You’ve probably heard of kombucha tea — that bubbly, fermented, sorta vingeary drink lining the shelves of your health food store. But did you know it can make clothes?

If you’re science-loving fashion designer Suzanne Lee, you know. She coaxes the bacteria in the drink to expel a material for designing clothes.

How? "Tea, sugar, a few microbes and a little time," she says in her talk at TED2011. “I’m essentially using a kombucha recipe,” she says, “which is a symbiotic mix of bacteria, yeasts and other micro-organisms, which spin cellulose in a fermentation process. Over time, these tiny threads form in the liquid into layers and produce a mat on the surface.” Watch the whole talk here»

Above, some of Suzanne’s creations made from her kombucha-based material as part of the BioCouture research project.

And for a super cool complement to this talk, check out this talk from TEDxVienna about fabric … you spray on.

(All photos Suzanne Lee & BioCouture)

Skylar Tibbits makes things that make themselves.

In this new video — part of a series chronicling the day-to-day adventures of TED Fellows — TED Fellow Tibbits reveals some of the mesmerizing, wacky, and revolutionary materials coming out of MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, where his team prints objects with “memory” that dynamically respond to stimulation.

Think: a printed cube that folds before your eyes, or a printed pipe able to sense the need to expand or contract.

Recently, the Self-Assembly Lab has produced some delightfully brainy creations, like a strand of material that folds itself into any number of Crambin protein structures when thrown into the air. (Crambin proteins, if you didn’t know, are seed storage proteins for a type of cabbage. But you already knew that, didn’t you?)

Watch the whole video here»