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During lockdown the Thread team was fragmented with most of us at home (and communicating digitally) and only physical prototyping tasks taking place at the studio. Now we’re all (except one) back in the studio we can get back to our normal (but precious) face-to-face process of collaboration.
All the physical upheaval and emotional strain of the last 6 months has brought the importance of the overall health of Thread into sharp focus. I was looking for a structure to guide me in this and began researching the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) which is used in Bhutan as an alternative measure of a country to Gross Domestic Produce (GDP). I’ve been reading (and getting much inspiration from) “Proposed GNH of Business” by Tshoki Zangmo, Karma Wangdi and Jigme Phuntsho.
…beneath our clothes we have our underwear and mostly we don’t forensically examine it but this is not how Amber Butchart sees it. She is a consultant forensic garment analyst for the UK police. Her background in vintage clothing allows her to date any clothing found with a dead body and she says underwear dates particularly well. Her skill and knowledge in recognising the age, construction and composition of clothing can add vital information in identifying a victim. As Butchart notes, “this has more social value than selling old clothes”. And curiously her methods of helping Crime Scene Officers describe clothing has a wider value. She educates them in the need to see items specifically and fairly; so no ‘ethnic’ used to describe everything from Indian Batik to Ghanain Kente. As she puts it “Describe it….don’t infer interpretation” . This seems pretty sound advice for everday life.
Mussels are able to cling on in the face of waves that ought to overwhelm the adhesive strength of the glue that bonds them to the rocks. When the complete system (shell, byssus threads, glue and all) is modelled and analysed it turns out that the combination can withstand forces many times higher that the glue strength predicts. The byssus threads are composed of a combination of stiff and stretchy materials. The integration of rigid and flexible materials yields performance that gives the mussel a competitive edge in turbulent seas. This rings true for us at Thread. We find combining engineering knowledge of rigid materials with textiles skill and experience yields similar results.
It was known to ancient Chinese traders as mermaid silk and mentioned on the Rossetta Stone. Those who weave it swear a Sea oath to never profit from its production and there’s only one weaver of it left in the world: Chiara Vigo (https://www.chiaravigo.it/). Byssus silk is a mind-boggling textile. It’s made from the bundle of filaments that molluscs use to attach themselves to rocks. When collected together these filaments look like spun sugar and are three times finer than human hair. To make 200g of textile requires 300 dives.
The idea of darning up a missing piece of skin on a human being sounds like the kind of medicine Lewis Caroll and Tim Burton might dream up but it could now be possible in the real world.
Work at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Bordeaux showed that “any textile approach is feasible: knitting, braiding, weaving, even crocheting.” Here at Thread we work on many medical products that are in contact with the human body. The properties of textiles are well suited to close contact with the body. They can be flexible, soft, and permeable while providing support and maintaining position. When synthetic threads and scaffolds are used they can trigger an immune response.
Chloe Ball-Hopkins isn’t like most of us. Where most of us, if we found ourselves miserably soaking wet at a festival because there wasn’t suitable wet weather gear for us, would complain and probably have a hot bath when we got home, she decided to contact fashion retailer Asos to suggest they make the suitable gear. She then collaborated with them and the result is a waterproof jumpsuit that is designed to suit wheelchair and able bodied users alike. The jacket and top can be zipped together/apart so it’s easy to get into and out of or can be worn as a jacket or trousers on its own. It also features a waterproof pocket for medication or a phone.
…but for the rest of us we rely on our waterproof jackets to stay dry in the rain. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly well-known that much of the technology used can accumulate in the environment and in body tissue. A team at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) have developed a waterproofing technology that is both a technical and environmental breakthrough. They started with short-chain polymers (which only bioaccumulate a little but tend to perform worse) rather than long-chain polymers that are typically used (that bioaccumulate a lot but perform better). They then used a process to apply the waterproofing that had been developed at MIT called initiated chemical Vapour Deposition (iCVD). Whereas usually a material is submerged in a liquid waterproofing that blocks the pores of the fabric thus requiring a further process to open them up again to make a breathable fabric, iCVD doesn’t blog the pores in the first place. the technology is being further developed and the team are looking to license it to outdoor and clothing brands and manufacturers.
Most of us would rather not consider the possibility of sustaining a serious burn and in that situation the last place we would expect a medical professional to look for a treatment option would be food waste but sometimes the most valuable things are in the oddest places. The skin of the Tilapia fish has been trialed as a dressing for 2nd and 3rd degree burns at the IJF (Institute Doctor José Frota) Hospital in Fortaleza, Brazil. The research was instigated by Marcelo Borges, a plastic surgeon who had spent three decades working on burn wounds. He read an article about the use of Tilapia skin in handcrafted products that mentioned that the other 99% that wasn’t used was a worthless waste product. Human and pig skins are already in use as a treatment in certain burns cases but these specially prepared, sterilised and stored skins are not available in high enough volumes to treat Brazillian burns victims. So Borges decided to investigate if Tilapia skin would be a viable alternative and it turned out in some ways to be superior with twice the amount of collagen type 1 and 3 (important in healing and scarring) and in some cases a single application of Tilapia skin can remain on the patient until scarring and healing occur which removes the painful changing of dressing required with a cream and gauze approach.
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