Fibre Focus: Jute

Choosing a fibre from a design perspective can be challenging enough, but the fibre that fabric is made from also has numerous environmental and social impacts. It can be difficult to work out the best option when selecting a fibre.

Introducing Fibre Focus, our fabric blog that breaks down the various impacts of fibre from an environmental, social justice and design standpoint. It is important to also consider any potential impacts a fibre might have if it were to become more popular.

Jute:

Design advantages:

  • Strong, long and durable fibres
  • Soft fibres that age well
  • Jute fibres have an affinity with most dyes
  • Available in a range of thicknesses
  • Moisture absorbent
  • Moderate heat and fire resistance
  • High tensile strength

Design disadvantages:

  • Jute can be coarse and require more processing to achieve the same handle as softer natural fibres such as cotton
  • Jute is relatively dark in colour and requires more dyestuff to affect colour, or a darker colour dye
  • Jute may need more ironing during the consumer use phase

Environmental impacts:

  • Jute fabric is derived from plants and is, therefore, a natural fibre
  • Jute is biodegradable and will return to nature at the end of its product life instead of lingering in a landfill
  • Jute is derived from renewable sources
  • Jute grows well without chemical intervention such as pesticides or insecticides
  • Jute replenishes nutrients in the soil
  • Jute is a very leafy plant and sequesters more CO2 and releases more oxygen than other fibres
  • Jute fibres can be recycled or repurposed with ease because of their strength
  • Jute fibres can be processed by hand and hand-woven into fabric, this reduces energy consumption and carbon footprint
  • Jute is a cellulose fibre that is grown, not made in a lab

Social impacts:

  • Jute farmers’ health can be preserved because they are not working with many chemical pesticides or fertilisers
  • Jute grows very quickly and is perennial so farmers can expect regular yields that generate more income than seasonal crops
  • Jute replenishes nutrients in the soil and therefore protects future yields from salinised, nutrient-starved soil
  • Consumers of jute fabric can expect it to contain fewer residual chemicals than other fibres that were grown using chemical intervention
  • Jute famers can save money by avoiding buying as many chemical additives

Positive potential impacts:

  • Fewer chemical pesticides in the environment
  • A decreased water footprint
  • Decreased farmer dependence on large chemical companies
  • Preservation of air, water and soil quality
  • Year-round yields for farmers

Negative potential impacts:

  • Job loss for farmers in other fibre industries, and therefore a loss of income
  • Increased use of energy during the use of jute fabric
  • Increased use of dye during fabric production

So there you have it, a simple breakdown of hemp’s impacts that you can keep in mind when buying, sourcing or designing.

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