Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fabric Of Our Lives

I'm not sure what I would have said, yesterday, if someone had asked me what clothes are made of.

Of course, wool comes from lambs, silk -- worms, cotton -- cotton plants. This I know, and have witnessed production in one form or another from each method. My step-mother had a spinning wheel when I was little, and taught me how to use it -- it's very meditative work, spinning -- the thread passes along your fingers and you pedal the wheel with your foot in a rhythm that takes over. I even managed to take wool from sheep, make thread from the wool and knit a scarf. I like the slogan: "Cotton, the fabric of our lives;" the idealism in ads can be comforting...

Oil. It never occurred to me that synthetic fibers are made out of oil.
DuPont invented nylon. In 1934 -- they wanted to replace silk, which had become expensive after the second world war.

Last year, a group called "peak oil meet up" went for a wilderness trek and this is what they came across:

All of the best fabrics for survival are made from oil except wool.

After Stone passed around her favorite oil-based fabrics while reciting military information on each one, I thought it was time to inform her why all of us had taken this course in the first place.

At the beginning of the class Stone asked each of us why we came and what we hoped to get out of the experience, but none of us mentioned Peak Oil. Now I described to Stone that most of the group was with NYC Peak Oil Meet-Up, that the world was about to start running out of oil, and that we all envisioned a time coming (soon) where there would be fewer amenities and the skills she was teaching might play a critical role. Stone was shaking her head up and down rigorously in agreement, but she had never heard the term "Peak Oil" before.

"Oh!" she exclaimed in amazement, "When you said you were with 'something-oil' I'm thinking what interest group is this?"

"Just think, no polyester, no nylon; it'll have to be ALL WOOL Barb!" I said half in jest. Wool and wool-blends will likely be the best (and only?) materials to wear for the outdoors, along with leathers and other animal skins, as oil-derived fabrics skyrocket in price. (read the story)

This year at Barney's a recycled canvas shopping tote is selling for $1,065. I'm not sure what this has to do with much, except this is where the search began this morning -- an article in the Times Styles and Fashion section about green goods for Christmas.

Small bit of irony:
One of the first uses of plastic in the late 1800s was as a replacement for ivory in billiard balls. Another item in the Barney's catalogue is a bracelet made out of thawed out fossilized woolly mammoth bones. It sells for $14,000 and the proceeds go to support native peoples in Alaska.

I figured that learning 365 things about oil would weave all sorts of threads...

1 comment:

lamarguerite said...

First of all, thanks for stopping by my blog. I am glad you enjoyed it.

Second, not only is man made fabric bad for the environment. Does not let your skin breathe. In case of fire, it is extremely dangerous. And there has even been some writings about prolonged exposure to such fabric not being good for one's health.

Third, nothing can substitute for the feeling of natural materials against one's skin. I want to be able to breathe. . .