Year 12 students from Queen Elizabeth II High School eco-committee have been growing their own clothes! The clothes are made from a symbiotic mixture of yeast and bacteria which grows in a solution of sugar and green tea to form a cellulose mat. The mat is then dried and forms a ‘leather’ type material which can be sewn or shaped around a mannequin to form a garment. The idea was inspired by Suzanne Lee, a fashion designer whose project was broadcast on the BBC news.
The material is grown in plastic storage boxes which are kept in a warm room for several weeks until the mat is about 20mm thick. The mat is then washed before drying. The students have made various items of clothing, including a waistcoat and apron, and are also drying material for a skirt. The clothes are environmentally friendly and can be composted after use. The clothes are not, however, waterproof!
Emma Howard, aged 16, said “It is really amazing that we can grow ‘vegetable leather’ from a living organism. It is also far more environmentally friendly than using cotton or animal leather. We are still in the experimental stage and next we would like to dye the material with natural food dyes. Not all our material has been successful. Some grows thicker than others and some has grown green mould which we have had to discard.”
Millie Barrow, also aged 16, added “We have to make sure the ’Mother’ (the organism) does not come into contact with metal or it would die. The mother, once she forms the mat, can then be fed and used again to form more material.”
Lesley Sleight, Head of Life Skills, finished by saying “Growing your own skirt from a sugar solution is quite mind blowing! The students are excited to be working with a new concept in materials. They now intend to experiment further and provide some experimental fabrics to be used by their peers in technology lessons.”
Photograph (left to right) – Annabell Jose, Grace Harrop, Millie Barrow, Emma Howard (Year 12 Eco- Committee members).