Green Chi: Fabrics With a Good Hand

When I shop for clothes my hand reaches out as soon as my eyes spot a color and texture that appeals to me, to feel if the fabric has a “good hand.” The fabric hand connects me immediately to my senses, my body, to how the clothing feels, to its sensuality, to my harmony with it. It is at the instant of the touch that I make my choice about taking a closer look.

I do believe we know intuitively when we are in the presence of natural materials and that it is with those that we belong. Natural materials have some sort of a life energy that we feel when we touch them. I was oh, so transported when I first touched bamboo fabric, a bath towel. I couldn’t take my hand away, I wanted to sink into the fabric, wrap myself in it, almost as if it was providing me with something that I craved. What is it about bamboo? And wool, the first night I slept in an all-organic bed with a wool comforter, I woke up and hardly recognized myself because I was so calm, rested, and serene. Wool is surely one of the wonder fabrics, and besides studies suggesting that it can slow and calm the heart, it can hold 30 percent of its weight in water without feeling damp.

It isn’t that all natural fibers have all aspects of a good hand, some are rough and stiff, but part of the “hand” is the way the fabric harmonizes with you. Natural fibers always benefit you in some way, and are called “active fibers” for this reason.

So imagine me at Marshalls, walking down the aisle with my hand out, reaching to touch the fabric with appealing colors. I learn all I need to know from the fabric hand, that is if I pay attention. Sometimes, of course, I don’t “hear” myself and see a style and color of cotton pant that I want, and it is only later, after buying them and sitting at my desk in them, that I feel the slight unease, the lack of contentment in my legs, because of the finish that is supposed to keep them from wrinkling. Since, I’ve learned that such finishes end up in breast milk and are contaminating the planet in untold ways. The fabric hand told me about this, if I had “listened. It didn’t have a good drape, or a good feel.

I remember, too, after paying attention to how I felt, taking off a fleece vest. I realized that what I had thought felt warm, sealing me in from the elements, was in fact cutting off my body’s ability to breathe. Barbara Brennan, a world renowned teacher of energy healing, says that natural fibers have a strongly positive effect on the energy field and that people should avoid clothes made of petroleum by-products because those can disrupt the body’s normal energy flow.

My hand knows all this, by way of the fabric hand, if I pay attention. I just have to push out all the noise in my head from advertising and about fashion musts, in favor of what resonates with me.

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Olena K.
Olena K7 years ago

At first glance, 'natural' fabrics seem like the more eco-friendly choice. However, anyone who wants to be more mindful about what kinds of fabrics s/he uses should also be aware of how the fabrics are grown, harvested and produced into clothing, bedding, etc. You may be surprised at what you learn. Also, not everyone is able to use all natural fabrics for a couple of reasons: allergies and/or limited monetary resources ('organic' materials are VERY pricey, as a general rule). In my case, I am very allergic to wool. Even alpaca wool gives me the itchies. Currently, my husband is unemployed, and I'm on unpaid leave of absence due to auto accident injuries. So, our household income is very limited. If I do buy clothing at a thrift store, pricing is definitely one of the top considerations.

Beng Kiat Low
low beng kiat7 years ago


Melody T.
Melody T9 years ago

Wow... I am so going to feel clothes way more before I buy. I always feel a little, but never really, really think about how natural it feels.

Patricia French
Patricia French9 years ago

Yes, I find the best clothes by touch first as well, and they are always natural fabrics. I walk down the aisles of Second Hand Clothing Stores doing that. I love it when my hand finds it, then I read the label, and see it was made awhile ago, maybe right here in Canada, in a little old business that once thrived.

I wish I wasn't allergic to wool, I am very jealous of how that sleep of yours sounded!

Cathy T.
Cathy T9 years ago

unless you're one of those people who, if they have wool anywhere on their person..even if its several layers up.. itch like the devil!!! lol

Katharine Welch
Katharine Welch9 years ago

This is so true - I only buy clothes where the color attracts me and the material feels good. But I never put words to it before. Thanks for bring this to my attention.