One of my favorite parts of working at NearSea Naturals is seeing the amazing things our customers create with our fabrics and notions. Trish's incredible Native American Ribbon wedding dress is a perfect example; reading her story and looking at the pictures was so very inspiring. And don't she and her husband look incredibly happy? Trish writes:
I had an unusual request for a wedding dress - I wanted a wedding dress that would compliment my husband's Native American ribbon shirt, which was made by his late mother. It was nontraditional as far as a Western wedding, but it was perfect for our traditional Chumash Indian ceremony. Our plan was an eco-wedding in the mountains in mid-July. Hot, hot, hot. I could not see wearing a dress that was made of anything other than organic cotton.
The first few designers I approached said absolutely not, it was too far from their idea of a "wedding dress" for them to accommodate my requests. I was willing to provide the fabrics, if I could find someone who was willing to be creative enough to try something a little less than ordinary. I then found Aria Couture. She took my drawings, my choices in fabric, and the inspiration from my husband's ribbon shirt and made a gown that surpassed all my expectations.
Aria Couture's final design was a double layered gown with the skirt's top layer slightly shorter than the bottom layer, to reveal the red satin detailing along the edge. The train is slightly squared off, just barely sweeping the floor. The bodice was the vintage fabric matching my husband's shirt, with organic cotton lining, and satin ribboning across the chest, as is tradition. The entire gown is fastened with hook and eyes and five buttons down the skirt, with Buffalo Nickel button covers down the length of the skirt, a nod to my family's Hispanic roots and the tradition of brideprice, "arras", a gift of gold coins. (The tradition is 13 coins, but I used 5 to represent our family.)
It was comfortable to wear, the fabric was so soft and light and dreamy... and did I mention SOFT? Every gown I tried on in bridal shops were itchy, hot, and miserable. I could wear this dress to BED! My wedding day ended up being a perfect 73 degrees, I was as comfortable as could be, the portrait of serenity. I could not have achieve this without finding such a wonderful fabric and a willing designer to break tradition. Thank you for making such a wonderful fabric accessible and affordable for the DIY bride.
Trish, thank you so much for sharing your story and pictures with us!
The public radio show To The Best of Our Knowledge interviewed Carl Honore, author of In Praise of Slowness, about the Slow Philosophy and its growth worldwide; you can find the show here. I found his comments about the speed pendulum very interesting, how the world's quest for the future had led us to go faster, faster, faster over the past century and we're now working to reach an equilibrium in which we're valuing the right speed ... what musicians call tempo justo.
Honore spoke about how "slow" isn't just a speed -- that might be obvious, but sometimes what should be obvious isn't -- it's a mindset that can incorporate the entire lifecycle of a product, an action, or an idea. So people aren't simply making something to be thrown away, using slave labor, or flying to another country for a whirlwind weekend trip; they're paying someone fairly to create an heirloom object, or enjoying the journey as well as the destination. The parallels for sewing using organic fabric are obvious, are they not? So very many of our customers, both businesses and home sewists, are involved in the sustainability movement ... which is, I think, another name for the Slow Movement, the Green Movement, the Eco-Friendly Movement, etc. We're all working to end up in the same place, regardless of the name. (Long-time readers of our blog are familiar with our comments about Slow Money and Slow Food, of course, so really this is just more of the same!)
Learn more about slow movements at slowplanet.com. I particularly like the Slow Parenting concept; it resonates with what my children and my family need -- and with our planet's need for less driving, too. Of course, when I was young we just said we were too poor to participate in lots of activities, but I guess everything deserves a fancy name nowadays!
We've swapped out our sale items, by the way; you won't want to miss the goodies we have on sale for you now. Since Valentine's Day is in February, we thought you might want a headstart crafting. We thus chose some popular romantic fabrics and notions ... enjoy them! If you're not celebrating Valentine's Day this year, it's the perfect time to stock up on these fabrics anyway (they're wonderful for other uses -- nobody said they have to be used for holidays!).
We've added the line of Sew Liberated patterns to our site. Designed by a mom and former Montessori teacher, these patterns run the gamut from adorable kids' clothes to marvelous reversible aprons, stopping at a couple of crafts like the Mischievous Gnome Messenger Bag. If I had a daughter I'd so be making Twirly Skirts galore!
We've had a lot of requests for 25+ yard purchases lately, so I wanted to remind everybody that our Fabrics By The Roll Page is a marvelous place to get large quantities of single fabrics at spectacular prices. These deals aren't limited to wholesale customers, either -- everybody can play!
Since it's getting chillier every day in our part of the world, we've been shipping out many packages full of our warmer fabrics. Though it's new, our Deluxe Natural Velour has proven particularly popular; its soft coziness is incredibly appealing. We clearly got flannel back in stock just in time (in both natural and whitened versions), as it's been flying out the doors! Keep your eyes open, for we're hoping to have an even heavier, softer flannel within the next month or two -- how exciting is that??? Our Collegiate Stripe is also splendid -- it's nicely comfortable and so very eye-catching.
We've swapped out the freebie for our facebook friends, so make sure you join us there to see what the goodies are this month. We're also posting various gift ideas -- charities, discount offers for eco-friendly stores, crafts you can make, and more. What fun!
I just spent a week caring for my aunt after hip replacement surgery, and was reminded anew how important handsewn and handcreated gifts can be for people who are in less than perfect health. Much of my goal -- when I wasn't helping her stand up or sit down again -- was to find ways to help my aunt be both more comfortable and more independent when I left, since she won't be able to drive or go anywhere for a month. So I spent time doing things like:
- Fashioning simple bags for her walker, to carry her cell phone and water bottle.
- Creating a mattress pad for her bed, to cushion her whole body but especially her hip -- so important when there's limited movement and you don't want bedsores! (I know I've said it before, but our Luxurious Wool Pile is perfect for mattress pads, and doubled or tripled up it makes splendid malleable padding to help get just the right level of comfort.)
- Making simple nightgowns that are comfortable to wear, decent when sitting, in bed, or participating in physical therapy, and don't get caught up in the walker when she's moving around. (The Subtle Pointelle is really nice for knit nightgowns, and the Natural Brushed Wide-Width Sheeting for woven ones.)
- Sewing simple rice packs that can be either microwaved for spot heat or chilled for temporary cooling. (When making longer/bigger pads, it's nice to make them segmented so all the rice doesn't fall to the bottom. That's the concept behind a baffled featherbed, and it works here too.)
I also had far too much fun with sticky-backed velcro, which is not at all organic but is incredibly useful for people with limited mobility -- with a nice wide strip of velcro on one edge of her chair-side table and pieces on her cell phone charger, flashlight, grabber, and other necessaries, my aunt is much less likely to drop things and have to laboriously attempt to pick them up again. (And, knowing me, you won't be surprised to hear that I cooked -- my aunt's freezer was nicely filled before I left, so she can bring out organic meals whenever she's hurting too much to cook for herself. I wish I could have stayed longer, but my family pretended to want me back so who was I to argue?)
My aunt, of course, is incredibly fortunate -- she'll be up and around soon and should be all the better for this eventually. Not everyone is so lucky, though, and this was borne home to me on Tuesday when I went to visit a family friend who is struggling with cancer. For people in her position sometimes being surrounded with comfort and love is of utmost importance (as I suppose it is for all of us, but it's even more important as we're facing the final transition). I find myself in a position where I don't quite know what to do to show my love, my appreciation of her role in my life, and I fall back again on creating things. My ideas?
- When cooking for sick people and their caregivers, the best book I've ever found bar none is Laurel's Kitchen Caring. It's full of nutritious recipes designed to tempt even the most feeble appetite, including many broths and clear liquids that can sometimes be all that people can swallow.
- Although the bigger rice bags can be too heavy for people who are weak, smaller handwarmers are sometimes still appreciated -- especially if there are caregivers who will warm them up for someone who is bedridden.
- Beautiful things and comfortable textures are both very valued at times like this, when they can fall by the wayside.
- If someone is very sick in the height of summer, consider the indulgence of a wrap of Amity Peace Silk which is so light and gorgeous but yet will help maintain modesty and provide the perfect amount of modesty.
- If the person is likely to be chilled, consider making a simple quilt (like this, or one of the projects from Meryl Ann Butler's book) out of fleeces or other soft fabrics to quite literally wrap them in your love.
- If you have an organic garden (and the person you're visiting isn't allergic), bring some long-lasting flowers or an arrangement of greens -- it seems obvious, but isn't necessarily. Organic only, though, if the person is at all sensitive; my aunt reacted really badly to a conventional bouquet that we had to ask the nurses to remove from her room but was absolutely fine with a similar arrangement from Organic Bouquet. (And notice, please, that I'm not even discussing the environmental, social, etc, aspects of non-organic flowers; can you believe it? Neither can I!)
Many wonderful, wonderful people sew, knit, and crochet for charity -- making things for people who they'll never see but who will benefit immeasurably from their hard work. We benefited from that when my firstborn son was in the hospital for so long ... he was the recipient of a hat, booties, and a blanket that people made for babies in the NICU. He was such a tiny, scary-looking baby, with wires and tubes sticking out all over, and seeing him in clothes made such a difference -- it made him look like a real
baby. Almost more important than that was the knowledge that people we didn't even know cared enough to make these items for my baby, that they were made with love, compassion, and best wishes. That hat, booties, and blanket meant so much more than any commercially-made clothes ever could have, and I still have them today. (The picture, in case you couldn't guess, is of Neil when he was only a few days old. Notice how my finger's bigger than his arm? Winnie wants me to mention that he's 10 now, and just had his Suzuki Violin Book 4 recital last weekend. His arms are stronger now. Bigger, too.)
I was lucky enough to talk with a woman who makes blankets for NICU babies about a year ago. She was denigrating her work, saying it was a way to pass the time and probably wasn't that important, and I was able to tell her how much it meant to those of us whose babies benefitted from the work of people just like her.
It's not just NICU babies, of course -- Project Linus provides blankets for children in need (and the Miss Hailey's Baby Quilt Pattern was designed to benefit Project Linus and to be a good introduction to quilting). ChemoCaps and Head Huggers focus on making hats for chemo patients who've lost their hair (and The Daily Knitter has a partial list of other charity options for knitters). Ugly Quilts are marvelous, easy-to-make sleeping bags for the homeless, and a perfect project for any group to which you might belong (friends, dinner groups, moms or dads groups, church groups, SCA folks, etc). Mama to Mama's goal is "connecting families through homemade action"; their first project was making blankets and caps for babies in Haiti, and I'm looking forward to seeing what their next focus will be.
And, of course, I firmly believe in the curative power of crafting with sustainable materials. Or at least in the "first do no harm" theory thereof. But when combining the love, care, and positive intent of a handmade item with the best, safest materials, I feel like I'm doing as much as I can in this area.
Just in case you aren't aware of it, Earth Hour is encouraging everyone to turn off the lights for an hour at 8 pm LOCAL TIME Saturday night. The program was created by World Wildlife Fund, for whom my kids play their instruments to fundraise at the Farmer's Market each summer. (Yes, that was unrelated to everything except my little bit of pride in my kids -- hey give a mom a break, okay?) Earth Hour is designed for multiple reasons -- the obvious one of immediately cutting carbon emissions, of course, and pointing out to us all that we really don't need to use as much power as we necessarily think we do. And then there's simply the idea that bringing our focused attention to the issue of climate change might bring about ideas for and actual change as well.
So what are you waiting for? It's only an hour -- Sign up now.
(I just want to know, though, if it'll really make a difference for us to turn off our lights when we're already off the grid. Regardless, we'll be participating if only to have another opportunity to discuss climate change with the afore-mentioned instrument-playing kids, who already wake up in the morning and look outside to see if it's sunny or windy (and thus a "good power" day) or if we're going to want to be a bit more careful...)
It's always amazing what clever ideas our customers come up with, and how beautifully they're executed. Take these splendid produce bags -- useful, good-looking, and a great way to make a difference.
Melissa explains her project like this:
"At my grocery store, we are required to weigh organic produce and affix a price sticker before checkout. Not wanting to waste so many plastic bags for each individual item, I decided to make my own 15x11 inch cloth produce bag using your sustainable cotton/hemp artichoke print fabric. Now I can weigh my produce, place the sticker on the outside of the bag, and conveniently carry everything together. I estimate that I save at least three produce bags with each visit, amounting to a whopping 300+ bags a year!"
In addition to being the mother to three children under seven, Melissa has a wonderful website "meant for anyone who is concerned about his potential to affect this earth, for it is the culmination of each small action that has the greatest implications. " Check it out at TheColorGreen.info. Melissa even had a contest among her blog commenters, and awarded the winner a beautiful produce bag!
Cloth produce bags are easy to make, and can make a tangible difference. We challenge everyone to have - and use - at least one!
As one of only twenty-one participants in Winchester School of Art's catwalk/fashion show at London Graduate Fashion Week this summer, Nora Sotamaa had a great opportunity. She was uniquely positioned to show hundreds of viewers, photographers, and reporters that, as she says, "sustainable fashion doesn't have to be boring." These attendees took special note of her six male models, who wore clothing made from natural, organic and sustainable fabrics.
Almost her entire collection was created using NearSeaNaturals fabrics, which Nora was thrilled to find because of the variety of different offerings in a wide range of colors.
Nora, who is from Finland, has been studying fashion in England for the past four years. Winchester School of Art is well-known for fashion and textiles departments, as well as fine art. The small campus is part of the University of Southampton (a larger city about 12 miles south) which offers programs in many different fields.
“My designs and garments support the argument that sustainable fashion doesn't have to be boring. I made suits out of 'Adobe hemp' and 'Sophisticated Jade' and used different weights and colors of organic cotton jerseys for a cardigan and shirts. I also made fitted collared shirts with 'natural hemp muslin' and 'forest blue hemp’ print.
There's more information about and a picture of Nora's collection below.
Continue reading "Sustainable Designs for Men" »
Almost-six-month old Halen's wonderfully talented mama, Christy, made this gorgeous pirate's quilt for her little boy. Doesn't he look thrilled with it? And well he should, really -- look at the great combination of fabrics she used to come up with the oh-so-scary design. All the fabrics are from NearSea, though some are sold out (Christy must've been stashing them for a while -- very appropriate for a pirate's quilt, as I'd love to find a treasure chest full of organic fabrics!), and there's organic batting as well.
People sometimes come to us looking for an organic analog to a specific conventional item that they just have to have for their projects -- rickrack, embroidery thread, ribbon, pompoms, etc. It can be very frustrating to hear that certain things just aren't available in organic versions yet, but as you sew more you become much more adept at figuring out substitutes. They might not look or function exactly the same as the non-organic version, but you just might find that your items are beautiful in their own right. And that's not even mentioning the good feeling that going organic can provide, especially when you're sewing for a baby who you want to surround with the purest of everything! I think Christy's quilt is a perfect example of the charm and interest that fully-organic items can have. Not only is it special because of all the love and care that went into its creation, but it's also visually striking ... and without the need for conventional fabrics or notions. Don't be dissuaded if you can't find exactly what you want in sustainable fabrics and notions; take it as a challenge, and you just might find that you can rise to the occasion!
Here are two more pictures of Halen's quilt; click on them for a larger version.
I wanted to bring your attention to this entry into etsy.com's coproduction competition: Hemp Plaid Kilt
(Click on any picture in this entry to make it larger -- they're definitely worth looking at!)
Created with a collaboration between Corrina McFarlane, Regina O'Reilly, and NearSea Naturals, the kilt was made from our Blue Plaid Hemp, which is now a collector's item (we have no more). The kilt is a beautifully-designed and created piece of art that answers the inevitable question ("What's under your kilt?") with an exuberant "Hemp, Hemp, Hooray!" Click on the picture to the right to see the beautifully-embroidered answer.
Corrina and Regina's bios are as follows:
TimeToShine.etsy.com/Corrina McFarlane : TTS is known on the eco-festival and conference circuits, creating tables like Tibetan sand paintings, with stuff made of hemp, organic cotton, dream catchers and wishes...different every time, brief but always delightful. TTS is intent upon bringing heartening news of what eco-architect, Bill McDonough terms "cradle-to-cradle" initiatives. Moving beyond the throw-away planet (cradle to grave), we get to play in a world that works for everyone, no one left out. That's Corrina, to the left.
WhatsUnderYourKilt.etsy.com/Regina O'Reilly: OTB Kilts came out of a conversation with Regina's mother, who remarked on the courage it takes for some men to put on a kilt, to ‘Step Outside the Box’: "Only The Brave". (Outside The Box/Only The Brave; hence: OTB Kilts!). OTB is about challenging the norm while having FUN! We take our fun seriously. Since 2002 OTB has sponsored golf tournaments and many special events that feature men in KILTS. And the more we can draw from sources the are Fair Trade/Fair Made, the happier we will be!
The contest's winner hasn't been announced yet (it should be later tonight), but regardless of the outcome, Corrina and Regina will always be winners to us. They've taken their passion and made it sustainable, earth-friendly, and so very much fun. We thank them, and can't wait to see their next collaboration.
Many of you have seen Amy's name on your packing slips or talked with her on the phone, but few people know how creative she is. We're lucky enough to have Amy work here part-time; her wonderful, artistic eye makes her the go-to person when we need to know if two fabrics really match or if something is a blue-red or an orange-red. Coincidentally, Amy's older sister went to high school with Winnie; they didn't realize the connection until Amy applied for the job. New Mexico really calls to people, and it's always surprising to see who answers.
Anyway, Amy's latest challenge was to make a rag doll using scraps of our fabrics. This is what she made. You may recognize some of the fabrics as ones which sold out long ago, and others from our current offerings. Her arms and legs are braided strips of fabric; her head, body, and feet are stuffed with our organic cotton stuffing. Her face is embroidered, and her mouth is a piece of red herringbone.
Continue reading "Amy's rag doll" »
With spring bursting out all over, and so many reasons for gift-giving, I was thrilled to find this pattern for stuffed rabbits. They're quick and so much fun to make!
Continue reading "Bunnies are cute, except when they're in your garden!" »