Clothing made from corn could be saving hundreds of North Carolina textile jobs from heading overseas.
Four North Carolina factories now produce socks and scarves from a corn-based fabric.
The product is especially popular in Japan.
The machines humming at Catawba Valley Community College may be spinning the next hot seller in socks. This is where textile plants send newly developed fabric for testing as US companies try to figure out how to fend off foreign competition.
"It's hard to predict what the consumer is going to buy or what's going to be the next hot thing."
Dan Saint Louis runs the hosiery technology center in Hickory, a lab that recently perfected the latest invention in clothing fabric made from corn.
"It's a new yarn that we're introducing, but we're very pleased in the interest that people are showing it."
Four North Carolina companies now produce clothing made from ingeo, the patented cloth that looks and feels like cotton, but is actually a man made fiber derived from plant sugars, the fabric is biodegradable, and has become a big seller in Japan.
"They are very very environmentally conscious. They don't have places for anything extra in their landfill."
Photo by treehugger.com.