It you are like me, you have noticed differences in your closet. Some clothers are hundred percent cotton while others are blends of cotton with other fibers. Occasionally folks will ask me what is best. The answer is it depends.
Understanding How Fiber is Blended
Before I give the reasons one is better or best, let me explain the blend because a lot of folks don’t know much about fiber.
When you have a mixture of fibers, you are combining various fiber qualities into one strand of yarn or into a specific item of clothing, home goods, etc. For instance, the jeans I am wearing today are 95% cotton and 5% spandex or some other stretch fiber which will provide differences in wear I can discuss below.
100 Percent Cotton Jeans
Most of my early life, I wore hundred percent cotton jeans they would take an incredible beating. I could wash and dry them however often, etc. New jeans would take a while to break in so they fit perfectly but at some point, it became easy to find jeans with just a bit of spandex in them. Those blends, tend to fit well on day one.
Problem is a blend never is as durable and I am hard on jeans sometimes. I love wearing jeans so I wear them a lot. And I don’t wash them every time I wear them. Over time jeans that are a blend of fibers will show piling (the little balls of thread) on my thighs where they touch when I walk, more likely to show piling from washing too. The differences in fiber flexibility, strength, etc are what push some fiber away from others.
I still have some jeans with stretch built in, but I actively seek out jeans that 100 percent cotton.
Preferences in Cotton Dresses
Hard to beleive that my recent post on how awesome cotton dresses are didn’t include any mention about whether they are hundred percent or not and that’s for good reason, I have a variety of dresses with a variety of cotton fiber content. I prefer the vast majority of fiber to be natural fibers (cotton, linen, silk, wool, etc.).
I think it is clear that I would love 100% cotton dresses. And that is my preference with the vast majority of clothes, household items, etc. But some fitted dresses, a small amount of spandex is ok.
That small percentage (I look at five percent or less usually) can help with fit at times though a high quality cotton fabric has some natural stretch.
Other Things to Consider With Blends vs 100 Percent
When you look at the impact of fiber beyond my comfort, I think synthetics have a number of issues. Those issues make blends have a different lifecycle than 100 percent cotton products.
- Impact in the environment — Another way the different fibers work apart is to have small fiber loss in the wash, etc. those small fibers when natural will biodegrade in the environment generally but a lot of synthetic fibers can cause problems much like plastic in the environment does.
- Disposal / Recycling — If you have a 100 percent fabric, the thread can be recycled. There is a program called Blue to Green which recycles jeans into home insulation — the presence of synthetics changes that. I have a silk hat that is made from recycled silk from saris. Really awesome. But the spandex in jeans is reducing the use of the fiber later in things like money.
Various natural and synthetic fibers have different fits (this talks through some of the strengths of various natural fibers). If you mix cotton & silk (which feels LOVELY), silk tends to be stronger than cotton because of the way they are formed.