Top 10 technical fabric innovations

mushroom_materialsCourtesy of FabricLink comes word of their annual pick of top textile innovations for 2013-2014. Sure, we’ve all heard of textile prototypes in a lab but all too frequently, the fabrics never get out of beta. All of these have and are ready for sale. Here are the ones that I’ve been keeping an eye on:

From dirt to shirt, CRAiLAR® is a linen fabric that requires less water and chemicals in at least two ways. First it uses less pesticides and fertilizers in growing, and second, the fibers are processed into thread with a proprietary enzymatic process. Moreover, it is virtually indistinguishable from cotton (yay, less ironing!). “The fiber is strong, dries quickly, wicks moisture and is shrink resistant.”

The EQ-Top Seismic Wallpaper caught my eye because I wondered, idly, if it could be used to make corsets. That’s me, always wanting to repurpose materials however possible. Seriously, it’s a fiber product designed to stabilize walls during earthquakes -see what I mean about industrial grade shapewear? Okay, I don’t expect this material will have much appeal for this crowd but isn’t it cool?

Geckskin™  (also) is a product I’ve had my eye on for quite a long time. It’s an adhesive product that will compete (to some extent) in the hook and loop (Velcro) space. The fabric was designed after careful analysis of gecko foot anatomy. The video demonstration is quite impressive; a strip of fabric that is the size of a large index card, lifts 700 lbs, yet the fabric can be easily pulled from its mounting, leaving no residue at all.

Mushroom® Materials is not a material you’ll be cutting and sewing but since it may be replacing plastics (hopefully) it could be used as packaging for your items . There is more to it of course because unlike any of the other fibers in this list, it is grown, not made. Using agricultural waste products to grow the mycelium fungus, it is akin to a nature’s version of a 3D printer -with a little assistance of course. And, it’s fully compostable too. Pretty neat!

There are other fibers on the list that caught my eye -namely RamTect™, which is a wool insulating product purported to be as light as down but just as warm, but you can read about it and the other prize winning fibers at FabricLink.

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  1. Theresa in Tucson says:

    Some thinking about some of these fibers gives me the giggles, especially the Gecksin. I am fond of geckos (so is the cat, but for a different reason) and marvel at their ability to cling on almost any surface. Good post. Thanks for the links.

  2. Bente says:

    Great to be updated on innovations and thank you for sharing The Fabriclink web site. That’s a nice resource for everybody. Very useful!
    Linen in general requires less water and chemicals and it is also biodegradable like cotton, wool and silk. Linen and cotton is cellulose based while silk and wool is protein based (keratin). Polyester is not, only a certain polyester (polyactic acid). In general polyester will end up as waist if not recycled.

    I would run to the store to get Crailar and QMilk for my line and Mushroom Materials for packaging!
    Where to get, price tag and quantity would be the next concern.
    I am happy to see that innovative fabrics are changing direction towards not only well-being, health and performance, but also towards biodegradable and use of less chemicals. Future fashion is a no harm, no waist, no suffer aspect.
    (Hey, don’t forget the Fashion Revolution day April 25th. #insideout)

    If you are a creative textile designer and love to innovate (diy) check out this:

  3. Vesta says:

    So exciting. Sometimes I get glimpses of a hopeful future. Then I get back to reading current news, and I slump back into a funk. (sigh) But thank goodness for those big companies that are early movers and push these materials into the real world (like Patagonia).

  4. Wow! This is fascinating. I had no idea about several of these. Mushrooms helping in the fabric industry and growing on waste like they do is awesome. And I really dig when they can use fewer pesticides. Thanks for taking the time to share this. I’ve been trying to find solid sources for more tech fabrics (active wear) and patterns, but it seems that is a trail to blaze. Seems to take several years before innovations like this come to public market. Do you have any insight into that?

  5. Marsha says:

    Would love to get my hands on Geckskin and play around with it! I’m imagining sticking crazy things to it, just to see what it can do in combination with other materials.

    Also Bente, how much more resources does producing greige silk compare with producing greige linen?

  6. Kara says:

    I looked into the EQ-Top Seismic Wallpaper and it is interlaced with mortar and tiny pieces of glass. That does not sound like a comfortable corset, but I love your imagination! Thanks for mentioning it, not only do I love to sew but I have a garage I need to retrofit to make the building more sturdy.

  7. Delphine says:

    Super interesting article. I actually crowdfunded a strapless bra made with the Geck material. It looks pretty nice but unfortunately they are struggling with the production…

  8. Colleen says:

    Did I miss Kathleen’s post saying she’d cut back, a bit, on this site to focus on….her million other responsibilities?

    I hope all is well, Kathleen!



  9. Kathleen says:

    All is well (when I’m not pulling my hair out). Thanks for asking.

    I’ve had a lot going on. A dying sister, a dead cat (our favorite), a major computer migration (yeah, I was still on XP), skin cancer surgery (MOHS, very minor but painful -had to go out of town for that too), a week long training session with my CAD trainer, lots of customers visiting and yes, work. I’ve also been working on shirts but that stalled about 3 weeks ago. More to come, no worries.

    It is hard to come back and post after having been away so long. Embarrassing really. Posts I’d been working on have become dated and are no longer usable. sigh.

  10. Bente says:

    There are sometimes other things that are more important than working! (and taking care that all of us in here get wiser)
    We miss you with patience!

  11. Sabine says:

    Looks like Crailar is still around…but despite all their partners, I have yet to see a product made form crailar. It sounds awesome, yet, where is it? It’s been 7-8 years in development by now.

    Mushroom materials is my favourite product by far out of all of them.

    I also really liked the milk fabric. qmilk sounds great. Am just not sure how nice it is for the animals providing the milk. If you can use the leftover protein from making greek yoghurt, that otherwise ends in the sewer and chokes down the sewage treatment plants, then that would be awesomeness indeed.

    And geckskin sounded pretty darn neat as well.

  12. Stu Friedberg says:

    Sabine, they’ve been sampling the Crailar fiber for a while, but only at the beginning of 2013 did they start up a full-sized production facility. A Crailar “mill” is basically a chemical factory, and you don’t invest in a full-sized chemical factory without running through at least one smaller pilot plant project first. And I am sure buyers want to take it slow with a new fiber type. Lots of testing before they put a new product on the retail market.

    Crailar’s projection in December 2012 was that they’d be making a million pounds of fiber a week by the end of 2013. In August 2013, they announced plans to buy an unspecified Western European dyeing facility with existing capacity of a quarter-million pounds of fiber a week (and growth potential). This facility is at the heart of Crailar’s supply to Ikea, and in December 2013 they announced they were actually producing fiber there to Ikea orders.

    Since most of their press releases focus on financials (obviously not written by or for engineers) I don’t know how well they have tracked those projections.

    I would say it’s worrisome for Crailar if we don’t see retail products using it by late 2014. The delay to date doesn’t strike me as unusual for the circumstances.

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