It's a gas

Mercerized cotton is a guilty pleasure over here at Chez Nake-id. Though we try to be as organic and au naturale as budgets (and weak wills) allow, mercerized cotton is one of those not-so-natural things to which we give a pass.

What is mercerization, well might you ask? Mercerization is a process by which cotton is held under tension and bathed in a lye solution and then neutralized in acid. (Sometimes referred to as gassed and mercerized, some processors use a gas-fired process to singe off unruly fibers.) This causes the fibers to swell, straighten and acquire luster. It also makes the cotton more accommodating to dyes.

Yarn crafters know mercerized cotton also as pearl (perle) cotton, those tiny irresistable hanks of embroidery thread calling out from the fixtures at Wal-mart. Or my favorite Super 10, which comes in almost 100 colors, and knits up into the sassiest, pastels-be-damned baby togs you can imagine.

So with mercerized cotton, we're talking serious carbon load. Cotton's a nasty crop to begin with, laden as it is with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. According to the Organic Trade Association, to get enough cotton to produce one t-shirt you need to dose those plants with 1/3 of a pound of chemical fertilizer. Let's all utter a collective, ew.

Add to that the energy it takes to harvest, ship and process the cotton (plus mercerization) and we're talking a lot of energy and loads of chemicals for cute baby knits. 

So before I talk myself out of these baby hats I need to finish, I'll put an end to this. Yeah, I like the Pakucho Organic. But it doesn't come in lime, paradise pink and tangerine.

P.S. For a very reasonably priced tee (organic cotton/recycled poly made in Pakistan) try Threads for Thought. For something pricier with domestic provenance, I like Patagonia's Shroomin' shirt.

P.P.S. I love these organic, Fair Trade shirts, too: Hae Now.



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