Needles in fashion: clothing from pine-needle fibres

When we think of pine needles, we think of green forests or natural remedies such as pine needle oil. The textile sector has hardly used them at all up to now, but this humble and the rapidly renewable raw material falls from the trees in huge quantities. Self-employed textile designer, Katharina Jebsen investigated the properties of pine needles for her Master’s thesis “My Way” as part of her course in Conceptual Textile Design at the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design in Halle. She posed the question as to what possibilities pine needles offer for creating surface materials. In the process, her ideas ranged from sheet materials for interior and exterior use, vessels and containers, to textile fabrics for interior furnishings and clothing.

It is particularly the fine, inner fibres in the pine needles, without the dry exterior leaves, that are of interest for the textile industry. The industrial process by which these can be accessed and harvested, and then very fine yarns made from them, is something of a challenge, however. The yarns can be coloured with natural dyes. Moreover, different types of pine and fir produce different natural shades of dye, which can be used to print on textiles.

Turning this raw material into a useful form for the textile industry harbours huge potential. Pine is the second most common type of tree in Germany, after the spruce – so there is no shortage of pine needles. Tapping into this organic, biologically degradable resource is, moreover, a simple matter, involving cooperation with branches of industry that use the wood from the pines, but not their needles. And the use of pine needles is said to have another significant benefit, when we think how effective the essential oils in pine needles are at keeping mini-beasts such as moths at bay.

In her Master’s thesis, Katharina Jebsen goes into the details of how to open up the needles. In the process, new types of material emerge, which can be used as the basis for further material mixes. The results of this materials study can, in turn, be transferred to various types of needles. For example, it has been shown that the needles of the fir tree, too, can be used in the printing of textiles.

Copyright: Katharina Jebsen

This article was originally published on our Sustainabilty & Textiles newsletter 03/2014.

Marc Chalupsky

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