The first time I heard about soy being used as an 'eco fibre', I was skeptical. Isn't soy a thirsty crop? Isn't it often full of pesticides? Isn't intensive soybean farming causing deforestation and social problems too?
Sadly all of these problems are occurring due to the farming of soybeans, but the great thing about soybean fibre is that it's made from soybean hulls, the part not eaten which is traditionally a food production waste. Phew!
How is it made?
Not all soybean fabrics are created equal, but this is the general process. The soybean proteins are denatured by exposing them to alkalis, heat or enzymes. The proteins are then filtered and pushed through a spinneret to separate the fibres into long strands. Some manufacturers then cross-link the fibres using formaldehyde or another reagent. This process is an almost closed-loop system, with any chemicals used being recycled and used again. For a more detailed description, I found this chapter (Vynias, D. 2011, p. 461-488) very informative.
The good news
At ecoHaven we only have GOTS certified organic soybean fibre in store, which means that the crops were farmed organically. This also means that all chemicals used in the manufacturing process meet GOTS requirements for toxicity, elimination and biodegradability, with no formaldehyde, phthalates and PVC used in its production. Yay! It is important that the soybean fibre we stock is supporting organic farming, does the least amount of environmental damage (compared to standard soybean fibre). Being the nerd I am, I even asked Untouched World to send me it's GOTS certificate, which they kindly sent.
What does soybean fabric feel like?
This is our most common question. Soybean fibre is soft and silky with a beautiful drape and very gentle stretch. It is often called 'vegetable cashmere' for its luxurious and soft texture. Soybean fabric is easy to care for, absorbs dye easily (reducing the use of dye-stuffs), is naturally anti-bacterial and UV resistant.
If you're a local in Hobart, come see, touch and experience our soybean fibre shirts for yourself. We believe that all this fuss is justified and hopefully you do too.
Dionysios Vynias, 2011. Soybean Fibre: A Novel Fibre in the Textile Industry, Soybean - Biochemistry, Chemistry and Physiology, Prof Tzotzil-Bun Ng (Ed.).