Pine needle paper


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- story by MaterialDistrict

During holiday travels in France, self-employed textile designer Katharina Jebsen came up with the idea of using pine needles as a raw material for textile experiments. Once back from her holiday, she began to experiment with indigenous pine needles – and what emerged are wonderfully scented papers and fabrics. When we think of pine needles, we think of green forests or natural remedies such as pine needle oil. The textile sector has hardly used them at all up to now, but this humble and rapidly renewable raw material falls from the trees in huge quantities.

Jebsen investigated the properties of pine needles for her Master’s thesis “My Way” as part of her course in Conceptual Textile Design at the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design in Halle, Germany. She posed the question as to what possibilities pine needles offer for creating surface materials. In the process, her ideas ranged from sheet materials for interior and exterior use, vessels and containers, to textile fabrics for interior furnishings and clothing. Turning this raw material into a useful form for the textile industry harbours huge potential. It is the fine, inner fibres in the pine needles, without the dry exterior leaves, that are used here to make paper. Pine is the second most common type of tree in Germany, after the spruce, so there is no shortage of pine needles. Tapping into this organic, biologically degradable resource is, moreover, a simple matter, involving cooperations with branches of industry that use the wood from the pines, but not their needles. And the use of pine needles is said to have another significant benefit, when we think how effective the essential oils in pine needles are at keeping insects such as moths at bay.

In her Master’s thesis, Jebsen goes into the details of how to open up the needles. In the process, new types of material emerge, which can be used as the basis for further material mixes. The results of this materials study can, in turn, be transferred to various types of needles. For example, it has been shown that the needles of the fir tree, too, can be used in the printing of textiles.

Material Properties