Sunday, June 3, 2018

Textiles from Paper

Ernst Collin wrote a number of articles related to binderies and war production during the First World War. Among them "Papier als Spinnstoff" (1918) in which he described making textiles from paper for use in clothing, tarps, packs, and elsewhere as a substitute for the harder to come by cotton, wool, linen. In the case of Germany, the cellulose was derived from plentiful softwoods. In the article he also acknowledged that paper had a long tradition as the basis for textiles in Asia. Shifu anyone? Have to love Open Access!

Interestingly, Smithsonian Magazine recently published an article on the uses of paper as the basis for textiles, "A World-War-I-weary world needed a new wardrobe, and cheap, washable paper clothing seemed to rise to the occasion."
In January 1917, the New York Sun noted that the Germans had devised paper-based threads for making “sacks and bags, girdles, doilies, aprons, working garments,” as well as dresses and other clothing. “The inventors have discovered a way to give the ‘paper cloth’ great resistance to dampness,” the reported added, answering one obvious question on readers’ minds. Other articles noted that the Germans made parts of military uniforms out of paper, including those worn by their pilots and submarine crews.
From "When Paper Clothing Was the Perfect Fit:
A war-weary world needed a new wardrobe,
and this cheap, washable attire seemed to rise to the occasion" 

Apparently an attempt was also made to introduce textiles from paper in the US and elsewhere after the war:
But it was the possibilities of paper clothing that captured attention in the U.S., especially after the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce imported a batch of Austrian paper suits, displayed them at its offices in Washington, D.C., and then sent them on tour to cities around the country. When the Washington exhibit opened in September 1920, the Associated Press noted that “one suit is quoted at fifteen cents, and is washable.” The exhibit also featured paper table covers, laundry bags, wall decorations and twine, among other items.
With the end of rationing and increasing "prosperity," the use of paper for textiles came to a quick end, despite attempts in the 60s. Why wear ersatz when the real thing is available again...



Collin references: