A technological revolution generates a major cultural change, that’s history. Take the steam engine: several historians consider this revolutionary technology as one of the main reasons why slavery was abolished, making human beings equal and in front of the law. That’s why you can’t talk about the eco-fashion revolution we’ve been witnessing in recent years without talking about the Italian technology lavastraccia.
Why is it so important a machine which literally washes (lava) and tears old clothes apart (straccia)?
How can a humble thing be a symbol of recycling culture?
We will see how this technology may lead to a profound social change and a new vision in the textile sector.
Let’s see how the lavastraccia machine works.
What is the technology behind lavastraccia in eco-fashion?
The machine known as the lavastraccia is essential for the technology of regenerated wool or mechanical wool, the core business of our Italian eco-fashion company Comistra. By this, we can wash and rip up old rags, pieces, scraps of clothing, and other by-products of the wool industry. All of these fabrics are frayed into a mass of wool fiber, and this is ready to keep the recycling process on, to become a completely new yarn.
The lavastraccia is a machine with a cylindrical channel in a closed cycle, where the old rags are dipped in water and then sent towards a series of cylinders of two different types: on the one hand, they have sharp edges, on the other hand, they have seals with saw teeth.
Now imagine the rags under the dual-action, at two different speeds, of these two types of cylinders. The fibers open up, melting from their previous weaves. The water is essential in the lavastraccia: only water can ensure that the fibers flow in the best possible way and remain intact to allow a long fiber, which means quality.
Hollander beater: the grandmother of lavastraccia technology
The lavastraccia is an Italian machine that partially comes from the Hollander beater.
The Hollander beater was invented in the 17th century for the production of paper from old rags. It was also called ‘Dutch machine’ and it was made by a basin in concrete or stone, which was divided by a median baffle. Here, old cotton rags were soaked and treated to produce paper fibers.
Washing vs dry ripping up
In the process of regenerating wool, you may also have heard of dry ripping up. There are some similarities with the lavastraccia technology, but – as the name suggests – no water is added in the process. Lavastraccia also allows the wool fibers to remain more intact and longer.
Final fabric quality – Comistra’s choice
Mechanical wool obtained with a lavastraccia results in a homogeneous, shiny yarn with a longer fiber length than that obtained by dry ripping up. In short, we are talking about much higher durability and quality.
This may seem like a purely technical detail, but for us at Comistra, Italy, it represents a choice of goals: we firmly believe that a successful eco-fashion cannot be conceived without a technology that guarantees an excellent final quality (in the wool recycling process, which we deal with).
Furthermore, producing a wool garment that will last over time is our way of fighting the waste of fast fashion, and the idea of immoderate consumption of shoddy products – usually replaced the following season.
Comistra wants to make an impact in eco-fashion using its traditional technology. We hope that this will encourage a cultural change: the eco-fashion we envision offers to consumers an economical advantage and high-quality garments. In opposition, there’s compulsive buying and selling.
That’s why the lavastraccia is so important to us: not just a technology, but also the symbol of recycling culture.