100% Organic Cotton Fabrics
For home sewers, businesses, retailers, and anyone who gives a scrap!
Not Fantastic Plastic
Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile know I am NOT a fan of single-use plastic. My feeling is that solving one simple problem (getting something home from the store or restaurant) and creating a much more difficult problem (polluted air, water, land!) is really insane. Last week my friend George sent me a link to this NPR episode:
How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled
I highly recommend reading or listening to the entire thing but the sad takeaway is summarized in this quote from the segment: "Yet the industry spent millions telling people to recycle, because, as one former top industry insider told NPR, selling recycling sold plastic, even if it wasn't true."
If you are like me you have been watching in horror as the Pandemic has brought a resurgence of single-use plastic. (My own local grocery store still won't let me use a reusable fabric bag.) Then today I read this article:
Reusables Can Be Safe to Use During a Pandemic
and once again it is the oil industry shoveling misinformation for their gain and our collective loss. It makes me very sad. Sorry. I just needed to vent.
Trudy (pictured on the right) and I traveled to DC to participate in the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st, 2017. Trudy is 84 years young and one of my best friends.
One of the hardest parts leading up to our trip, was trying to figure out what our sign(s) should read. After much debate and suggestions from friends, I opted for "Fear Less" and Trudy's side of the sign read "Speak Up".
Trudy's parents were Jewish immigrants. All of her mother's family were killed in the Holocaust. I think this influenced her choice of words and fuels her need to make sure we are acting thoughtfully and compassionately to those around the world who are suffering in other countries.
"Fear Less" has become my mantra for 2017. It feels like there is so much fear surrounding us that it is easy to slide into the depths of despair. Fear of what might happen blinds us to the beauty that IS happening here and now.
For me, the beauty of January 21st was that by all accounts it was the LARGEST WORLDWIDE protest in the history of the planet and to the best of my knowledge there was not one arrest. (If I am wrong about this, please fill me in.) To quote Trudy:
In an attempt to explain the tremendous success of the Women's Marches all over the country and the world, comments like "that's because women were in charge" don't really tell the whole story. In our view, the credit goes not only to women, but to the amazing number of men; the wonderful diversity of color, of ethnicity, of generations. In DC, where we were, considering that three times the expected numbers attended, it was more like a "shuffle" than a march; people packed so closely that it was rife for frustration. But unbelievably, not only were there no arrests; there were not even skirmishes, impatience or unkind words! It was a beautiful spectacle of creative hats and signage and compliments/chatting being exchanged.......it didn't matter if one could see the stage during the rally or even hear the speakers....the dynamic energy during the entire day was extraordinary!
It was an honor to be a part of peaceful history in the making.
We've all heard the following statements over and over and over again. . .
That's nice and all, but what no one talks about or teaches you is HOW to love yourself. What does that mean?? I use to think it was spa days, pedicures, and saying "no" -- ya know, putting yourself first. It always sounded over indulgent and selfish. Over the last few years I have been trying (sometimes desperately) to define and then live from a space of loving myself. It has not been easy. There is a reason the word "practice" often follows the word spiritual.
What I think* I have learned:
1. Loving Yourself is more about what you feed your head than anything else. If you really listen to yourself talk is it kind? To you? To others?
*Truth is I am not 100% sure of anything. I tend to try things on and then test them. They either fit or they don't. If they don't I discard. If they ring true after testing I usually enlist a few friends to test them too and report back. Feel free to report back by commenting in this blog post.
The More Things Change. . .
When I took the exam to get my CBEST back in the early 90's the essay topic I had to write about was "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
Last night I watched the Academy Award winning 1982 movie Gandhi. In it, Gandhi's wife, Kasturba Gandhi states:
"There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness."
Wow. More than 30 years after the movie and perhaps 100 years after the words were uttered and that still rings true. When Kasturba said it, she was referring to the British landowners who were pushing the cotton farmers into debt. The British left India and the chemical (and seed) companies moved in.
Today, it is estimated that an Indian cotton farmer commits suicide every 8 hours. Here's a 5 minute video that explains the situation in more detail. A longer movie worth watching is Bitter Seeds.
Gandhi spoke to the humanity in us all. . . I wonder what it will take to hear the message this time around ? Are we destine to keep exploiting people and planet or will we eventually wake up to the reality that we are all much more deeply connected than we realize?
I must say that I feel really happy that Harmony Art supports organic (non-gmo seed) cotton farmers in India. It makes me feel connected to this bigger story we are all writing together. Individually we may feel insignificant but together we are mighty. Gandhi taught us that too.
I don't get it.
I avoid talking politics. I don't watch the news. However, I am so perplexed about what is going on in Washington I can't keep quiet at the moment. I just don't understand it.
I keep trying to wrap my head around it. Your business is about to default on its loans. . . you decide to give all of your employees a paid vacation? I don't think even the worst business owner would decide to do that. [Debt ceiling limit reached + furloughs with back pay = nonsense.]
My friend Karl tells me they are trying to make a bigger point. I'm sorry the only point I see is that they have NO common sense. Seriously. Who does that? It is mind boggling that these are our "leaders". Ok, I'll jump off my soapbox. I just had to get that off my chest. May sanity (and smart business/government decisions) prevail.
Did you know that Redwood trees drop 1/3 of their foliage every year? At my home/studio it is raining redwood leaves. I love this time of year. What is no longer useful has been identified and now when the wind blows just strong enough the leaves will be released and fall to the ground.
I feel totally in sync with the rhythm of the trees this year. I recently moved my office and found myself letting go of many things. Shedding the need to hold on and instead rejoicing in the release. I feel lighter. Clearing the way for the winter and turning my focus inward, preparing for the next growth spurt I know will happen come springtime.
Is letting go easy for you? For me it depends on many things but at the moment I am taking a lesson from my wise friends (the Redwood trees) around me and celebrating the Autumn Equinox. What are you ready to let go of?
In late May I received a call from my friend Cara. "We're calling your from REI. Wanna backpack the Appalachian Trail with me and Lorrie next month?" My response was silence. Not what Cara expected from her most-likely-to-be-hiking friend. I'd backpacked -- once. Up Half Dome in Yosemite. It was hard. very hard. I wouldn't call it fun. That was one night. They were proposing 4 nights and 5 days. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE LOVE LOVE hiking. It's where and when I feel the most sane but hauling everything you need to live changes the experience entirely. That much I did know. After unsuccessfully trying to convince the sisters to opt for camping + day hiking I relented, and against my better judgement and my husband's warning ("What are you nuts? You hated it. You swore you'd never backpack again.") I bought a plane ticket. It was arranged. They would drive from Texas and meet me at my aunt's house outside of Atlanta. We would hike the southern most part of the A.T.
Lorrie was the mastermind. She sent us itineraries, packing lists and links to various sites to purchase hiking poles and the like. I assumed she had done this before. It wasn't until we were on the trail that I learned this would be her first time backpacking and that I with my 1 night some almost 10 years ago was the most experienced. shudder.
In preparation I hiked our local trails slowing adding weight to my pack. 10lbs. -- no problem. I could even still keep up with my Saturday hiking group (they have a reputation for being ruthlessly fast). As the pack got heavier my fear grew stronger. I am not sure I can do this! When the pack fully loaded weigted close to 40lbs, I may have cried. I can't do this! I scaled everything down. Only the bare minimum. One long sleeve shirt, one short sleeve shirt, one pair of pants, etc. I was ruthless. Lorrie would bring the stove and water purifier, Cara the tent, and me the food. I purchased the 5-day meal combo. It weighted 10lbs! With water, food, sleeping bag, clothes, etc. I got my pack down to 35lbs and I boarded United flight 1446 SFO to ATL (via Chicago). It took 20 hours - but that's a whole other story.
Before departing I watched this video.
At minute 3:29: "In our avoidance of discomfort, we may become more uncomfortable." That struck a cord with me and echoed through my head. . .
"The more you need to be comfortable, the more likely you are to be uncomfortable." Nowhere is this more easily experienced than when you are backpacking. However, the more I have considered this more I have come to believe that this is not just trail wisdom. It's much, much bigger than that.
"The more you need to be happy. The more likely you are to be unhappy."
More what? Money, fame, friends, sales, likes on facebook, comments on your blog, shoes, fine wine, fancy cars, bigger house, new clothes, remolded kitchen, praise, vacation time -- the list is endless.
The trail strips everything away. You are down to basics: water, food, shelter. Your most important possessions are your feet and knees. Wants are simple. Basic. Then you return. Back to reality and hot showers, fresh vegetables, a bed. They take on a more sacred role. It's easy to fall into wants disguised as needs. Our culture and economy is based on this. . . but for now (and hopefully always) . . .
The trail lesson continues to ring in my head. Happy is here. NOW. :)
Textile Truths (birth of an idea)
June 27, 2011 Jen Madsen of Stitch Simple emailed me this statement: ". . . we need, you know that 'dirty dozen' list for organic produce? How about a list of most environmentally friendly arts and crafts supplies or home décor items?"
I thought she was absolutely right! But how to rate, rank, educate and not overwhelm people is no easy task. Fabrics are so much more complex than fruits and vegetables. As the idea progressed, I contacted Leigh Anne of Oecotextiles. She has one of the most comprehensive and thorough blogs about textiles and the chemicals in them. She is my go-to for the chemistry and statistics so I asked if she would be willing to help. Thankfully, she agreed!
The three of us (Jen, Leigh Anne, and myself) knew that there was SOOOO much information that one infographic was not going to do. Our goal then became to put together a series and it was decided that we would start with BABY since that seems to be the most common entry point for people when it comes to organic fibers. I took a stab at the graphic, I redid it about 20 times. It stalled and stammered. My dear friend Suz enlisted her graphic design friend Alison who took a shot at revamping my sad attempt. It helped but also lost the entire fabric focus. We knew we lost our audience. Alison did the work pro bono and I thank her deeply for helping move the project forward in April of 2012 and highlighting where we went astray (focus!).
It stalled for months. I was sick of looking at it and frankly didn't know what to do. In September of 2012 I was contacted by Linsi of Spark Collaborative. We had a mutual friend Rachel Hulan who connected the dots. I bit the bullet and hired Spark Collaborative to take a shot at it. I sent them various versions, thoughts, and challenges. The name was changed from Worst Things/First Things to Textile Truths (duh!) and the layout started to pull together.
I sought help from Suz again (she is an editing wizard with decades of experience!), my friend Madge (a marketing maven and hiking tour leader extraordinaire), and a select few others (you know who you are!!). Changes: color changes, text changes, font changes, layout changes, pattern changes, alignment changes and more changes were made. Then I sent it to GOTS to make sure they would approve of the logo usage. Whew. It got their blessing and now . . . drum roll please . . .
IT IS OUT IN THE WORLD at last. Will it fill the need we aimed to address? Will anyone read it and care? Will it go viral and ignite different purchasing behavior? Launch a helpful series? Help all organic fabric companies to be better appreciated for what they are doing? Will it crawl under a rock never to be seen? I don't know. Time will tell. I can tell you that I am very grateful to have it no longer haunting my to-do list! I also want to acknowledge all of the kind, thoughtful people who helped in this journey. I LOVE YOU and COULDN'T HAVE FINISHED THIS WITHOUT YOU!
I VERY MUCH welcome your feedback (too late for changes to this version) and if all goes as hoped (and prayed for) we will be releasing other versions for: Home, Fashion, Pets, etc.
Please feel free to share this with anyone you think would be interested.
Buckets full of hugs and gratitude to each of you. It is my gift to the organic fiber community and the world. I hope you like it.
For years I have wondered why is it that we require that infant and children sleepwear be treated with flame retardants. It has puzzled and perplexed me that to avoid a rare occasion of a burning house fire we would subject every child to the slow release of known toxic chemicals. Save a few by poisoning everyone? It made no sense.
Well, now I know. The Chicago Tribune Watchdog report recently came out with a 4 part series on Flame Retardants. FINALLY, my questions have been answered. Sadly the answers are pretty infuriating. I HIGHLY recommend taking the time to read this entire 4 part series. But in a nut shell, here's the rub:
PART 1: Dr. David Heimbach, a burn expert was paid for his testimony in front of the California state Senate on a bill that could have reduced the use of flame retardant chemicals in furniture. He testified about treating children with burns. Problem is the dramatic stories are lies. He made them up:
"Records show there was no dangerous pillow or candle fire. The baby he described didn't exist.
Neither did the 9-week-old patient who Heimbach told California legislators died in a candle fire in 2009. Nor did the 6-week-old patient who he told Alaska lawmakers was fatally burned in her crib in 2010.
Heimbach is not just a prominent burn doctor. He is a star witness for the manufacturers of flame retardants."
PART 2: How and why did we start adding fire retardants to furniture and other items? It can be traced back to cigarette companies. Yep. Cigarettes were starting fires and instead of addressing the problem at the cigarette level they decided to shift focus to furniture and blame it. Cigarette companies targeted fire departments around the country and began funneling money and influence to get the firefighter community to support their agenda.
"The fire marshals organization continued promoting flame retardant products even after it was clear that the chemicals inside were escaping, settling in dust and winding up in the bodies of babies and adults worldwide.
The marshals continued even after flame retardants were linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility."
If that weren't infuriating enough . . .
"The marshals just last year helped defeat a crucial bill in California that would have reduced flame retardants in products nationwide. The association's president at the time wrote a letter opposing the legislation. A lobbyist for the Citizens for Fire Safety Institute, a front group for the largest makers of flame retardants, read excerpts of the letter at the hearing where the bill was voted down.
And who remains a financial sponsor of the fire marshals, with its logo on the group's home page?
Chemtura, one of the world's largest producers of flame retardants."
PART 3: The science is grossly flawed. The statistics use to promote chemicals being put in everything from couches, to electronics, to children's sleepwear is based on manipulated and distorted science. Science that claims it is safe and effective.
"The main basis for these broad claims? A report so obscure it is available only in Swedish.
When the Tribune obtained a copy and translated it, the report revealed that many of industry's wide-ranging claims can be traced to information regarding just eight TV fires in western Stockholm more than 15 years ago."
To add insult to injury, the author of the most often used report says this:
"Vytenis Babrauskas says chemical manufacturers have "grossly distorted" his research to promote their fire retardants. The amount of chemicals in household furniture is often enough to pose health threats but not enough to stem fires; "the worst of both possible worlds," he says. (Kevin P. Casey, For Chicago Tribune / April 6, 2012)"
PART 4: Toxic roulette. They keep coming out with better/safer fire retardant chemicals but are they really safe? The latest "safe" chemical is Firemaster 550. The chemical makers claim it is safe, but is it?
"Documents obtained by the Tribune show that scientists within the agency were deeply skeptical about the safety of Firemaster 550, predicting that its chemical ingredients would escape into the environment and break down into byproducts that would pose lasting health hazards.
The manufacturer's own health studies, obtained by the Tribune, add to that troubling picture. They found that exposing rats to high doses of Firemaster 550 can lower birth weight, alter female genitalia and cause skeletal malformations such as fused ribs and vertebrae."
Sigh. Double sigh. Greed is a strange thing. At least I no longer have to wonder why we have such nonsensical laws. Now I just wonder how the people who work and promote such known toxic chemicals sleep at night. I am extra grateful today that my life's work is something that helps rather than hurts people and planet.
The Uggggggggg effect
I was in North Carolina in early December. I met with a GOTS certified dye house and completely "clicked" with the owners. Ya know when you meet someone and it's like you are simply on the same frequency? It was like that. We both believe strongly in doing the right thing for our customers, our environment, our communities. Neither of us believe in cutting corners or doing shady things like adding dye to get the weight of a fabric to appear heavier than it is. YES, companies do that! Eeeww.
I bring this up because when I was in the Carolinas I had a lot of time to myself in the car. I started thinking about the way things are manufactured these days. How cost has become such a driving factor. It seems to be valued over quality much of the time.
When I lecture I often recommend that people not buy cheap crap. The cost to people and planet are way more expensive (and hard to solve) than the just avoiding the items in the first place. The more I thought about it though, people aren't just selling things cheaply, they are selling CRAP and when it is cheap for some reason we let them get away with selling us crap. That's the problem. We accept crap.
Example: My mother-in-law loved her Ugg boots and wanted me to have a pair. She bought me a pair and within a couple of months the sheepskin interior was worn out and my ankle was rubbing against plastic. Ouch. Well, as I am sure you know, Uggs are NOT cheap. We called the company and were told, "No, they should not wear out that quickly. Send them back and we will send you a new pair." Done and done. Three months later, same thing happens. We call them yet again. We discover this time in talking with the customer service person that the new Uggs aren't made in Australia, they are made in . . . you guessed it . . . CHINA! I am sure they did this to save $$ but they definitely lost quality. At this point, we asked if there were ANY still made in Australia? Yes, different style and color. So I ordered those. That was over 3 years ago and I still am enjoying them and the sheepskin is still intact.
I went through the hassle of returning 2 pairs because I expected more for the money that was spent. I wondered though, would I have bothered with a pair of $20 knock off Uggs from Walmart? Probably not. In my opinion, there lies the problem with cheap crap. We don't expect it to be worth much and therefore we get what we pay for. Unfortunately, it isn't just ourselves that end up being hurt in the process; it's the factory workers that are paid poorly, the planet that is exploited, the landfills that grow enormous, the Gyres that spread. It's the vicious and unfortunate state of things.
We like to play victim. Blame mutli-national corporations but they are rich and powerful because we buy their crap and we don't hold them to any standards of quality. So I have reframed my statement. Cheap isn't the enemy, crap is. We've allowed it. 99 cent stores are all about this. Whose going to complain about something that only cost 99 cents? We should, or we shouldn't buy it. But to do both is to only exacerbate the problem.
Do you want to join my crusade to AVOID CRAP? Ok, I'll hop off my soapbox.
Founder of Harmony Art organic design.