I’m a neophile, always on the lookout for what’s “new,” interesting, undiscovered. Naturally, this extends to my fabric choices. On top of that, I like to use “eco” fabrics. I fell hard for hemp from the first skirt I made with it, and that love ripened into calm predictability. When I need a cool, comfortable, hard-wearing fabric, I turn to hemp.
I also sew with organic cotton, linen (most of which is defacto organic at the very least) and bamboo fabrics. When Sewco started carrying Tencel/Linen blends, I snapped up several meters in black and white. Later I dyed some of the white Tencel blue. I had heard of Tencel, I knew it had mad awesome “eco” qualifications, but I had no idea why. I was pleased to find a “new fabric” for experimentation, but thought I should do some research before slicing up my new fabric.
Firstly, Tencel is the brand name, and Lyocell is the generic name. I’ll refer to it as Tencel because it’s more familiar. Tencel is made from wood pulp, apparently eucalyptus wood, in somewhat the same way as rayon. It’s neither a “natural” fiber (meaning it occurs in nature), nor a “synthetic” (it is biodegradable). It falls into the slim category of “man-made natural fibers.”
What sets Tencel apart from regular rayon? It is created using a “closed-loop” production process. That means the fabrics are created with zero waste, using sustainable energy sources. I have a healthy suspicion of such claims, but I have found many varied sources that attest to Tencel’s excellent production practices. Read more about Tencel production on Organic Clothing Blog.
That’s all well and fine and wonderful, but what’s it like to sew? To wear? How does it wash? Can I tailor it, or should I stick to simple shapes? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I’ll find out as I sew with it.
I have read that Tencel:
- washes easily, cool water and drip dry is recommended. I washed on warm and the world did not end.
- drapes well (it is indeed beautifully drapey)
- resists wrinkles. We’ll see.
- wicks moisture away from the body very effectively (like hemp and linen) so the body stays cooler in humid conditions
I already used Tencel in my Social Dress, the blue will go to finish my 30’s skirt, the black for my husband’s new shorts, and a little left to play with. I’ll be sure to keep track of how it wears. Of course, I’ll report back with my findings!
It’s not a common fabric, I only found two sources:
FashionFabricsClub- I have never used this Tencel
Silk Road Textile Merchants- Unfortunately, their Tencels are not online, but I bet they could help you if you emailed themDo you own any Tencel clothing? Have you ever sewn with it? Do you sew with “green” fabrics? If you know any other sources of Tencel fabric (or nettle, I’m desperate for nettle) please link me!