A short history of Cotton Business Cards

We launched our Cotton cards in 2017, but making paper from scraps of fabric goes back way, way longer.

3 recycled cotton business cards

We launched our Cotton Business Cards in 2017, but making paper from scraps of fabric goes back way, way longer. In fact, it’s how all the best papers used to be made. So here’s a short history of a very long story. 

Rags become all the rage

The very first paper makers started things off in the seventh century. It was all trees and plants back then. But a couple of hundred years later, the Chinese created the first papers from linen rags. This was in 940, when business cards weren’t really a “thing”. 

Cotton becomes fashionable

In the 18th century, the English started making paper from recycled cotton. They’d collect up old fabric that was too knackered for clothes, but still good for paper. Very good for paper, in fact.

Sheet of cotton paper with tshirt shape cut out and cotton business card in the middle

The rise of the tree

For things like books and printmaking, wood fibre papers became the norm by the 1870s. But there was still a place for cotton because…

Cotton stays strong

As it’s so tough, rag paper is still used for bank notes. You can fold a normal piece of paper 400 times, but a dollar bill has to stand up to 8,000 folds. Exactly the kind of quality you’d want in, say, a business card. Hmm.

We start experimenting

Today, the fashion industry creates nine million tons of recyclable textile waste every year. So here at MOO, our design team wanted to put some of that to good use – initially making their own test papers from pulped T-shirt scraps. A bit lumpy, but full of potential.

Pile of white tshirt scraps next to recycled cotton business cards

Things blow up

We try feeding cotton scraps into a 100-year-old paper making machine. It gets clogged up, sending a jet of soggy pulp 60ft into the air. Whoops. But the paper looks great and prints beautifully, so we persevere. 

Cotton with a capital C

Using the bits of T-shirts that didn’t quite become T-shirts, we create the paper we call Cotton. It’s our first ever tree-free paper, but it’s rooted in a long history of recycled papers. Even if the word “recycling” didn’t exist until 1924 (a fact we just Googled). 

The story continues

In 2021 alone, we turned the equivalent of 134,947 T-shirts into Business Cards. And all kinds of brands are telling their story through Cotton, from plant shops to CamelBak. Five years on, it still feels fresh.

Recycled cotton business cards in various sizes and designs on a laundry line

Want to be part of history? Now create your own Cotton Business Cards.

October 2022 update: This article references the way we used to make Cotton Business Cards. We now use a different process.

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