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Fabric 101: What is Tencel? - Harmerandhuff

Fabric 101: What is Tencel?

This week we are delving into all things Tencel. What is Tencel? What is the best use of this product and how sustainable is it? 

Tencel is a new fabric right? Wrong!

Tencel has been around for decades now and was first developed in 1972 in the United States. It gained its popularity in the 1990’s as attention on improving sustainability in the fashion industry really began to grow. Tencel was first used in denim and is now a well-known eco-friendly fabric. 

What is Tencel?

This part can be a little confusing. Tencel is actually a brand name, not the name of the fibre. The fibre itself is called Lyocell and is often mistaken as the same thing as the brand name.

You will only see this type of fabric, called Tencel, when it has been produced by the Austrian company, Lenzing AG.

Lenzing first started to work with the lyocell fibre in 1990 and started to commercially produce Tencel in 1997. They focused on developing the fibre production and while much of the lyocell you find in fabric stores today is in fact Tencel lyocell, it is important to note there are other versions of lyocell being produced. 

a vivid emerald green Lenzing Tencel Fabric


How is Tencel made? 

Tencel is made from eucalyptus. It is made using a unique spinning process. Eucalyptus wood pulp is dissolved in a solvent to produce a wet mixture that is then dried using the spinning method. This mixture is pushed through small holes to produce cellulose fibres. The fibres are then chemically treated before being spun into thread and woven into a fabric. 

Eucalyptus  - Tencel is made from eucalyptus

What is Tencel’s Sustainability Value?

The production of Tencel's lyocell fabric is one of the great things about it. We have already explained in previous posts that there s no holy grail when it comes to sustainable fibres. However, Tencel produce their lyocell fabric in a closed loop system.

This means that the materials used during the production of Tencel can be recycled, in fact the system has the ability to reuse up to 99.5% of the water and solvents. The Lenzing AG company also guarantees the fabric produced under the Tencel brand is sourced from certified and sustainability-harvested forests. In comparison to standard cotton, Tencel fabric requires significantly less energy and water and does less damage to the land and water systems.

A Dutch not-for-profit organisation, Made By (, has created a benchmark for fabric based on its environmental impact. In its ranking, from Class A to Class E, Tencel was ranked in class B. For reference, Organic Linen was ranked class A, and standard linen Class C.

Post-production, Tencel is also considered a biodegradable product. Of course, keeping in mind it is important to watch out for what the fabric is blended with as if that is synthetic fibres of less sustainable value, this can reduce its overall sustainability. 

an infographic from Lenzing showing some of the environmental benefits of Lenzing Tencel

What are the Fabric Qualities of Tencel Lyocell?

Here are our favourite qualities about the Tencel fabric. 

  1. As it is made from Eucalyptus it is very breathable and kind to the skin
  2. It is known for its smooth and soft qualities
  3. Tencel has excellent drape and a soft feel
  4. Strong fibres make it very durable 
  5. It holds dye well and therefore makes very vibrant colours 
  6. Tencel manages moisture well so great for temperature control 
  7. It has hypo-allergenic properties
  8. It is a biodegradable fabric 

What is Tencel used for? 

Tencel is very versatile and can therefore be used when making a variety of garments. From flowy dresses to activewear Tencel is always a great option. Due to the phenomenal drape Tencel has, it can be a wonderful fabric for wide legged pants, flowing dresses, blouses and shirts.

The softness of the fabric combined with its antibacterial properties also makes it popular for baby wear. 

If you haven’t tried sewing with Tencel yet, check out our range here and give it a go. You won’t regret it! 

Happy Making!

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