Over the past few years textile weavers, jobbers, artists and novices have brought much more variety and color into the stangant and traditionally bland organic and eco home furnishing fabrics market. Of course, along with the increased options, there comes a need to really understand what, as a consumer, you are getting and what you really want. Some consumers are concerned with reducing waste, recycling and minimizing the carbon footprint of the finished product. Some consumers are most concerned with using fabrics that are from natural fibers, processed according to G.O.T.S. standards, thus being free of pesticides, herbicides and potentially toxic dyes.
Just about every home textile weaver and jobber has put out a line of recycled polyester upholstery fabrics over the past couple years. Designtex, Maharem, Kravet, Valley Forge, Robert Allen Design and Duralee are just a few of the many. Recycled polyester has its merits for the first group of consumers, as well as in hospitality applications due to flame retardancy standards and the durability required for that market. But, recycled polyester is still a petroleum-based fiber and the disperse dyes that are used may or may not be environmentally friendly. The average person would have to be a chemist to start exploring this aspect of the fabric- unless a third party certifier were to sanction the fabric as meeting its requirements. Although recycled polyester will off-gas, it still scores L.E.E.D. points for being recycled.
I am the second type of cunsumer, one who is looking for fabrics that are natural and non-toxic. My experience is that most people prefer natural fibers over man-made and synthetic fibers for use in their homes. (Sure microfibers and pleather are indestructable, but they are so much so that they end up either in a landfill or having to be recycled to be considered “green”.) So, I want to share all of the great natural and less toxic home decorating fabrics that I have encountered over the past few years and applaud the pioneers for their efforts. Please, let me know your discoveries, too.
Indika came out with a beautuful organic cotton line that used low-impact dyes years ago. It used novelty yarns and weaves that made it stand out from the hemp plain weve and undyed pack. The prices were and are high today. There just has never been a high enough demand to produce in volume. Also, the has not ungone any real changes over the years.
Mod Gren Pod came upon the scene about four years ago with a printed organic cotton line that uses a heavy and strong enough sheeting to consider the pieces suitable for upholstery. It was the first line with bold color, trendy designs and large repeats. About a year earleir than this Harmony Arts introduced a printed organic cotton sateen line that I feel is better for top of the bed and linens , rather than upholstery end use. The repeats are small and can dwarf a large piece of furniture and a sateen basecloth can snag easily. The biggest concern I have all printed designs for upholstery end use is that prints are not as stable as wovens in terms on their potential to fade, crock and frost. So, if you do use a print on an upholstered piece, make it a piece that doesn’t get everyday use and isn’t directly exposed to sunlight and gas fumes.
Some of the best non-toxic fabric home decorating are fabrics woven by traditional artisans in co-ops and villages throughtout the world that still utilize natural fibers, natural dyes and low tech processing or curing methods. Many of the great ikats, batiks, mudcloths, suzanis, felts and kilims fit the bill. They wouldn’t know to prmote their fabrics an eco-friendly and non-toxic because this is the only way they have ever produced fabrics. One comment that I would like to make is to make sure you are purchasing these fabrics from a source that pays these people fairly and does not emply children in the process. These skilled artisans shold be paid well for these works of art that we treasure here in the States.
I have mentioned just a few of the many lines in the market for eco home dec fabrics. O EcoTextiles, Ruby Green, Envirotex, Dicey Fabrics, Craftex and many more have great offerings. Small boutique lines are being created every day, now that it is feasible to digitally print fabrics with no minimums and without the cost of carrying inventory and engraving screens. Share any that you have come across with me!