Category Archives: Stories Behind the Crafts

The Life of Our Fabric, Cotton

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This gorgeous print is by artist Julia Bowling Burnett. To view and purchase more of her work, click here.

You know the jingle for the cotton. And it really is the fabric of our lives. One look at the tags of your clothing, bedding, linens and most of you will find that you really do live in cotton.
It is, by far, the most common fabric found in the shop. I love it because it’s easy to work with, soft, absorbent, comes in almost endless colors and prints. But there’s an ugly side to this well-loved fabric.
The amount of pesticides allowed on food can be astounding so just imagine what they allow on crops not intended for food! Cotton fields are laden with toxic chemicals, much of which runs off to pollute rivers and soil. Ninety percent of cotton is farmed in third-world countries. This means they have few, if any, regulations on pesticides.
From toxic fields, cotton is transported to be dyed. More toxins are added to both the cotton and the environment. Forty percent of all denim sold in U.S. is dyed in South China. Rivers flowing nearby dye factories dump so much poisonous dye into the rivers it can actually be seen from orbit.
Once dyed, the cotton must be sent to yet another factory to be turned into the product you buy. For some items, this means being sent off to sweat shops where people, people like you and I trying to provide a good life for our families, are paid unfair wages, forced to work through illnesses and consistently being forced to work multiple shifts in a row. Some workers will literally use clothes pins to pin their eyes open as they work hour after hour after hour. People, like you and I, just trying to provide the most basic care for their families.
So what can we do about it? I think we need to start by becoming more aware that this happens. Take a moment to watch this video which details much of what I’ve written above.

So what are our options? When purchasing new, we can use tools such as the Good Guide smartphone app. Using this we can learn to buy new products from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible. We can use our power to vote with every dollar we spend.
As we learn to think more about the hidden cost of new products we bring into our home, we can also focus on buying used when possible. This keeps our money out of the hands of greedy, bottom-line focused companies while keeping items out of our landfills.
As a purveyor, ok – borderline hoarder, of fabrics I find joy in giving items a second chance at life. I love hunting down just the right print at thrift shops and antique malls. My friends know I’ll never turn down an in-kind donation of random fabric scraps. I even received a call to pick up a truckload of upholstery fabrics from our local animal shelter after someone dropped off the unwanted lot to them.
But what’s more important than the joy I get in finding a great piece of fabric to up-cycle, is the benefit of not polluting our Earth and of not subjecting another human being to unimaginable circumstances. And so I want you, my customers, to know that I support responsible companies when purchasing new fabrics and that I look first to local distributors to supply my crafty endeavors. When I can’t find local sources I move to Etsy where I can support small businesses also dedicated to the handmade movement. So far, I’ve not had to look elsewhere. If I did, I think I’d have to question how important the really project is, as well as how sustainable it is. But as I’ve learned, it just isn’t worth the cost of that hidden price.

When Your Mom Asks for a Diaper, It’s Time To Get Sewing!

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I had given up much of the disposables in my life for some time.  I recycled/re-purposed all my tupperware and switched to glass jars, swapped out paper towels for cloth and I couldn’t tell you the last time I bought paper napkins.  We had been using  dish towels and rags for years, but now with my 18 month old being well out-grown for his newborn sized prefolds, they became our go-to napkin stash.  Or stack.  Very large stack.

this is about 1/16th of my “stash”
 Yes they were a bit bulky and the absorbency was definite overkill when all you needed was to wipe a wee bit of sauce off your chin, but they were available, by the dozens, and they did the job.
My parents were visiting for a few days and as we were sitting down to a big, delicious dinner my Mom speaks up and says “Oh, I need a diaper please”.  Not what you want to hear your mom say.  Ever.  And at dinner?  Oy.
And so I knew it was time to retire the prefolds.  We needed simple, durable and attractive napkins.  It was a simple enough task and certainly my family was worth it.  And that was also something the reminded me of something my Mom had said (don’t worry, nothing disturbing about this one)…
When I was about 15 and living at home I had woken up from a nap (ahhhh, remember those?) and came into the kitchen to find my mom, her hair tied up in a red kerchief, buzzing around from stove top to table to fridge to sink.  The table was set and every inch covered with homemade goodness.  There was yet more bubbling away on the stove top.  Apparently she was out to impress someone.

“I didn’t know we were having people over.  Who’s coming for dinner?” I asked, not even awake yet.

“No one.”  She seemed puzzled I would ask that.

“What about all this food?”

“It’s just for us” she answered matter-of-factly, continuing to buzz about the kitchen.  “We’re worth it, aren’t we?”

Certainly our family didn’t sit down to lavish meals every night.  Some nights we barely sat down.  But that stuck with me.  And so while the newborn prefolds were getting the job done, I wanted Real. Nice. Napkins for my family.   Because my family is worth it and so is YOURS!  And of course because I don’t want to hear another adult request for a diaper as I sit down to meatloaf and mashed potatoes.