Skip to content

unexpected textile

….seashells sum some stiff and some stretch to stay stuck

  • by

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.

Thread: what we do

Just hanging on: Why mussels are so good at it, MIT news office, 23rd July 2013

She spins sea silk by the seashore…..

  • by

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 ( 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.

Darn and (skin)graft!

  • by

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.

Fungus based leather alternative

  • by

We’re always interested to come across materials that meet particular requirements. In this case a leather alternative that is not an animal product. Muskin is a material based on a large parasitic fungus that grows on trees in subtropical forests. It is similar in appearance to suede-leather and its texture can be stiff like cork or softer.

It reminds me of another unusual textile I’ve written about before here

Website link: MuSkin, LifeMaterials

Bat Bot the aerobatic robot

  • by

I have an ongoing fascination with bats, bat wings and bat flight and so was delighted to come across this bat-based aerobatic robot. It’s known as Bat Bot (B2) and has been developed at the University of Illinois by postdoctural researcher Alireza Ramezani who describes it as being able to “dance in the air with great composure”.

A real bat wing is incredibly complex and contains over forty joints. This allows the morphology of the surface to change rapidly and significantly and enables a real bat to be agile and nimble in the air. Its younger sibling Bat Bot (B2) has a little catching up to do.

A cracking idea

  • by

A big theme in textiles and materials development at the moment is sustainability and recycling so this story about egg packaging made of eggs has scrambled our minds.

Researchers as Tuskegee University added egg shell nanoparticles (350,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair) to a plastic polymer consisting of 30% PLA (polylactic acid, a polymer derived from cornstarch) and 70% PBAT (polybutyrate adipate terephthalate, a petroleum polymer that, unlike other oil-based plastic polymers, is designed to begin degrading as soon as three months after it is put into the soil). This resulted in a material that was 700% more flexible than other bioplastic blends and this pliability could make it ideal for use in retail packaging, grocery bags and food containers — including egg cartons.

How amazing to be able to make a valuable material out of a waste product!

Website link: Tuskegee University – Eggshell-based nanoparticles could be used in future biodegradable packaging

Michael Allen Harris mining for jeans

Where once silver was mined, now jeans are

To me, this sounds like the story line from a children’s book, but no, this is something that really happens. Michael Allen Harris and his father-in-law hunt for jeans from the 1800’s in abandoned silver mines. Recently they found a pair of Levi’s from 1873, the year they were first manufactured, that could still be worn. It makes me think of the image on a Levi’s label of two horses trying and failing to pull apart a pair of Levi’s jeans to demonstrate their robustness. They were obviously made to last.

Website link: I mine for 100 year old jeans, The Guardian, 25th September 2015

Video link: Levi Strauss – preserving the past

BioCouture jacket shoulder detail

Pickled fabric? Not quite, but it is grown in a jar.

Fermenting cellulose

Fermenting cellulose

Designer Suzanne Lee has produced (and continues to develop) a fabric that comes from a zoogleal mat formed during the fermentation of a sweetened tea. The fabric that is produced is still made up of cellulose (like cotton, linen, viscose and rayon) but it comes not from plants but from bacteria. The fabric that is produced has similarities with very thin leather, though sadly it’s performance in the rain is less resilient as it tends to become a little mushy.

It sounds as though the fabric is being developed further so I look forward to seeing its progress.

Website link: Popular Science, BioCouture

Website link: BioCouture

EPSRC centre for innovative manufacturing in industrial sustainability: fourth annual conference

Hose drying


Tooley Tote


An interesting conference in Cambridge with several thought-provoking talks.

Kresse (of Elvis & Kresse) was particularly inspirational and challenging. I saw her speak when the company was just starting out and fell in love with the reclaimed firehose material. It’s an amazing story of rescuing an incredibly high quality material and repurposing it to extend its usable life. I like that the company ethos is to reduce waste and in doing so they have quietly attracted the attention of the fashion world.

Textiles in Matisse's paintings

Matisse and textiles as portable inspiration

I just came across this interesting article about an exhibition in 2005 of the textiles that (it’s claimed) inspired Matisse’s use of colour. In the town where he grew up there was no museum or galleries but the amazingly vividly coloured textiles were produced. Throughout his lifetime Matisse collected and carried around with him a selection of glorious fabrics that he used as backdrops and inspiration in his paintings. This seems to me to sum up some of the benefits of textiles; that they are lightweight and easy to pack-up and transport and can carry a huge array of colour and pattern with subtle variations that, say, a moulded plastic could never equal.

Website link: Matisse’s debt to textiles revealed, Guardian, 2nd March 2005

BMW Gina

A fabric-covered car

The BMW GINA concept car was made a few years ago but I started thinking about it the other day. It’s such a different way of thinking of a car. I like the idea of questioning the obvious: in this case, the assumption that safety comes from a big hard shell.

Website link: BMW GINA concept car video

Patagonia R4 wetsuit

A wool-lined wetsuit? I kid you not

standard vs merino vs synthetic cropped

Here at Thread we love natural fibres, particularly Merino wool, so it’s brilliant to see it being used by Patagonia to line their frigid water wetsuit. The fibres of Merino wool are much smaller and smoother than most other wools so it can be worn next to the skin without being itchy. The image above shows standard wool on the left, Merino wool in the middle and a synthetic fibre on the right. The merino is as fine as the synthetic but has all the marvellous properties of wool; such as not smelling after you sweat in it and being warm when it’s wet (due to water getting trapped inside the fibre itself and providing extra insulation) unlike synthetics.

Patagonia have blended it with polyester to improve its durability (and probably reduce cost and make a more predictable fabric). The Merino lining means that thinner Neoprene can be used for the same level of insulation. Here’s to happy warm surfing in the winter!

Website link: Patagonia R4 wetsuit