Friday, January 27, 2017

THE PLASTICIZING OF TEXTILES



Well, the subject of plastic is deep. It’s like pulling a thread. As the subject unravels, more unsettling facts are revealed. Still, we’re all consumers caught in a system.

Synthetic fibers
I recently became interested in “Scrubby,” a “yarn” product marketed by Red Heart Yarn. With Scrubby, you can knit or crochet scrubbers for kitchen or bathroom use. The patterns are appealing. At Christmastime, I crocheted a heart-shaped scrubber for Hallie’s stocking. But recently when my eyes landed on my sack of Scrubby in various yummy colors, I said to myself, “Oh, oh,” realizing I had undoubtedly provided my plastic-eschewing daughter with another plastic product. Reaching for the package, I determined that Scrubby is indeed 100% polyester.

Mike puts Bess in her new harness
At first I was relieved. After all, I’ve been hearing about polyester since I was a youngster. My mother, an excellent seamstress whose days were devoted to sewing, appreciated the benefits of “polyester” in her fabric choices. The words “polyester” or “cotton polyester" meant the fabric was less likely to shrink and at least somewhat wrinkle-free. Also, with polyester came the development of innovative fabrics, which Mother loved.



“What does polyester mean?” I asked.
And Mother explained it was a “synthetic fiber” – manmade.
And that’s about all the thought I gave the subject, and I suspect she didn’t think much about it either. Remember, though, this wasn’t the age in which most people thought about anything but the benefits of plastic.

Bess models her new harness
But, “what IS polyester,” I asked my computer. The first definition contained the word “polyester” over and over, and we all know a good definition does not repeat the word in the definition. Starting another search, I asked my laptop, “Is polyester plastic?” And now I found a more complete, understandable answer. In a word, yes, it is. In the ‘70s, the cheap leisure suit made polyester a laughing stock. Now re-worked to be less obvious, our textiles – well, let’s say our affordable textiles, including yarn – are heavily plasticized, or synthetic. Perhaps we wear more plastic than we know. And – it’s here to stay.

Back in the day, the words we looked for were “permanent press” when we purchased fabric and garments. (Interestingly, today the words “permanent press” seem to be associated with washing machine and dryer cycles rather than garments.) The fact that cotton wrinkled so badly made it impractical for garments when “permanent press” became available. But Mother did say that a permanent press shirt never looked good whether you pressed it or not.

Well, you’ll just have to draw your own conclusions, as will I. A while back I decided to use only natural fiber yarns for my projects, but when I discovered the yarn to make a small seasonal throw would cost over $100, I changed my mind. When it comes to fabrics, quilters make beautiful quilts of 100% cotton, but for garments, cotton is not easy care. Made of natural fiber, both cotton and wool are expensive. KW

3 comments:

Hallie said...

It's exhausting (useless?) to try to resist plastic or petroleum products in all things.

Why did Bess get a fancy harness?

Kathy said...

It's true -- we can't avoid it. But -- I'm not finished talking about it because given that we can't avoid it in many things, perhaps it's all the more important to avoid it when we can.

Bess got a harness so that she could be better controlled on her care visits. It isn't that she's particularly unruly, but the other day she ate something off the floor -- maybe a pill -- and got sick on the way home. Also, if she's leashed, the least little pressure on her throat makes her cough. The harness works well, enabling Mike to keep her close and also leaving lots of space on her head and neck for patting and petting.

Mike said...

Bess wears the harness only on pet visits.