A group of British women are set to prove that in the UK, where the economy once has been shaped by the textile industry, it is still commercially viable to re-create a local, resilient textile economy. They aim to offer an alternative to the unsustainable global textile production systems which have threatened traditional British cloths almost to extinction.
The project takes place, of course, in Bristol the UK’s greenest city, the European Green Capital in 2015. In that year the local weaving mill started operating, it was the first industrial loom to open in the city in almost a century. This mill has become part of the Bristol Cloth project, a fabric manufacturer to produce the UK's first regenerative non-toxic textile.
"The farm we source the wool from - Fernhill farm - uses “holistic farming” techniques, it means mimicking natural herd grazing patterns," explains the background Babs Behan, the Founding Director of Bristol Cloth project & Botanical Inks. "Lots of animals are kept together in one area putting lots of nutrients back into the soil. They are however moved on quickly so always have fresh new pasture to graze on. The plants in the soil get a long time until the herd return to that place. Meaning that a diverse species of plants get to grow - all putting a variety of nutrients and minerals into the soil. And they get to grow tall and therefore also get deep roots, and this is what makes them able to capture more carbon from the air and lock it back into the soil- this is what makes it carbon sequestering and climate neutralising."
Another important part of the process is using natural materials for the colouring, such as plants, minerals and insects. (Around the world, an estimated 17 to 20% of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment and an estimated 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles, many of which will be released into freshwater sources.)
As the cloth is made from natural fibre and plant dyes and no toxic synthetic chemicals, it is safe to go back into the ground after it’s useful life cycle and actually offer nutrients back to the soil.
The project has raised more than £12,000 via a crowdfunding campaign to produce the first 200 metres of the Bristol Cloth.
Click on the video above to learn more about the project.