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| May 2008 »
Just in time for May, we're ushering spring in with a plethora of new goodies for our site. Check out all these splendid new fabrics:
- Grandma's Candy Jar: I love the different colored, ColorGrown cotton stripes. Can't you see a set of table linens made out of this fun woven fabric?
- Asparagus Stalk: With asparagus just appearing at our Farmer's Market, how could we not offer a fabric in its honor? This is a crisp, exhilarating fabric enlivened with ColorGrown green stripes.
- Brown Sugar Stripe: Yes, we were hungry when we named these fabrics. But they're delectable, so we really can't be blamed! This one has a great antique feel to it that makes me think of turn-of-the-century (not THIS century, the last one) creations.
- Baby Blue and Magenta Light Interlock: Not quite as light as a feather, but they sure feel close -- these limited-edition, soft fabrics in stylish colors were originally knit for a baby accessories manufacturer but don't let that stop you from using them for the whole family!
- Subtle Pointelle: Though it's ridiculously difficult to photograph or scan (please don't complain to Winnie; I did the best I could!), this is a new and subtle version of that classic pointelle knit that can add interest and distinction to many different uses. I see it being particularly useful for baby clothes, where a normal pointelle design might be overpowering.
- Creamy Stretch Cotton Jersey: Creamy white (rather than the natural you'll usually find in our undyed jerseys, to add more variety to your wardrobe or fabric stash. Excellent for exercise wear.
- Light White 2x1 Rib Knit: Again, a white version of a classic natural fabric. I love this one -- it's soft, interesting, and really pretty.
- Shellgame Hemp/Organic Cotton Twill in Crimson, Moss, and Navy: This pattern is also available on a 100% hemp, but I think I prefer it on the hemp/organic cotton twill because of the softness cotton imparts. It's a fun, modern, large-scale pattern that makes us feel like we're on vacation even when we're not ... what could be better than that?
I think I added more fabrics, but I can't remember them now -- ack! You'll just have to find them yourself! If you're a knitter, check out these fun hemp knitting kits:
- Kathy's Everywhere Tam: So many people at the San Francisco Green Festival were captivated by this pattern, and a lot of Rastafarians wanted it because in the XL size their dreads would fit. That was a use we hadn't even considered, not being Rasta ourselves ... but now we know, and now we can recommend it, should you be looking for a gift for your favorite dread-sporting person.
- Get To Know Hemp Kit: A good way to introduce yourself (or someone special) to knitting with hemp if you've never used it before. The fiber is very different than almost anything else (with the exception of fibers like aloo and can take some getting used to; this is a good way to do so.
- Shop Til You Drop Bag: Perfect for taking to the Farmer's Market or on expeditions (around the block or around the world), this is a fun bag to knit up and a great weekend project.
- Spa and Bath Trio: Combined with a bar of handmade soap, this kit (either knit up or in its undone state) makes for a splendid gift. Hemp shines when made into washcloths and other kinds of bath scrubbies; I strongly suspect that once you start using one you'll never want to stop. (That's what happened to me, many many years ago!)
- The Cool Hemp Ponchette, in Small/Medium or Large/XL: (The difference between the sizes, of course, being that the larger size includes more yarn. Go figure. :) This is a stunning wrap, whether you choose to turn it into a ponchette or leave it in the rectangular form as a shawl. So many people came up to me and asked about it when I wore mine last, so I don't recommend wearing one if you're shy!
If you've made it all the way through the new goodies, here's a treat for you: during the month of May we're going to have several very quick (2-3 day) sales of some of our most popular items. Check back regularly, as you won't want to miss them! We'll announce each sale on our blog, of course.
My nine-year-old freaked out yesterday when he read an email a local artist sent out about The North Pacific Trash Gyre, also known as Plastic Soup and The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, two huge masses in the Pacific Ocean made up of floating plastic. This plastic debris ranges from nurdles (factory-ready plastic the size of grains of sand that later becomes windborne) to tires, plastic bags and bottles, fishnets, etc. Thinner areas of the “Gyre” are 3-6 feet deep, while the thickest areas can reach 60 feet deep. Can you imagine 60 feet deep of plastic bits swirling around in the ocean? Too small to photograph, especially underwater (and frequently transparent), this is nevertheless a huge and disturbing problem. In the salt water, the plastic attracts oil-based carcinogens and other toxic chemicals, and fish lay their eggs in the Gyre as they do in seaweed and other floating debris. Other fish eat the eggs and the plastic they’re resting upon, and become contaminated; this contamination moves up to the top of the food chain and eventually you and I eat it. Birds also eat the fish eggs and ingest the plastic, and eventually die from rupturing organs especially when they eat things like toothbrushes and syringes.
When I told a friend about the trash vortex and how it works, she asked (in jest, I hope) why we even bother trying when it’s so obvious that humans are bent on destroying the world. The good news is that, even with what seems to be such an insurmountable problem, Michael (the artist neighbor person) says that scientists say that if we stop adding to the problem the Gyres will eventually go away. The plastics cast off and arrive on beaches at a rate such that, if we were to stop adding to it today, they would disappear within twenty years. I haven't found any evidence of that, but I choose to believe him because it's such an encouraging thought and gives us all incentive to actually work to make a difference. Isn’t it an amazing idea, that within twenty years we could actually solve such a huge and disturbing problem? To bring it around to Earth Day, here’s what each and every one of us can do:
Practice the Three Rs in order of priority:
REDUCE. Stop buying things if they have huge amounts of plastic packaging. If there’s an item you love that has too much packaging, let the manufacturer know – they do respond, and they are listening. If one person stops buying widgets because of overpackaging and tells them so they might ignore it, but if a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand do so, they will listen. Buy your fruits and vegetables without plastic bags whenever possible (making your own organic cloth bags is a wonderful way to keep your foods separate and use fewer plastics). There’s no law that says two lemons need their own bag! If you get takeout food, use your own container instead of getting a disposable from the restaurant. And there's a movement afoot to leave excess packaging at the store ... I wonder what would happen if everyone did that!
When you have to use a plastic bag, make sure to REUSE it. Make or buy reusable shopping bags that always go with you anytime you might buy anything – we have quite a few canvas ones that live in our car or by the door (to be taken to the car when we go outside) and I have a tradeshow giveaway chico bag that I keep in my purse for impulse purchases. It hardly takes up any space and has saved me many times. If you eat foods like sour cream, green chile, jarred spaghetti sauce, and the like, those containers can be incredibly useful for storing food, sewing notions, office supplies, paints, and more. Let the kids play with them in the tub or the sandbox, start seedlings in them, use the jars for taking your lunch to work (they’re microwaveable, too), ... there are so many ways to reuse, and so very few excuses to throw away. Especially now that we know where the plastics end up, eek!
Last on that spectrum, but still incredibly important, RECYCLE. Plastic downcycles – it doesn’t become the same thing again, it becomes something lower on the usability spectrum. Right now that’s mainly building materials like decking (Trex and the like). It’s still incredibly crucial to recycle everything plastic that you can, if only to keep plastics out of the Gyre – and now that we have that visual, my kids really understand why I’m so fanatical about this. Because some recycling centers throw out the entire load if there’s contaminated plastic in it, you’ll want to visually clean the items; I do that by collecting “grey water” in a bowl in the sink (when we wash our hands, veggies, etc) and using that to clean recyclables. Some people spray a bit of eco-friendly household cleaner or put a drop of essential oil in the containers while it’s waiting to go outside, to reduce any odor. (As a sidenote, if like us you live in a rattlesnake-prone area you might not want to have your recycling right outside your front door, as last summer we ended up with a rattlesnake coiled up among our cans, in search of mice looking for stray bits of food . Thank goodness for our rattlesnake tongs, which I recommend often and enthusiastically!)
As a final note: Ask manufacturers and stores where you shop to investigate and begin using Cradle to Cradle plastics. These plastics are agri-based, often made from corn stalks and waste material and in a set amount of time (usually 12-24 months) become fertilizer. Learn more about C2C here. A couple more easy bits of activism: Ask restaurants where you get take-out to use compostable dishes and silverware, and encourage your towns to implement a plastic bag tax.
As I said above, much of the information in this post came from Michael Lancaster, a local artist, whose email sparked a very interesting conversation in our household and this blog post. Find him and his work here.
Learn more about Algalita, the main organization researching the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the issue of marine debris in general, here, and follow along with their Oceanographic Research Vessel Team's blog posts too. They also have a Ship To Shore Education Program that I can see we're going to have to incorporate into our discussions at home. (And no, the pictures today weren't of the Pacific Gyre, as it is difficult to photograph like I said above; instead I choose pictures of children enjoying the beach, which all people should be able to do.)
So, it's not an incredibly upbeat blog post today, except for the fact that I truly believe we all can and will make a difference here. These aren't huge changes we need to make, just little ones that will add up. Let's all start today, please.
We'd like to introduce our Renaissance Laptop Quilts, designed in praise of the intricate mastery of centuries of US cotton expertise and in hopes of a rebirth of a sustainable domestic cotton industry. Handcrafted by a Pecos Valley quiltmaker out of US-made fabrics crafted from Texas-grown organic cottons, this quilt truly exemplifies the best of the US textile tradition, and is a wonderful example of what we're working toward at NearSea Naturals.
Our chemically-sensitive customers will be pleased to note that we've added 99.8% Organic Cotton Socks (the extra .2% is Lycra, which CAN be removed, but then your socks will be much more likely to fall down), and our color-loving customers will be delighted to see the fun tie-dye socks available in baby/toddler, youth, and adult sizes. (I so love mine!)
Last but certainly not least, we've added the first three Oliveira Shellgame fabrics, glorious hemp twill home decor fabrics in navy, crimson, and moss. They don't photograph or scan anywhere near as wonderfully as they look, but they're excellent modern fabrics that will be an incredible asset to your decor. Definitely check them out. (We'll be adding three hemp/organic cotton twills in the same colorways within the next week or so.)
First of all, woohoo, we've added bunches of new fabrics including a fabulous new safari print. Check them all out. (Oh, and new yarns, including the best deal imaginable on bulk merino yarn, and pretty single-needle silk cases to go with our Ultimate Silk Knitting Needle Cases.)
Secondly, I've been thinking about sleep a lot lately. We've had many customer questions about pillow making, and I've had to admit that I haven't had the time or inclination to make my own pillows since children entered my life lo those many years ago. I know a lot about the concept and I've worked with a good many people who've made pillows, but making my own? Not a chance. My sewing time is dedicated to other projects these days, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. But many of our customers are more dedicated than I, and others are in the same boat as I am, and it's to all of you that I dedicate this entry. :)
The last time I bought pillows for my own personal use was, as they say, :mumble: years ago, inspired by a trip we took to Japan where I fell in love with the combined buckwheat and wool pillows. I couldn't find any once we returned to the states (and couldn't afford any in Japan), so purchased two organic buckwheat pillows from Many Moons Alternatives, (who now offer a glorious pillow covered with our Doodle fabric -- I wish they'd had it way back when!). We also have a melange of organic cotton and organic wool pillows around our house, all at least six years old and all suffering from various amounts of compaction. The buckwheat pillows have suffered much less than the cotton and wool ones thus far; of course, that could also be because they're MINE and the others shuffle among everybody else in the family and any unfortunate guests we may have. (The "newer" pillows we have we've purchased out of pity for visitors, but they soon get thrown into rotation with the rest of the bunch.)
In our quest for better sleep, adding the Luxurious Wool Pile to our bed made a big difference ... what would happen if we tried new pillows too? As I frequently do when going shopping, I started with the Co-Op America Green Pages, and the Co-Op America Business Network email list, because they're always a good starting point. On the CABN email list, I made the acquaintance of a man named Matt Harrigan, the inventor of the Green Pea Pillow.
If your average conventional pillow -- even your average "nice" pillow, the kind you'd find in those hotels that make a big deal about their oh-so-special bed setups -- is a handful of M&Ms, the Green Pea Pillow is a few deep roasted caramelized almonds double-dipped in dark chocolate. * Notice, please, that I'm not saying there's anything wrong with M&Ms (well, okay, besides the minor details of multi-national companies, and high fructose corn syrup, and nonorganicness, and food coloring, and annoying commercial jingles that still won't leave my head after 20 years of not having heard them, and and and... but you know what I mean), or that those particular chocolate-covered almonds are right for everyone. Like deep dark chocolate, intense and full of very strong strong flavor, the Green Pea Pillow isn't for everyone, but those it is right for just might fall in love. Indeed, Willie says it's like sleeping on marbles; he threw it at me in disgust after just one night and went back to his well-worn organic wool pillow. You don't want that pillow thrown at you, either -- it could be a weapon, with eleven pounds of dried organic green peas in it!
I've always loved dark chocolate, though, and loved this pillow too. What can I say, I was an angst-ridden teenager; isn't loving dark chocolate a prerogative? I found the Green Pea Pillow very comfortable; it molds to my head very nicely and was supportive of all the wacky positions in which I manage to sleep. Possibly because I have headaches regularly, I appreciated that the pillow tends to remain cool and that the peas seem to gently massage or press acupressure-like against different points of my head. I want to sew a new pillowcase, though, out of Hemp/Silk Charmeuse to keep it cooler still, instead of the organic cotton case it comes with. One thing that struck me about the Green Pea Pillow is that it's clear that Matt hasn't put a whole lot of work into the marketing and sales side of things thus far; the website still has some typos, the pillow wasn't packaged beautifully and didn't come with a fancy 3000-color brochure, and the like. Instead he's concentrated on the basics -- making a high-quality product in an ethical manner. It was very difficult for me to give up my test pillow for a few days to let other people try it, but I had to do so in the interests of science. It's possible that the green pea pillow is simply the next step in my pillow continuum -- from polyfill to down to buckwheat to peas? My husband's convinced I'll sleep on bricks next, while Winnie's betting on a pillow like King Tut's. (I have to point out, though, that my husband, who has always thought that buckwheat pillows are incredibly uncomfortable and who will only sleep on fluffy wool, actually really liked the Green Pea Pillow; he tried to fight me for it, but then thought better of the idea.)
Winnie couldn't sleep on the Green Pea Pillow at all, but appreciated it for propping herself up to watch movies or use her laptop and said it kept her neck cool; she very much preferred to sleep on the Organic Rejuvenation Pillow in millet from Serenity Pillows. Winnie slept on the same down pillow for probably twenty years, before leaving it in a hotel room (and oh, she was NOT fun to be around after doing so); where I want a firm pillow with lots of support and moldability, she needs a soft and comfortable pillow that can be broken in, pushed and mushed around, and give her support with a side of malleability. This pillow seems perfect for her; the wool's softness combines with the millet hulls' support to make for a much pleasanter person the next morning. In the interest of full disclosure, Winnie did remove a fair amount of the millet hulls from the pillow before getting the perfect feel; that's why there's a zipper, so people can customize their perfect pillows! (She's now going to make eye pillows with the extra millet hulls and our Topaz Hemp/Silk Charmeuse. ) The pillow was beautifully made and incredibly packaged -- it would make a good gift, if you know someone whose mood might be improved a bit by a better night's sleep. I'm looking forward to seeing the Neck Relief pillow as well, as it's a very unique concept that might be just what my husband needs (since I'm not letting him keep my Green Pea pillow), and I thought their Woolies organic wool pillow looked absolutely fascinating and might solve the compaction problem that we've had with wool pillows at our house thus far. On the chocolate spectrum, I'd class the Serenity Rejuvenation Pillow as a box of Lillie Belle Farms Lavender Fleur du Sel Caramels -- not my favorite candy, but amazingly incredibly good according to people who like lavender in their caramels.
In Santa Fe, we're lucky enough to house Sachi Organics, the brainchild of Lois Hamamoto, an amazing woman whose mission is:
To create products that provide satisfaction and joy and to develop markets for such products that sustain and enrich this planet and the peoples who inhabit it.
We at Sachi Organics believe we have quietly and creatively learned to communicate the joy of life through our products and the way we run our businesses. We hope you agree.
Can you imagine a better mission statement than that? I love it. I love their pillows, too, especially the Organic Buckwheat Hull Cylinder Neck Pillow
. Like my mother I have to travel with a pillow (It's so disturbing to be turning into my mother ... and oh my goodness, it'll be even worse to be turning into my grandmother, if that ever happens!), and this is the perfect size to take on trips. It fits up against the car window, it stuffs in suitcases, it cuddles under my neck when I'm actually sleeping on a bed ... Sachi Organics' products feel good
too. It's obvious that they're made with care for the earth, for the people who are making them, and for the people who will be using them. And on the chocolate spectrum? Sachi Organics would have to be the Sweet Earth Zebra Mints
-- I've hardly met anyone who doesn't like them, and they're great for traveling.
So that's for the people who want to buy a pillow ... what about the people who want to make their own? First of all, writing this blog post has reminded me that I really do want to make my poor children new pillows of their very own -- and to their specifications. I know pillows are easy to make, and I've made them before ... just not, as I've said, recently. I need to do so, and I'm now resolved to have new pillows made by the end of the month. (See how I slyly wait until the beginning of the month to come to that conclusion, so I have three whole weeks to do so in?)
My older kiddo's asked for a buckwheat hull pillow, not too big but stuffed quite full, with a couple different pillowcases to choose from depending on mood: Silent Stumps and Desert Safari. Since I won't want the buckwheat hulls to poke out, I'll choose a bit heavier of a fabric for the pillow material, probably a canvas or twill. That should be easy enough. A local "natural grocers" sells organic buckwheat hulls in the bodycare section (go figure), so they're easy enough to find; I may add some lavender flowers or peppermint to encourage better sleep and sweet dreams.
My younger child's a bit more complicated, small surprise there. :) He wants wool and buckwheat together, so I'll have to figure out the details of doing so. Not at all impossible, just something that will involve a bit more thought in terms of proportions and the like. He also wants multiple pillowcases; he wants Orange Surrender (which he's always liked because it's so bright), Let It Grow, and Enchanted Forest. I figure I'm lucky I talked them down to multiple pillowcases from multiple pillows and multiple bed sets, so I can't complain too much there, and it's not like I don't know where we can get some gorgeous organic fabric.
*I feel the need to mention here that I had Intemperantia's chocolate-covered almonds once, more than two years ago, and haven't been able to get them out of my mind. At $17.60 for 1/3 of a pound of, and I quote, "100% organic chocolate covered almonds dusted with cocoa powder and 65% cocoa density," this would be an expensive addiction. However, should anyone from Intemperantia wish to send me some in thanks for this plug or to wish me a happy spring, or should anyone else wish to send me some in recognition of my charm and winning personality, I would most probably not say no. Indeed, chances are I would jump up and down gleefully and then begin savoring each and every one. I mean, uh, sharing them generously with friends, co-workers, and random strangers who I pass in the hall. Yeah, that.
It may just be because I love their logo, but I'm really fascinated by the new Organic Consumers Association-sponsored Planting Peace resource center. Designed to "build a powerful coalition to bring about cooperation and synergy between the peace movement, the climate crisis movement, and the organic community," this group is made up of "Organic and Socially Responsible Consumers [who] Say No to War and Climate Chaos".
I can't stop quoting from their site -- I know it's getting a bit silly here, but read this:
Help us build up a national and international network of organic and socially responsible consumers who wish to protect Gaia/Mother Earth, put an end to war and military madness, and green and re-localize the global ecology. Please join us in building up a powerful coalition that brings about cooperation and synergy between the anti-war movement, the climate crisis movement, and the organic community.
I love their downloadable card, and their compendium of blogs and websites that might be useful or interesting. You may or may not agree with everything on their site -- heck, I may or may not agree with everything on their site, but there's still quite a lot to read, learn, and ponder. And really, regardless of how you feel about the details, how can you disagree with the basic tenets of promoting peace, organics, and reducing adverse climate change? Check out the site and see what you think ... and while you're there, check out the OCA's front page, where the top story is "Monsanto Repents! Announces that They Will Never Genetically Modify Another Organism Ever". Can you say "April Fools"? I sure can!