England's First Locally Grown & Made Cashmere

Permaculture Magazine
Thursday, 7th October 2021

Botanical Inks has been working towards local and naturally grown fabric. First with the Bristol Cloth project, and now partnering with Bowmont UK to launch a completely natural and compostable, English grown and made cashmere scarf. These projects showcase the need for local and earth-friendly fashion.

The textile industry is destroying our natural environment. Babs Behan at Botanical Inks is set to change this by proving that textiles can be made locally, with locally grown, natural fibres and natural dyes, without harmful chemicals which pollute and harm our environment and bodies.

The Textile Industry is the second biggest polluter in the World, after agro-chemical farming for Food. Our water is being contaminated with heavy metals from industrial dye works, as textile producers and manufacturers use an astounding 8000 synthetic chemicals in their processes. There are 72 toxic chemicals in our water that come solely from textile dyeing, of which 30 cannot be removed. 

This new limited edition collection of locally grown and made scarves, uses the only source of Mongolian-grade cashmere in England, organically processed, dyed with organic plant dyes and artisanally woven: entirely within England. It uses a kind ecological soil-to-soil system which mimics Nature and has a gentle footprint on the planet.

Watch the Botanical inks: English Cashmere film here.

Who is involved?

Botanical Inks natural dye studio has partnered with Bowmont UK, a specialist Mongolian-grade Cashmere farm in Devon, with animal husbandry and land stewardship at its core.

The Natural Fibre Company, based in Devon, scour and spin the cashmere with a certified organic system.

Botanical Inks hand dye the spun cashmere yarn with organic indigo leaf for a blue and organic madder root for a dusty pink, using a natural dyeing process, without the use of any harmful synthetic chemicals. The yarn is 'space-dyed' to create a two-toned yarn, which gives an 'ikat' weaving style and 'ombre' effect to the woven cloth.

The dyed yarn is woven by Bristol Weaving Mill, as an experimental creative collaboration with Botanical Inks to explore new possibilities with plant dyed yarn and artisan weaving.

The scarves are 100% biodegradable and can safely be given back to the soil at the end of their useful life cycle, as biological nutrients.

This system provides vital financial revenue to local artisan producers which reflects the true cost and value of their work; Keeps the land 'in Good Heart' and offers a high standard of animal welfare. A system of mutual respect and solidarity for people, animals and the environment.

The limited edition collection consists of 30 unique blanket scarves (200cm x 76cm).

The scarves are a working model of what local, resilient textile production in England looks like.

The Botanical Inks English Cashmere Project is a new offering from Botanical Inks natural dye studio/pioneer of the UK's first locally sourced and manufactured, 'soil-to-soil' textile production system: the Bristol Cloth Project, as seen on BBC News, BBC Countryfile, Sky News and several national newspapers and magazines.

  • Cashmere is usually sourced from Australia or Mongolia and part of an unethical farming industry and an unsustainable global supply chain shipping materials to multiple factories across several continents.

  • The Dye Industry is one of the top ten industries which are the leading causes of disease and decline in quality of life due to toxic industry throughout the World.

  • 150 million trees are cut down each year to produce viscose for our clothes. If placed end to end, those trees would circle the Earth seven times (Canopy)

  • 51% of global fibre production is polyester -  a man made byproduct of the petroleum industry. 24.5% is cotton, agrochemical farmed with harmful pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.

  • Wool was once England’s biggest export

  • All cashmere imported into the UK has to be treated with formaldehyde as a preventative regulation against anthrax infection.

Babs Behan, founder of Botanical Inks, says: "It's very exciting that it is possible to create sustainable luxury cashmere scarves in England working with local farmers, plant colours and heritage artisan mills."

The cashmere scarf is live over at: www.botanicalinks.com

Useful links

Using plants and petals as natural dyes

Grow and make your own dye plants

Watch: Grow your own clothes

In PM99 (available to read with subscription digital access) From Field to Fashion: Babs Behan tells the story of Bristol Cloth, a bioregionally sourced and manufactured cloth, bringing non-toxic regenerative textile production back to Britain.