100% Organic Cotton Fabrics
For home sewers, businesses, retailers, and anyone who gives a scrap!
When I was a little girl I had a blue blankie. It went everywhere with me. Eventually it disintegrated and had to be thrown out. It was a sad day in my life.
A few months ago my dear friend Teresa (aka The Green Bag Lady) sent me a VERY special gift that she and her "Bagettes" made for me. When Teresa was visiting a while back we came across some dresses and skirts from my childhood that I still had! I gave them to Teresa for her youngest daughter to wear. When she out grew them Teresa couldn't bring herself to donate my 30+ year old clothes to Goodwill so she and the Bagettes transformed them into a quilt for me. I had NO idea they were doing this. Imagine my surprise and delight when I opened the package and found this thoughtful, one-of-a-kind, re-recycled gift! I was speechless, touched, thrilled! Teresa even incorporated a hood for me so I could wear it while I worked. When we renewed our vows on Bowling Ball Beach, I wore it. When we took a road trip to LA in June, I took it and wore it. I basically am 5 years old with a blankie again. . . and lovin' it! THANK YOU TERESA and THE BAGETTES! I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
A couple of months ago we did a printing experiment with a USA printer. We used existing screens (Sweet Jane & Let it Grow) and printed them in new colorways. We printed on organic white jersey, natural sateen, natural flannel and natural denim. I posted the colorways on our facebook page and got feedback from from our fans to determine which colors we printed. We offered special wholesale pricing to our existing customers if they pre-ordered a roll before production. By knowing the demand before printing we were able to do some exciting and custom production runs. (Example: One new company wanted denim so we put a special roll of denim in for them.)
So, was the experiment a success? Yes. There are still kinks to get worked out and we learned several things along the way (like don't trust the printers estimate of the pallet's weight - they under estimated it by half!) but all in all I think it was a positive experience.
HUGE thanks goes out to all the pre-orderers! YOU made it possible. I welcome any and all feedback you may have from your perspective. Would you pre-order again? Did you like the quality of the printing? I'd like to hear from YOU!
If we do another, I am leaning towards: Sweet Jane (original pink), Ohio (maybe in new colors) or Uncomplicated (maybe in new colors). Uncomplicated is a large scale floral.
To give you and idea of scale of Uncomplicated, you can see it in use as our studio curtain. It was originally printed on twill but I am thinking maybe sateen this time around.
NOTE: This USA printer is NOT GOTS certified. Which is not ideal but if we decide the relationship is working, and we bring them enough business, then we can then start putting some real pressure on them to make the GOTS commitment.
A couple of weeks ago, we were in southern California. We visited the City of Los Angeles Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant & Japanese Tea Gardens. I kid you not, you look one direction and see this:
You look the other direction and see this:
From their web site: "The Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant (DCTWRP), was designed to produce reclaimed water that will meet the requirements of the California Department of Health Services and the County Health Department for specific uses with the priority to protect public health. The main function of the plant, however, is to relieve the overburdened portions of the wastewater collection system between the San Fernando Valley and the City's main wastewater treatment facility, the Hyperion Treatment Plant, located in Playa Del Rey.
The balance of positive and negative forces, Yin & Yang, are ever present here. Obvious in the skillful blending of traditional Japanese landscaping with modern Occidental architecture, less so in the way the Japanese concept of "WA" or harmony is used to unite the desires of the human spirit with our more mundane requirements—the exquisite beauty of a Japanese garden with the need for an abundant supply of fresh water."
Pretty cool, don't you think?
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.
I fell in love with these simple little button hair clips when I saw them at Anthology in Madison, WI. I purchased one at their store and then tracked down the maker, dainty daisies and contracted her to make me my own set of Harmony Art organic cotton button hair clips. I sent her swatches of the fabric to use and this is what came back!
Aren't they lovely! They came packed in this sweet little box.
Michelle normally uses scraps from the clothing she creates to make these button clips but she made an exception for me. (THANK YOU!) I'd call that upcycling - turning a scrap into a colorful hair clip.
Dainty daisies has a brick and mortar location of their own in Appleton, Wisconsin. They also have a blog you might like to check out.
I just love all the crafty, creative, beautiful women & mother entrepreneurs. Three cheers for small independent designers!
On March 10th a dear friend and mentor passed away. David Moore was the President of Protected Investors of America when I first started working there back in the 90s. I worked there for 5 years and had the pleasure of working under Dave for much of that time. He was thoughtful, intuitive and taught me SO much not just about business but about life.
I thought I would take this opportunity to pass on some of the wisdom I learned from Dave.
Another thing I learned from Dave was to appreciate good food. He was a foodie before that word existed in our lexicon. If you had the pleasure of going out to lunch or dinner with Dave you knew it was going to be an experience you would remember.
When Dave retired I designed his new "un-business" cards for him. He retired to sail on his boat the Wu Wei with his son, Richard. On the back of his cards we had printed the explanation of Wu Wei:
"Wu wei doesn't try. It doesn't think about it. It just does. And when it does, it doesn't appear to do much of anything. But things get done. Wu wei is like a sixth sense - being sensitive to circumstances. One of the most convenient things about this sense is you don't have to make so many difficult decisions. Instead, you can let them make themselves."
That sums up Dave's philosophy and one I still struggle to emulate.
Even after Dave retired we stayed in touch. He was always just a phone call away with sound advice and thoughtful questions. My life was richer with him in it. His body is gone but his love and wisdom remains.
When Dave retired he gave me the paperweight I always admired on his desk and a picture that hung in his office. Both are still here with me and will always be treasured. To quote the Peace Pilgrim, he has made the "glorious transition to a freer life."
Smooth sailing, Captain!
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.
Back in 2004, I vividly remember waking up from a dream with this vision of what was wrong with our economy and how it could be fixed. The latest Occupy Wall Street Movement has this back on my mind. . .
I believed then (and still believe now) that what is wrong with our economy can be summed up in one word: GREED. Greed that exploits planet and people. The "Green Movement" has made strides on the planet side (albeit we still have a long way to go!) but the people part has, in my opinion, in this country, only gotten worse.
Case in point, check out this graph that shows that CEO pay is now 350 times the average worker's, up from 50 times from 1960-1985. 350x the AVERAGE worker! I wonder what the discrepancy is for the lowest paid worker? Here's another graph that proves the point. (The entire article and charts are worth looking at.)
Let's do the math. So... say I make $50,000/year that means the CEO is making over $17 MILLION dollars a year or... $47,945/day - 365 days of the year. Is there truly anyone who is worth SOOO much more than everyone else? I am NOT against paying heads of companies large salaries, I just think they should not do so at the expense of the employees that make the company run. I think we need limits on compensation and if our government doesn't have the will to make it happen, I think WE THE PEOPLE can make it happen. How? you ask.
My solution is a color coded rating system based solely on economic discrepancies between employees. The color code system would be Green, Yellow, Red. The symbol could be an infinity sign in the various colors and stages of completion and distortion (example above).
The GREED ALERT break down:
Green closed infinity sign: Highest paid employee makes no more than 10x the lowest paid full time employee (including bonus and incentives).
Yellow almost closed infinity sign: Highest paid employee makes no more than 100x the lowest paid full time employee (including bonus and incentives).
Red very distorted infinity sign: Highest paid employee makes more than 100x the lowest paid full time employee (including bonus and incentives).
These easily identifiable color coded symbols could be posted in store windows, web sites, on products, etc. as a selling point (unwritten message for Green: We care about our workers) and as a warning label on stores who fall in the RED zone. Obviously, the RED companies would view this as negative publicity would not want to post their color but if a company is publicly owned their compensation information is public. With some research we could have a website or app that would let you look up a company and find out their color code/Greed Alert rating.
We could target some of the worst companies with grassroots exposure. People all over the country could post about the RED companies on the same day on blogs, facebook, twitter, ya get the idea. With a target on a high profile company, I believe we could get quite a bit of media coverage of such an organized event. The cost would be minimal.
With enough use/education I envision people asking the places they shop -- "What color are you?" or "What's your GA (Greed Alert) rating?" The beautiful thing is that it speaks to the general public regardless of politics, race or religion... and has the potential for real change. Wouldn't you rather work for and support companies whose discrepancy in pay is not obscene? If it worked, we would see the gap close and wealth back in the hands of more than a handful of people. I think it could re-ignite our economy and country in a profound way. If you want to give your top guys a raise, great! You just need to give your bottom guys a raise too.
I believe this grassroots movement has the potential to change the business world as we know it. Years ago when this thought first hit me, I registered CloseTheLoop.org and also GreedAlert.org I would happily donate these to the right group willing to do the research and web design necessary to pull this off.
I welcome your thoughts and suggestions. Please forward this to anyone you know who could help bring the vision to reality -- if you think it is worthwhile. Ok, I'll hop off my soap box now.
I do NOT like vinyl shower curtains. I use to design them for places like WalMart and Target. I can still vividly remember the smell that accompanied the samples that would arrive. They off-gas terrifically -- a sure sign of toxic chemicals invading the air you breathe.
We have an odd (deep) shower in our house and I have been looking for the perfect NON-vinyl liner for quite some time. You may remember my post about making a Tyveks one last year. Well, that worked for a while but the Tyveks molded and ended up not being a good solution. It came out of the shower super wrinkly and I didn't dare iron it and they did not disappear when the curtain got wet.
This summer I took the Tyveks one down and replaced it with my own organic cotton sateen fabric.
I used our Vein organic cotton sateen fabric. As many of you know by now, I do not sew so this curtain liner was made without a sewing machine! I knew I didn't want hems to trap extra water and hold moisture so I simply used the selvages as the top and bottom and tore (yep you read it correctly) the sides. The only tool I did use was to apply the grommets. If you know how to make a button hole I am sure that would have worked just as well.
I have been SUPER impressed with how quickly the fabric dries. It lets no water through and it can easily be tossed in the washing machine if you want to freshen it up. I don't have to iron it. If it has a few wrinkles, I just spray it down the next time I am in the shower and voila - no more wrinkles. I truly believe that organic cotton sateen (light weight) IS the answer to toxic vinyl shower curtains.
What do you use?
This week my friend Elaine posted on Facebook:
Thinking of you today, Harmony - I'm wearing my favorite Eyes of the World skirt for a green Monday.
This got us talking about creating a Green Monday Movement. What if each of us made a conscious effort to do something "green" every Monday? It could be wearing organic cotton, remembering your fabric bag when you go shopping, biking to work, eating an organic meal, planting a seed, recycling, up-cycling, picking up a piece of trash, taking public transit . . . the possibilities are endless!
I am not personally much into Twitter, but Elaine suggested we start a #GreenMonday hashtag (is that the right word?) and see if we can take this concept viral! Do you think we can do it? Let's try!!!
I encourage you to post pictures or comment on the Harmony Art facebook page next Monday (September 26th) and every Monday after that about what you did on "Green Monday". Or you can add a comment on this blog too. Feel free to spread the word on Twitter, your own facebook page or blog . . . and let's see what happens! If nothing else, it will be fun for the few of us who take the call to action and perhaps, just perhaps it will catch on.
To quote Elaine again, "Mondays have been blue for too long!"
Founder of Harmony Art organic design.