What a week! Monday saw me journeying to a new job and as all good journeys it began with a bus, 555 to Lancaster and onwards to Morecambe on the 2 (just in case you were wondering). Exciting stuff only one small fly in the ointment.
It was not just my workplace that had changed. Work has started on The Field.
While I am glad that families will soon find new homes in Kendal it is always sad to see green fields vanish under concrete. No more watching the sheep and grasses grow from my little bus stop for me.
A new role and the accompanying steep learning curve underway this old dog learning new tricks needed a plant fibre comfort blanket.
The Experiment continues. Following my needle-felting trial of Bamboo fibres I have another four plant-fibres to show you:
First of all there was not even a whiff of banana when I opened up the packet. Disappointing I know. The ‘staples’ appeared long, I suspect that this will be the case with most of the plant fibres, and while less silky than the bamboo it still had a sheen.
The sheen was even more apparent after needle felting. The banana became resistant to needle felting quite quickly but I was pleased with the results and there was little difference between the front and back of my needle felted flower.
Eco-thumbnail*: apparently the use of banana fibres is a good use of waste from the banana growing industry and the fibres are also used in building materials.
Again there was no obvious smell with the Ramie Fibre (not that I know what smell I expected). It felt rougher than Bamboo and Banana however it still had a silky sheen and was easily pulled from the tops.
The fibres soon felt resistant but nonetheless were easy to build up. The fibre lines showed as they did with the bamboo and banana but I was happier with the final results.
Although my needle felting is a tad wonky this is not the fault of the ramie!
Eco-thumbnail: Ramie is often heralded as a highly sustainable eco-friendly fibre which can be harvested up to 6 times a year and produces a strong and durable fabric.
The skein appeared more ‘raggedy’ than the others but the long ‘staples’ were easily pulled from the top.
As with the earlier fibres the soy soon resisted the needle but I also found it more difficult to bind loose areas to the rest of the design. This may have been because I overfilled my template ‘cutter’ but overall I would say I found the soy harder to work. I was not overly pleased with the result.
Eco-thumbnail: Soy has a mixed reputation. Taking the waste soy residue from the processing of soybeans for food products (feed for humans and animals) it makes use of a resource that would go to waste. The big but is that it requires an extensive production process to break down the proteins in the bean to convert it into a fibre.
Strangely the Hemp Fibre almost had a sheepy smell! Indeed it felt and looked far more like wool and didn’t have the sheen that the other fibres have so far had. Nonetheless it pulled surprisingly smoothly from the skein.
Perhaps because of the hemp’s wool-like quality I felt more comfortable working with it and had more fun needle-felting. Happy days, another needle-felted flower has blossomed.
Eco-thumbnail: Described by one writer as the “sober cousin” of marijuana hemp has a long history of being used in textile production and also the most eco-friendly potential. A ‘bast fibre’, growing so thickly it blocks out the weeds without the use of pesticides, hemp fibres are derived by retting the stems of the plant. It uses a lot less water compared to cotton and while growing returns a large percentage of the nutrients it takes from the soil.
I have three more plant fibres to needle-felt trial: rise, mint and flax. Watch this space.
Until next we meet
* There is much research for me to do in order to feel I have a handle on the environmental impact of each of the fibres I am trying out. There are many twists and turns to eco-friendliness so for now I am only posting the most generalised thumbnails. I hope to give more detailed eco-profiles in time. All advice welcome! Mx