Transformative Thinking Blog Entry #4 – What’s the Deal With Jute?

Jute is extracted from the bark of the white jute plant and is one of the most important natural fibres (after cotton) in terms of cultivation and usage. About 85% of the world’s jute is grown in the Ganges Delta. This fertile geographic region is shared by both Bangladesh and India (West Bengal). Countries such as China, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Pakistan, Nepal, and Bhutan also cultivate jute, but on a much smaller scale. Jute is essentially a tropical plant and requires high temperature and high precipitation, which is why monsoon regions are ideal for jute. Jute requires rich soils and thrives on river alluvium, especially where annual floods renew the fertility of the soil.

Jute is a labour-intensive crop. It requires large labour force during growing and harvesting season. Although many of these areas have poor work conditions and unfair wages, fair trade options are available. Organizations such as Freeset, COOR – The Jute Works, and many more can be found on the front lines of ethical fair trade jute products.

 

Pros 

  • derived from plants that absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen
  • 100% bio-degradable and recyclable
  • grows faster than cotton allowing for faster harvest times (only 4-6 months)
  • requires little to none chemicals or pesticides to grow
  • improves soil conditions because large portions of leaves and roots remain with the soil after cultivating
  • high tensile strength
  • breathable
  • insulating
  • bulking of yarn results in a reduced breaking tenacity and an increased breaking extensibility when blended as a ternary blend.

Cons

  • highly flammable
  • highly absorbent
  • not washable
  • has a smell
  • itchy

Traditional Jute Use

During the Industrial Revolution, jute yarn largely replaced flax and hemp fibres in sackcloth. Today, sacking still makes up the bulk of manufactured jute products. Jute yarn and twines are also woven into curtains, chair coverings, carpets, rugs and backing for linoleum.

 

Jute Revival 

Jute lost its lustre in the 1980’s after synthetic materials and plastics were first introduced. When synthetics like polythene bags came into widespread use, the demand for jute declined and many jute mills were shut down. Thousands lost their jobs and farmers shifted from jute to more profitable rice cultivation. Now, the natural fibre has made a spectacular comeback. With growing environmental awareness, jute, which is bio-degradable, has become the preferred alternative to polluting synthetic bags.

Aside from being used for bags, the properties of jute allows it to be a very versatile material. Jute is now widely available at fabric stores, arts and crafts stores; I’ve even seen it in dollar stores! Applications for jute now varies from fashion, to decor, to industrial.

 

Rustic Modern Movement

The concept of Rustic Modern interior design received increased attention after 2000. This design method includes design elements alternatively known as “kitsch” that represent eras of design in the 20th Century. This includes kitsch elements such as exposed wood beams and natural fabrics combined with modern elements like reduced energy lighting and open concept floor plans. The result is a living space that is modern and yet close to nature.

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