tencel®’s smooth fiber structure is incredibly soft to the touch for one of the most skin-friendly fibers.

Most importantly, this regenerating fiber is manufactured using an extremely efficient, closed-loop system which uses a non-toxic organic solvent solution. 98% of the materials used to process TENCEL® are recovered and reused making TENCEL® the most eco-friendly, regenerating fiber.

You can find our entire line of TENCEL® styles, here.

Schuster K., Suchomel F., Manner J., Abu-Rous M., Firgo H. Functional and Comfort Properties of Textiles from TENCEL® Fibers Resulting from the Fibres’ Water-Absorbing Nanostructure: A Review. Macromol. Sym. 2006, 244, 149-165.

8 Responses to “Between the Threads: Tencel®, unplugged”

  • May 31, 2012 at 7:37 am | danielle says

    Sounds like a great fabric – can someone comment about the potential for this material to ‘pill’ over use and time?

  • May 31, 2012 at 9:59 am | Leighann says

    Danielle: Good question. Tencel does have a tendency to pill over time, but we blended it with organic cotton to prevent this from happening. -Nau

  • May 31, 2012 at 10:05 am | PJ says

    …and if you touch me, you’ll get shocked (echo x2)

    interesting indeed!

  • May 31, 2012 at 10:10 am | Leighann says

    Thank you PJ!…I was hoping someone would pick up on my Beastie Boys reference.

  • June 1, 2012 at 8:50 am | Bernie Schlotfeldt says

    I wonder if you could speak to the level of energy and water required to process the pulp into cloth form, relative to (say) wool or cotton? I love the idea of more sustainable fabrics, but also think it’s important to measure the relative use of materials in the manufacture process.

  • June 2, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Jaeger says

    I saw this study recently and was wondering if Nau’s use of recycled polyester would be reconsidered. The study found that most of the microplastics found in marine ecosystems (i.e., the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) come from polyester fibers from home washing machines flowing out out the ocean post sewage treatment.

    It sounds like Tencel is a more of a replacement for cotton, but it might be used as an alternative to your polyester linings?


  • June 4, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Leighann says

    Hey Bernie: Great question. Here’s an answer from Jamie, our Director of Textile Development and Sustainability:
    “Manufacturing textiles is energy and water intensive no matter what fiber you are talking about. That said, looking at the most widely accepted and most current thinking on the subject is the NIKE materials index found here: http://www.nikebiz.com/responsibility/Pages/ScoresDetail.aspx It shows relative impacts of water, energy, chemistry, waste and how various impacts score. This tool has its flaws but it is a really good starting point for tackling the impacts of the materials we work with.”

  • June 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Leighann says

    Jaeger: Thanks for you comments. Here’s a personal response from Jamie, our Director of Textile Development and Sustainability:
    “This is an interesting article, thank you for pointing it out. We do know that the washing and drying of garments is the single biggest contributor to their environmental footprint. As this article points out, not only the energy spent in washing and drying needs to be considered, but the loss of fiber down the drain into our waterways is also a concern. As for changing our lining fabrics to tencel, we use polyester in our technical outerwear in order to keep our jackets from absorbing sweat. Since outerwear gets used often in cold and damp situations, polyester keeps the user warmer and drier since it cannot absorb much moisture. We might look at using it in some of our other products though. Thanks for your suggestion.”

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