Ethical Fashion Focus

Outsider Fabric Focus: Milk fibre

Posted on September 21, 2016 by Rebecca Närhi

If you don’t want to drink it, wear it.

Organic September

When we say the word "milk", you might think immediately of the beverage, maybe about cows, or possibly the episode of Friends where Ross thinks he came up with the phrase ”Got milk”.

As we all know, milk is naturally full of goodness and provides us with many vitamins and minerals. In addition, after decades of research and development, it's possible to take waste from cow's milk and turn it in to fabric. 

Here comes the history... 
During World War I, Germany attempted to develop new textiles due to shortages caused by rationing. Although they managed to extract a fibre from milk but it turned out to be too difficult to work with.

Later, in the 1930s, the chemist Antonio Ferretti picked up where the Germans had left off and finally discovered how to extract fibres from which he could make ones with similar characteristics to wool, but with a silk-like lustre.

And here comes the science…
Casein is the protein in milk. It is blended with NaOH (sodium hydroxide) and water, which leads to polymerisation. The fibre then goes through a process of filtration and deaeration.

After this the extraction of the fibres takes place. This is done using a device called a spinneret, where the fibre is shaped before going into a spinning bath with H2SO4 (sulphuric acid), a process is called wet spinning. 

The fibres are then cut to the right length and hardened to get the right shape and form. After washing and drying, the fibres are made into yarn which can then be woven or knitted into a fabric.

Milk fibre has several benefits:

    • Less waste: the fibres are made from waste material in the dairy industry, material that would be otherwise thrown away

    • water consumption is minimal.
    • versatility: milk fibre can be used in fashion, home textiles and in medical technology and can be blended with other fibres in a relatively straightforward way
    • skin care: extracts of the fibre contain 15 types of amino acids. This helps the natural nourishing of the skin, due to the similar pH-factor as the human body.
    • it's naturally antibacterial
    • excellent water transporting capacity. 

    Milk fibre has a bright future. It's a perfect marriage of science, technology and nature. As we make the switch to more sustainable fabrics milk is taking us closer to the future we all aim for; Zero waste.

    At Outsider we love working with this versatile fabric. We truly have "Got milk".

    Shop milk fibre fabric by the metre


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