Piñatex™, innovative and sustainable textiles from pineapples!

Piñatex-PunackpuckCarmen Hijosa has a well-honed eye for beautiful things having worked with luxury leather goods for more than twenty years.  Her Damascene moment came when a piece of consultancy work took her to a leather tannery in a developing country.  The impact was laid bare, and shocking.  Soon after she was engaged by a Philippine client to upgrade their leather goods for export.  Rather than working with leather (which was imported), Carmen advised looking at local materials readily available in the Philippines.  Over five years of research and development, and a PhD at the Royal College of Art, following culminating in the launch of Piñatex™, a natural and sustainable non-woven textile by Ananas Anam Ltd, backed by the InnovationRCA, and protected by patent.

Piñatex™ is made from fibres of pineapple leaves, which are usually discarded and left to rot when the fruit is harvested.  The fine, flexible fibres are extracted from the leaf through a process called decortication.  Once degummed, the fibres are surprisingly soft to the touch and breathable.  They are processed into a non-woven mesh textile at a local factory in the Philippines, then shipped to a finishing factory near Barcelona, Spain.  The company already has sufficient scale to meet orders of up to 500m of fabric in a variety of colours, finishes and thicknesses.

Piñatex-Ginto02As the Piñatex’ pineapple fibres are a by-product of the fruit harvest, no extra water, fertilizers or pesticides are required to produce them.  The textile, which is renewable, compostable, and tactile is also amazingly versatile as it is mouldable and easily dyed.  It feels like felt, and is suitable for a range of finishes: waxed it looks like leather; embossed it looks like an animal or reptile skin (pictured above); and the metallic finish adds a whole new glamorous edge.  The current water-resistant coating, while technically biodegradable, still contains a tiny amount of petro-chemicals, so Hijosa is working with Bangor University, supported by an innovation voucher from InCrops (specialists in biorenewables and bio-based products) to develop a completely compostable, non-petroleum based coating.

Piñatex-BagaheThe textile has direct appeal to the fashion, accessories and furnishing industries.  Having passed all the technical tests (ISO international standards for: seam rupture, tear resistance, tensile strength, light and colour fastness and abrasion resistance), a number of key brands are now using the textile to develop prototype products.  At around £18 per metre, Pinatex is more economical than leather (typically around £30 per metre), and there is much less waste.  The irregular shape of leather hides leads to significant wastage of around 25%, where as Pinatex is available on 218cm or 150cm wide rolls.

This week sees the first official presentation of Pinatex, the Pine-Apple Show, Imagine everyday through Piñatex™ at the Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, SW7 2EU from 12th -17th December.  Prototype products made from Piñatex™ designed by Ally Capellino, Camper, Puma, John Jenkings in collaboration with Ulterior Design Upholstery, Patricia Moore, Dagmar Kestner, SmithMatthias and Julia Georgallis will be on show.  The event is supported by the RCA, the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Trade and Investment Centre in London, underlining the potential for this product to support sustainable livelihoods.

Intended Life CycleHijosa has worked in partnership with an agricultural co-operative in the Philippines to source the material.  The fibres represent only 5% of the leaf, so the remaining biomass, the by-product of decortication, can be converted into organic fertiliser (typically the farmers’ greatest cost) or bio-gas. So Pinatex has the potential to offer the farmers two new revenue streams, from the fibres and the bio-mass.  The process uses tried and tested technologies reducing barriers to scaleability.   Hijosa aims to replicate the production in other geographies, providing sustainable livelihoods for agricultural communities, and perhaps introducing greater variety to the range of finishes and products based on different traditions.  In time, and with the support of the Philippine Textile Research Institute, the existing finishing partners in Barcelona and Hijosa intend to develop the skills and knowledge to finish the textile in the Philippines.

PiñatexTM is more than a versatile non-woven, natural textile with great aesthetic and technical performance; the whole life-cycle of the textile has been designed and developed along Cradle2Cradle principles, in fact, Dr. Michael Braungart, author of “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” is assessing Hijosa’s PhD thesis.  Pinatex is a story of innovation finding beauty and inspiration in the discarded.

 

 

 

 

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Flash sale on natural fabrics at Ada & Ina

 

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If you have been thinking about whether to refresh some of your curtains, blinds or upholstery, seize the moment to take advantage of a flash sale at Ada & Ina with 10% of all made to measure products and fabrics, until midnight on Friday 1st November (discount code DECOR8).

Ada & Ina stock a wide range of natural fabrics and linens in subtle textures and colours.  I have been on a green theme, hence the selection in the picture for a current project, but there are naturals, neutrals, blues, pinks, well all the colours of the rainbow in plain, check, strip, contemporary and traditional prints.  You could go mid-century modern geometric or country cottage floral, but all are discounted this week.

oeko-tex-chemical-free-ecological-fabricsSeveral of the fabrics (including the linen pictured bottom centre) are Oeko-tex certified, which means they comply with the Oeko-Tex® Standard 100.  The Oeko-tex Standard is a system for analysing and certifying textile materials at all stages of production, from raw fabrics to ready-made clothing, bed linen and curtain fabrics.  The Standard exceeds current national legislation and tests for harmful substances including known harmful, but not legally regulated chemicals.

As well as fabrics, Ada & Ina offer made to measure blinds and curtains, bed linen and other household products such as linen towels.  And you can order up to five samples for free!

ao textiles’ natural alchemy

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The ao textiles workshop at the V&A last Friday was a homegrown affair with Penny Walsh hand-dying fabrics in dyes made from plants, including woad, marigold, and indigo, as well as other natural dyestuffs.  The development of hand-dying stalled with the advent of man-made dyes around 1860, but knowledge of plant sciences is now much more advanced.  Penny’s methods are drawn from historic recipes as well as advice from chemists to adapt these recipes for contemporary requirements.   Research into plant dyes worldwide and the use of low impact mordants and assistants has enabled Penny to create a vibrant array of colours.

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The sources of these colours are renewable and bio-degradeable, but they are also stable.  Penny reminded us of the rich colours in the Tudor tapestries hanging in the galleries that have held their colour for centuries.

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Once dyed the fabrics are then worked into highly decorative pieces embroidered by Karen Spurgin or more elaborate dying techniques, such as marbling, by Emma d’Arcey.

Emma gave a demonstration of the traditional marbling technique.  First paint is spotted on the surface of the water and seaweed (carrageen) solution. Then it is feathered using a very fine brush pulling stripes vertically, then horizontally.

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Finally a custom-made comb is pulled through to complete the pattern before the fabric is laid on top to be printed.  Once printed it is rinsed and left to dry.  As well as abstract patterns, Emma’s work includes incredibly intricate, almost photographic floral and mineral motifs.

ao textiles have collaborated with Gainsborough Silk Weavers to create luxurious jacquard fabrics for couture and high-end interiors, combining sustainability and traditional artisanal skills.  For example, ‘Mineral’ uses a recycled warp from Gainsborough’s yarn from past productions combined with a naturally dyed weft.  All ao’s naturally dyed yarn uses unbleached silk or cotton.

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A highlight of the workshop was Julia Lohmann popping down from the Department of Seaweed to experiment with dying and marbling the kelp seaweed.  We await the results with interest.

 

Free Ian Mankin oven mitts, and apron offer….

I am a great fan of Ian Mankin fabrics.  Their contemporary twist on some British classics look great, and have good provenance.  The fabrics are made from 100% natural fibres and over 90% are woven in this country in their own traditional Lancashire cotton mill, which has been run by the same family for six generations.  The range includes tickings, stripes, checks and plains, and it is well-priced.  Perfect for a seaside retreat, or in our case, urban bathroom.

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And this month they are offering a free pair of oven mitts with purchases over £100, or oven mitts and apron on purchases over £200, so it could be time to update the oilcloth which is vital to preserving our kitchen table from all manner of mishaps!