Sea Me & Seaweed: Algae as resource for textile color processes and yarns

It all started with “Sea Me” – a rug. A gorgeous rug – a rug that is much more than just a rug: Sea Me is poetry, a metaphor. Sea Me is a pile fabric made from sea alga; an algae pile woven into an old fishing net and that just turns into a rug through this symbiosis. With this project Nienke Hoogvliet bridges the gap between marine waste carpets and the incredibly beautiful things the sea has to offer.

And these – if you share Hoogvliet’s view – doubtlessly include algae: supported by the Dutch Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie the designer has continued over the past few years what she started with Sea Me – researching how algae can be used as a sustainable textile dyestuff and be turned into a sustainable algae yarn. In cooperation with Xandra van der Eijk she created “Colors of the Oosterschelde”. The two researchers collected over 20 different species of algae to validate their textile experiments and their potential scalability. The result of their studies virtually calls for further research:

Each algae species has a different colour and shows its own colour palette. To demonstrate the practical benefit of their ideas also on a bigger scale, Hoogvliet and van der Eijk tavelled to Ireland where every year 100,000 kg of algae are washed ashore and largely treated as waste.

It is precisely this dualism that Nienke Hoogvliet already captured when she used an old fishing net as the basis for her Elysian rug – the waste materials can be reused to give them a second life in both aesthetic and practical terms. Hoogvliets aims to raise awareness about an innovative material and to inspire other textile designers and product managers. After all, algae-based yarns could be part of the solution to sustainability problems in the textile industry: algae are not only frequently treated as waste they also grow a lot faster and require far less nutrients than cotton.