sustainability, circularity, bio materials, material futures, local materials

Modern Felt

Yolanda Leask
BA Graduation Project
Supervision: Prof. Dr. Zane Berzina

Cooperation Partner:
Sächsisches Textilforschungsinstitut e.V. (STFI)

Can nonwoven textile production methods be implemented to create a sustainable fabric for apparel?

This was the research question posed by Textile and Surface Design student Yolanda Leask in her final degree project, Modern Felt at berlin weissensee school of art. Wool felt is the original nonwoven fabric. However in the last century, many nonwoven technologies have been developed to bond synthetic fibres, which do not felt on their own.
Nonwoven production can offer various advantages: cost and labour savings, less waste, fewer processes involved therefore quicker production time, and higher volumes can be produced in less time than woven or knitted textiles. These methods have generally been used to create cheap, disposable and functional products such as wet wipes, cleaning cloths and filters, and only 1% of nonwoven textiles are currently used in apparel, generally as an
interfacing for collars and facings.
In this project, the original nonwoven material: wool, is combined with nonwoven technologies, in an attempt to produce a fabric with increased drape, suitable for apparel. Wool fibre has fantastic properties and is an abundant, renewable, natural resource. In recent years, European farmers have been losing out due to the low price and lack of demand for wool. Our globalised economy means it is now cheaper to import wool from Australia or China than use the wool produced on our own doorstep. But if wool fibre is so cheap, why is a wool fabric relatively expensive? This is due to the many processes involved in producing a woven or knitted textile, processes which often take place in different countries. Nonwovens on the other hand, do not require yarns to be spun, but instead
process fibre directly into a cloth. Thus the implementation of efficient nonwoven methods could make it feasible to manufacture wool fabric in a transparent, local production chain, using European wool, technology and labour.

New sustainability quotas in the fashion industry mean that brands have to carefully consider the impact of their materials and products. Use of a sustainable nonwoven wool fabric such as this would help fashion companies meet targets, and potentially have widespread ecological and economic benefits.

Together with business partner, London-based fashion designer, Martin Brambley, she has founded the company Doppelhaus Ltd, aiming to design and manufacture sustainable nonwoven fabrics. The project is currently being supported by the Start-Up Accelerator Design Farm Berlin.