Circular knitted fabrics made from Modal fiber are very light and produced from cellulose.
Therefore, it is of organic origin. However, its production involves the use of several chemical processes, transforming it not into a natural fiber, but rather into an artificial one.
The cellulose used for the production of Modal fiber comes from a specific type of wood, taken out of the Beech tree – a deciduous tree of the Oak family that can reach up to 40 meters. Recognized for its durability, Modal fiber began to be developed in the 1930s, but mainly for industrial use. However, its production method was only patented about 20 years later, by Japanese Shozo Tachikawa.
Its technical name is “polynosic fiber” and the process by which it is created is very much based on what is the same method used for the production of Viscose, which is why these two artificial materials are often compared with each other.
Nowadays, some Modal fiber is still made in Japan, but it is in China that most of it is produced, and it is in Austria that we find the most recognized company in the market: Lenzing.
Modal fiber is considered a more sustainable alternative, even when compared to natural alternatives such as cotton, due to the lower need for water to plant the trees.
Modal fiber is an artificial fiber, produced from cellulose. In practice, it is an improved version of Viscose. This is also why this is one of the most luxurious materials on the market, particularly in the area of sustainable fashion.
Modal fiber is recognized for its durability and extreme softness to the touch.
There are even those who compare the touch of circular knitted fabrics made of Modal fiber as if it were a comfortable and cozy hug. But there are more essential features pertaining to the Modal fiber. This is an elongated, soft, and airy artificial item that does not crease. Furthermore, it has a great absorption capacity, which makes the dyeing processes much faster.
Due to its organic origin, Modal fiber is completely biodegradable. At the same time, its composition allows it to be mixed with others, organic or not, without great complexity.
Its production process is very similar to that of Viscose.
However, Modal fibers are chemically treated more often, in a continuous processing that makes them stronger and lighter. It all starts with the wood gathered from the Beech tree. The wood is first collected and then thinned so that its pulp can be properly extracted. The cellulose is next converted into large, very long overlay sheets and submerged in Sodium Hydroxide.
The overlay sheets are subsequently broken into very small pieces and then submerged again, but this time in Carbon Disulfate and then again dipped in Sodium Hydroxide.
The resulting chemical solution undergoes an extrusion process, where it is forced to pass through spinnerets specially designed for the purpose. On the other side the Modal fiber is extracted, then washed and treated so that it can create high quality circular knitted fabrics.
As it is a longer process, Modal fiber is also more expensive. Together with its softness and resistance, circular knitted fabrics made from Modal fiber are an article of quality, luxury, and refinement.
Modal fiber is flexible, soft, and light. Its touch is both comfortable and relaxed.
Although artificial, its sustainability levels outweigh those of many other options, due to the few natural resources needed for its production. However, this also ultimately depends on the standards required in each country during the production method, which involves both organic, industrial, and chemical processes.
Modal fiber does not crumple. Its resistance allows for the articles produced to last much longer, even when stretched to their limit. As a matter of fact, “athleisure” is one of the fashion areas that has made the most use of this type of artificial material.
At ITJV, it is only available through catalogue request and sample validation.
This text was written and published in 2021