As the world becomes more conscious of the environment and making eco-friendly choices, we see a rise in popularity in sustainably sourced garments. One, in particular, is Tencel fabric. Sourced from the eucalyptus trees, this woven fabric is giving cotton a run for its money.
Tencel fabric is made with sustainably sourced fibers following a thoroughly regulated process that ensures quality. It’s one of the very few truly eco-friendly fabrics that are breathable and luxurious to the touch. Because of this, it’s a popular choice in clothing and beddings.
In this article, we’ll walk you through everything there is to know about Tencel. Does it measure up against cotton? Why is it steadily growing in popularity? Read on to learn the answers to all your questions on Tencel fabric.
What Is Tencel Fabric?
Processed from the wood of the Eucalyptus trees, Tencel rivals cotton when it comes to appearance, durability, breathability, and softness. Unlike cotton, it uses wood pulp instead of plant fibers.
While it may sound like the fabric feels scratchy and stiff because it’s made of wood, the exact opposite is true. Thanks to its unique drying method called solvent spinning, this fabric has a smoother and more sophisticated feel compared to cotton right from the first use.
Classified under Rayon, Tencel is widely regarded for its uses in clothing, underwear, activewear, and beddings. Its breathability makes it a popular choice of fabric for summer attire.
What Is Tencel Fabric Made Of?
Many sustainable clothing brands have started making the switch to Tencel fabric. This is especially common in brands located in tropical countries. Spun from wood pulp collected from Eucalyptus trees, Tencel is making the rounds in eco-friendly sewing communities.
Unlike other fabrics, manufacturers use a specialized type of eco-friendly solvent in the spinning process.
While it’s made with wood pulp, it technically doesn’t qualify as a natural fiber. This may sound confusing, but the key thing to remember here is that it’s still one of the most eco-friendly fabrics out there.
For this very reason, experts in the industry refer to it as regenerated cellulose instead of synthetic or natural fabric. Either way, you won’t have to worry about the environmental repercussions of producing Tencel.
Tencel is produced with less energy and water than other fabrics in the same category, like traditional cotton fabric. Unfortunately, it isn’t as sustainable as other “truly sustainable” fabric options like recycled cotton or organic linen.
Furthermore, Tencel scores high because it’s biodegradable. That said, you may want to check the quality of the Tencel fabric you’re using. Because of its versatility, it’s often mixed with other synthetic fibers or colored with regular dyes that aren’t exactly good for the environment.
Your best bet would be to look for an uncolored fabric since Tencel fibers are known to produce a stark white fabric. It doesn’t need bleaching, and if you choose to handle the color side of things, you’re better able to control exactly how eco-friendly your material is.
What Is Tencel Lyocell Fabric?Often mistaken as the same thing, Tencel is a brand of Lyocell fabric. While they have similarities in structure and form, one key difference defines them: Lyocell is made from bamboo pulp.
Technically, Tencel and Lyocell don’t have any differences. In fact, Tencel Lyocell is a popular choice for many sustainable clothing brands. That said, its core construction is the only thing that differentiates the two.
Even their processes are the same. Think of it this way: Tencel is the branded version of Lyocell. Kind of the same way you’d say Pampers over diapers.
Tencel Fabric Properties
Often used as a substitute for cotton or silk, Tencel is fast becoming a well-loved material because of its versatility and positive properties. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the fabric itself, let’s take a closer look at what it has to offer.
Look and FeelTencel looks and feels closely similar to silk. It’s silky smooth, rarely has any bumps, and feels divine on bare skin. Like bamboo fabric, it isn’t scratchy and drapes beautifully over any silhouette.
Another thing you’ll notice right away when looking at Tencel fabric because it has a slight sheen. It resembles cotton sateen fabric in appearance, which is why it’s also a popular bedding choice.
Unlike traditional cotton fabric, Tencel is less susceptible to wrinkling. Because of this, you’ll frequently find fabrics blended with Tencel fibers to increase their wrinkle resistance.
The result is often a smooth texture that falls flat without any or hallmark creases left behind. This is why the fabric is extremely popular among dress shirt manufacturers.
DurabilityA popular choice in activewear lines, Tencel is quite durable. Because of its construction, it’s less susceptible to thinning. That said, it does require a certain level of care.
But that isn’t to say that Tencel breaks down at the first sign of trouble. In fact, it’s one of the most durable fabrics out there. You can use it daily and wash it often without worrying about developing signs of wear and tear.
The only thing you need to keep in mind is that Tencel lasts longer when it’s washed by hand. If you want to prolong the life of the material, it’s a good idea to stick to handwashing just to be safe.
It technically doesn’t shrink after washing and is excellent when it comes to holding its shape. But you do need to watch out for signs of color fading when cheap dyes are used.
Lastly, you shouldn’t be surprised to find out that it gets softer with each wash. Similar to cotton, it gets much more comfortable over time.
A popular choice for tropical weather, Tencel is extremely breathable. Because it’s made of tiny fibers, it’s lightweight and feels very comfortable on your skin. Its unique composition allows air to pass through freely, which is why it’s in demand by clothing and bedding companies.
One of the hallmarks of Tencel is how soft it feels. It’s almost luxurious in the sense that it resembles bamboo fabric when it comes to softness. When you run your hands over Tencel sheets, it feels almost like a thinned-down version of mink combined with silk.
Unlike cotton, you won’t feel any scratchiness, pilling, or stiffness. This is mainly thanks to its fine fibers. It is tightly woven and since there are fewer visible threads, you’ll find it hard to see holes or textures in the fabric.
Moisture AbsorbencyYou might be surprised to know that Tencel is much more absorbent compared to cotton fabric. Since it’s made with what we call nanofibrils, it has excellent moisture-wicking properties.
This hydrophilic fabric wicks away sweat almost immediately, minimizing the risk of sweat sitting on the skin. Furthermore, it also reduces the possibility of bacteria and unwanted body odors when you get sweaty.
Combined with its amazing breathability, it’s no wonder that this fast-drying fabric is a popular choice, even for activewear.
Like I said before, Tencel is one of the most sustainable fabrics in the market. While it may not be as eco-friendly as organic linen or recycled cotton, it undergoes a much more energy-efficient process than traditional cotton.
Beyond being made from wood pulp, the fabric is also spun dry using a special eco-friendly solvent. From start to finish, each step of the process is designed to maximize its sustainability.
Gentle On The Skin
Because of its natural antibacterial properties, Tencel is a good choice for people with sensitive skin. Since it’s less likely to cause irritation or allergies, you’ll commonly see it used in baby gear, underwear, and activewear.
Furthermore, its softness also minimizes the risk of it rubbing against your skin, even when you move around frequently. You can wear it all day without feeling like the fabric is weighing you down.
Tencel follows one of the strictest production processes known in the industry. Manufacturers use very few chemicals to turn eucalyptus pulp into this ultra-soft fabric, which minimizes allergens.
What’s more, Tencel typically comes unbleached and undyed. So unless you’re dealing with blended or dyed fabrics, then you have nothing to worry about when it comes to concerns about allergies or skin woes when exposed to Tencel.
Is Tencel Fabric Stretchy?A popular choice for sock manufacturers and in activewear and underwear, Tencel is a fabric you can rely on for a flattering fit. Unlike woven cotton, it isn’t stiff or limited in terms of stretchiness.
The fabric stretches in all directions. Combined with its tendency to maintain its shape, the fabric doesn’t lose its form even when worn or used frequently and it will stay stretchy for years.
You’ll therefore find that Tencel is a popular choice for garments that require maximum give and versatility. Furthermore, it’s also frequently blended with fabrics like cotton to give it a bit more stretch.
Does Tencel Shrink?
It’s annoying to find out that your brand new clothes are two sizes smaller when you take them out of the washing machine. While it’s generally recommended to hand wash your Tencel fabrics, some hold up well to machine washing.
Tencel’s versatility and impressive stretch contribute to the fact that it doesn’t shrink. Because of this, you can wash it frequently without having to worry about it shrinking over time.
Is Tencel Breathable?
There are very few fabrics that offer true breathability. Some of the most popular are cotton, nylon, and polyester. While they may offer breathability, they’re not exactly the most comfortable or versatile.
This is where Tencel shines. Both breathable and flexible, this fabric offers all-day comfort. Its heat-regulating properties maximize wear time, so you don’t feel uncomfortable or hot even in hot weather.
Tencel’s breathability is one of the main reasons why it’s widely used in activewear.
What Is Tencel Fabric Used For?Stretchy, breathable, comfortable, and soft, there are many uses for Tencel fabric making it one of the most popular fabric choices in the industry. It’s typically sourced by textile manufacturers as well as bedding and garment companies.
Due to its many positive qualities, it’s often used in fabric blends to add stability, comfort, and stretchiness to other materials. It’s also often combined with cotton to give fabrics a better drape and minimize the appearance of wrinkles and creases when worn by customers.
But that’s not all Tencel is used for. It’s a popular choice with activewear clothing lines, thanks to its stretchiness and impressive moisture-wicking capabilities. Furthermore, it’s also incredibly breathable, which helps brands that use it add comfort as a selling point.
A truly versatile fabric, some of its other uses include being woven or sewn into:
- Dress shirts
- Summer apparel
- Comfortable t-shirts
- Sustainable clothing
- Baby clothes and gear
In reality, Tencel can be used for almost any sewing project you have in mind. That’s probably why it’s so popular in recreational sewing communities.
Is Tencel Biodegradable?
Although the finished product is technically not a natural fiber, Tencel is still sourced through sustainable practices. This includes the farming process of the eucalyptus trees from which the pulp is extracted and the eco-friendly solvent used to spin dry the pulp before turning it into threads.
That said, Tencel is one of the most biodegradable fabrics in the industry today. Synthetic chemicals aren’t used in the production process; neither are dyes nor bleach. Thanks to its strict focus on sustainability, the fabric breaks down almost as quickly as recycled cotton or organic linen.
However, it’s also important to keep an eye on the fabric you purchase. If it’s blended with any other material, it may be safe to say it isn’t biodegradable. Furthermore, if you notice any dyes, then it may have been exposed to non-biodegradable substances.
Is Tencel Fabric Better Than Cotton?
Despite its shortcomings, cotton remains one of the most popular fabric choices in the market. Not only does cotton have versatile uses, but it is also easy to care for and offers a level of comfort to users. Not to mention, it softens over time, which means it ages well.
That said, cotton is chock-full of cons that you might not be privy to. While we can’t honestly say that Tencel is ultimately better than cotton in every sense of the word, there are a handful of instances where it shines.
For example, Tencel doesn’t wrinkle or crease as quickly as cotton does. Its silk-like appearance and feel are reminiscent of sateen, but not quite exactly like it. The result is a silky smooth fabric that looks and feels elegant.
Furthermore, Tencel also performs better when it comes to breathability, absorption, and temperature regulation. Made with nanofibrils, this textile wicks away moisture mere seconds from production. This guarantees that your skin never sits wet, which could potentially cause bacteria to thrive or bad odor to develop.
All in all, I think it’s safe to say that while Tencel seems to have the edge over cotton, it certainly depends on what you’re comfortable with. Besides, you can always go for a cotton-Tencel blend if you’re not quite comfortable with pure Tencel.
Is Tencel Good For Hot Weather? For Winter?One of the fascinating things about Tencel is its remarkable temperature regulating quality. While most fabrics are better suited for either hot or cold weather, Tencel, it would appear, is built for year-round use.
Although more popular in sunny climates, Tencel can keep the user warm in winter, perfect for both hot and cold weather. Its thermo-regulating quality is one of the best in the industry and one of the reasons why many clothing brands are making the switch.
Take note, though that while it may keep you warm, you’ll still need to layer on more clothes come winter. That said, Tencel works better in an undershirt rather than a full-on, primary winter attire.
What Is Tencel Like to Sew With?
Despite its silk-like appearance, Tencel isn’t as slippery or shifty as silk. Instead, it is much more densely woven like Lyocell. If you’ve ever sewn using Lyocell fabric before, you know that there are a few things you need to keep in mind to make the process easier.
For example, you need to take a few precautions before sewing. Make sure your shears are as sharp as possible so you can easily cut through the fabric without hitting any snags.
Furthermore, it’s also a good idea to keep extra sharp and fine pins on hand while working with Tencel. This ensures you have a more secure hold over your material, allowing you to be more precise while cutting.
Tencel Fabric by the Yard
While Tencel isn’t exactly a luxury fabric, it does cost more than traditional cotton. This is mainly because it undergoes a more complicated process. While it is more energy-efficient, it does cost more to produce compared to other types of fabrics.
Depending on fabric blends or where you’re shopping, Tencel can cost anywhere from $10 to $30 per yard. It’s not cost-efficient for the typical consumer, but if you’re looking for something that’ll last long and feels luxurious on your skin, then it’s definitely worth the money.
How to Care For Tencel Fabric
Depending on the Tencel fabric you have, you may want to stick to washing by hand. This guarantees that your fabric will have a long life without any signs of wear and tear.
That said, depending on the care instructions on the label, you can also give it a spin in the washing machine. It’s important to wash it on a gentle cycle and dry it on a medium setting afterward. Rarely will you see wrinkles after washing your Tencel clothing.
But if it does happen, it’s recommended that you steam your clothes to get rid of the creases.
100% Tencel Clothing Examples
That’s it for today’s in-depth discussion on Tencel fabric. I hope you enjoyed learning about this amazing new fabric that’s taking the sustainable sewing communities by storm. What do you think?
Did we cover everything there is to know about Tencel fabric? If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, make sure you leave a comment below and I’ll answer it to the best of my ability. Better yet, let me know what your next sewing project will be!