It’s Time to Get Real About Organic Cotton

When is the last time you thought about where your quilting stash comes from? Have you ever thought about the process, the transport, the distribution? How many of us have ever even recognized on a conscious level that quilt cotton is a plant?

If these questions seem abstruse or even mildly annoying, you’re not alone.  So few people care about this issue. At least that’s the information I was given when I contacted some of the largest distributors of quilting fabric around.

Moda told me there’s no market (that’s us) for organic fabric. Oh yes, they had one line of it a while ago and it didn’t sell terribly well, so…they don’t even carry any organic fabric right now. Fatquartershop.com who sells fabric online said they have nothing to do with the content of their products. In their copy on their website, they describe whatever a manufacturer tells them to say, and distribute on demand. Period.

Fabric designers tell me they do not get involved with the fabric manufacturing process.  They license their designs and have no say in whether their designs are used sustainably/responsibly or not. This may not be true for all of them, but it’s common practice.

So who makes the determination about whether fabric should be organic or not?

Surprise! It’s you. And me.  We are the ones who define this market, and we will have to be the ones to require change.

The question is:

Do you think we need change? 

Let’s talk about it a bit.  Because I’m going to make the case that we have no choice but to put pressure on manufacturers to change their cotton growing processes. And we might have to start with our local quilt shops.

Here’s why:

–70% of the world’s topsoil is degraded.

–It takes 1,000 years to replace 3 cm of degraded topsoil.

–With current farming practices, all the world’s topsoil will be gone in 60 years.

This is not my opinion.

This information is provided by lengthy studies done by the Textile Exchange and reported in life cycle analyses done over spans of years.

Go ahead and google “How much topsoil is left?” 

Without topsoil, the world doesn’t eat, let alone quilt with natural fabrics.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be responsible for my kids and grandkids being unable to have food and clothing because of my simplistic, uneducated (and, frankly, selfish) choices.

I’ve seen some people make the case that organic fabric requires more resources. 

That is simply not true. Not when using any scientific methodology of measurement. Not when attempting to understand the life cycle of the product.  And certainly not when we entertain the implications of the alternative. On the contrary, we now have clear indications that water use on organic farms is far less than traditional practices.

I don’t pretend to understand all of the information on these two charts, but the explanation for them was very clear: Organic farming of cotton greatly reduces water and other energy consumption, and continuing on our current trajectory is simply not sustainable.

Here is where we encounter the power of market forces.

You and I can demand that things change. Manufacturers, distributors and farmers, all have little reason to improve their processes. Inertia and monetary fears will keep them all from advancing to more sustainable processes.

But the science tells us that we will pay a price one way or another. As consumers, we either start demanding organic cotton now, or we will not likely have access to any at all in the future. The choice is that simple and that stark.

But I’m just one person.

What can I do?

-Ask your local quilt shop to carry organic cotton. Be assertive. Those designers that you love? Their designs can be made on organic cotton. But folks like Moda (who is a HUGE distributor of fabric) think you don’t care. I’m telling you it’s time to care and care deeply.

Contact folks like Moda directly: marketing@modafabrics.com and let them know about your concerns.

–Do your own research. Here are a few links to explore:

–aboutorganiccotton.org

–textileexchange.org

Quick Guide to Organic Cotton

–Get the Facts About Organic Textiles

Hope is on the horizon.

But we must all start to act.

Folks like Wrangler, H & M and Nike are starting to recognize that their own businesses will not be around if they don’t educate consumers on organic products, and make the industry more sustainable.

The organic cotton industry has increased by 11% in the US from 2016 to 2018. But that’s not enough. Where does our quilt cotton come from? India? China? the US?

I don’t have all the answers. But I will continue to follow up. In the meantime, I will continue to work down my stash of fabric, and I plan on only purchasing organic fabric in the future. This is a statement I can only make because I’ve done a bit of homework on this and believe it is the best path for me.

I’ll be exploring more of the current manufacturers soon. The good news is that there ARE organic quilt fabrics out there. We just aren’t aware of them.

I leave you today with a current picture of my own garden out back. Our Midwestern loam is the finest on the planet. Everything grows here. But we need to be responsible stewards of the land, of our money and of our resources.

I’m ready to take the organic leap. Are you?

Kraft-Tex Update

As you know, I have a lot of fun with Kraft-Tex products.

In a prior blog post, I talked about using embroidery for yard flags or signs.

This time, I decided to try a little acrylic paint on it and see how it holds up in weather. The previous sign that I did has been out in rainstorms, thunder, wind and more, and looks just as nice as it did the day I put it out there.

To be honest, I’m a little shocked that it held up so well.

So this time, I pulled out my acrylics and painted up a patriotic floral for the Fourth of July. I have not added any finishing, like Mod Podge or varnish of any kind.

For the record, I asked Kraft-Tex for more information about their product. It is recyclable, and therefore biodegradable, but doesn’t fall apart in the rain. It is OEKO-TEX certified, which is standard in the textile industry in that the end product is certified to be non-toxic. It also holds an FSC accreditation (Forest Stewardship Council) Essentially, this means that the product is regulated to be using forestry resources responsibly as defined by the highest industry standards.

I’ll be getting back to my wool and quilting momentarily. But for now, I’m having a great time with outdoor decorating and garden crafts…using my sewing machine.

For the Gardeners Among Us

I’m guilty of spending a teensy bit less time in the sewing studio, and a bit more time out in the yard these days…like most of you, I’m guessing.

It will be raining off and on this weekend, so between trips to the store and out in the garden, I might get in a bit of organizing/sewing.

But for now, here’s a tribute to those of us who cannot resist the flowers. They cheer us, bloom under almost any circumstances, and lead the way into a new season.

What would we do without them?

Kraft-Tex in the Garden

kraft-tex for the garden. learn to use Kraft-Tex for lots of fun projects. Edgestitch.

If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know that I have a lot of fun with Kraft-Tex, a paper/fabric that can be washed, doesn’t fray, and needs no finishing.

Here’s a link to a couple other of my blog posts on Kraft-Tex.

This time, since I am into garden season, I thought I’d try something slightly different by adding a garden flag made from Kraft-Tex. Now, I know that it has been a truly rainy season in my area, so I though it would be interesting to find out how the flag holds up during rain. I know it can be washed and dried without any issues, and I already tested the ribbon I’m using for color-fastness. So I’m not really worried about the rain.

I promise to show you what it looks like after a few weeks. We’ll all find out!

The embroidery showed up really well on white, and then I placed it on the grey or charcoal color. I find that Kraft-Tex holds up well with lots of embroidery…upwards of 20,000 stitches..as long as I use the right stabilizers. I find it best to use a medium weight cutaway, with a layer of Stabilstick cutaway on top of that — 2 layers of cutaway in total.

Then I cut out the pieces and used a bit of scrapbook tape to hold them in position while I stitched them down onto a larger piece of Kraft-Tex.

These designs can be purchased at emblibrary.com.

After assembling the flag, I added some velcro to the top, along with a fold so that it hangs nicely on the iron bar. A bone folder works great to give a nice solid crease. And the velcro makes it easy on-off. I’m thinking that I could make a number or these through the seasons…Fourth of July next.

Finally, I’m playing around with placement outside. I don’t have my annuals set up out there yet, so it’s a bit early. In the meantime, this is easy and gratifying stitching to get done for any season.

Sewing for the Generations

My friends are all becoming grandparents.

Not just the ones who had children at a very young age, but also now those who had them at a normal or not-so-very-young age.

I first started quilting in my twenties when all my friends had babies. I made dozens and dozens of flannel baby quilts, most of them hand-tied and filled with the fluffiest polyester money could buy. The parents and kids loved them.

I moved on to more traditional quilting, took classes, and eventually started teaching. But I never forgot how I got started.

Babies.

These days, I’m doing a lot on diapers and onesies. It took some experimenting, but I have found the best methodology.

Keep it simple.

Onesies absolutely do not support a whole lot of stitches. Even some fonts are iffy, depending on the number and size of the satin stitches.

Use two layers of polymesh stabilizer.

I use OESD cutaway polymesh. I experimented with one layer and just didn’t think it was enough. Depending on your design, you may even want three layers. A traditional cutaway adds way too much bulk and stiffness, so go with a polymesh. I also tried fusible, but that distorted the look of the onesie. I’m not a fan of 505 spray so I don’t use it when hooping.

Use a ball point needle.

If you’re familiar with embroidering on knits, you already know this. But if you usually embroider on quilt cotton, it’s easy to forget to change out the needle. Onesies are very stretchy and the fabric really separates when you use a ball point or “jersey” needle. It makes a difference in the longevity of the embroidery, because a ball point separates the threads of the fabric instead of cutting right through them.

Washing Instructions.

I use rayon thread (Isacord) which is bleachable and holds up well when washed. I throw onesies right into the washer and dryer…even in hot water and high settings.

The fabric, 100% cotton, always shrinks a bit. And the embroidery may curl because of that. The best way to fix this is to lay a towel on your ironing board, and lay the onesie face down against the towel — with the embroidery against the towel. Iron the back of the onesie without steam until everything is laying flat again. No problem.

I sew on a Bernina and you can see that with their free arm, it’s really easy to stitch on a onesie without a lot of pinning, clipping and gyrations to keep the back out of the way.

Finally, use a 9 month size or larger.

Maybe it’s possible, but I never attempt to embroider a newborn or 3 month size. I just don’t see how I can stretch it enough around the hoop. I’d have to switch to the very smallest hoop which has a tiny field of embroidery. Most of the onesies I’ve done are size 12 month. They still look relatively small, and get smaller after washing. But they are large enough to work on comfortably.

Sending love and blessings to all my friends and co-workers and friends of friends and co-workers who are keeping the earth populated. There’s really nothing quite like participating in the ritual of welcoming the very newest generation.

Wool Lasts Forever

And sometimes, for me, it takes forever. My last post on this project was dated June 2017.

I’m not even kidding. Here it is.

And, if you’re wondering…I’m still working on it.

In fairness, I have a tendency to put a project away for a couple of years, and then come back to it with gusto. This is one of those projects. I am determined to finish it before the end of the summer. I love hand work, and find it very relaxing. And it’s time for this one to move along. I’ve made progress, just not enough.

I do have a couple more tips for you, if you are working with wool.

  1. Remember I said to use a longarm stapler to hold your pieces in place? ( I did.) Well, I’d like to add to that. Use it GENEROUSLY.

See all those staples? They really do help keep things from wandering while you stitch. They leave no mark, they are easy, convenient and not a big deal to pull out. I love it.

2. Try these little leather patches.

I have a weird way of using my ring finger to push the needle. Thimbles are so cumbersome, even the leather thimbles. But these little patches can actually be used and reused so that a single pack of them can last a long time. I can use one patch for weeks. I just peel it off and stick it back into it’s packaging or on the plastic covering, and peel it off again to reuse it the next time. They are perfect when hand sewing quilt bindings, or doing any kind of handwork. Most of us have one finger we use consistently to push the needle. This leaves your finger mostly free except for the exact spot that gets the pressure.

3. Try using a wool pattern in a different color way. Along the way to finishing the project above, I did a whole other project where I added some wool to a cotton wall hanging.

The aquas, golds and greens in this pattern were a fun interpretation of the same floral design. Valdani cotton is my preferred thread for hand work. I have purchased directly from them, but you can find local shops who carry it. If your quilt shop doesn’t, be sure to ask them to start carrying it. You are likely not the only one who would like to see it.

I have lots of other projects up my sleeve coming soon, but this wool project is one I’d like to see completed.

Wish me luck and perseverance. May you find time for all your long term projects too. They teach us that life is short, and we need to keep stitching.

For the Gardener

I’ve been sewing, I promise.

Just not as much as I would like.

But here’s a little peak at the hyacinth that have started popping up in my backyard. We all need a bit of the wild earth to sweep us away every now and then. For me, that happens in the spring and summer when the light and the blooms blend into tiny miracles. The closer I look, the more miraculous it all seems.

Enjoy.

Stitching Into Spring

I’ve been in a flurry of personal sewing gifts for milestone birthdays, so I have not taken the time to update the blog til now. I thought I would just include a gallery of projects.

The quilt that I just raced through was a pattern from Modern Quilt Studio. If you haven’t figured it out by now, they are one of my favorites, as Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr are both artists with graphic backgrounds and an instinct for color and design. I have great respect for them both. I recognize the talent that feeds into what comes across as simplicity.

This takes work and artistry and they have both. If you have the chance to see either of them in person, you won’t regret it and I promise you will come away smarter and more confident in your craft.

More importantly, they were modern quilt artists before it was cool. One of the first quilting books I ever purchased was theirs and I haven’t looked back since.

I hope you are “springing ahead” with your sewing, as I am with mine. While I have some fabric already available for my next quilt, I also want to try something completely different.

That’s the fun of it all, isn’t it? We get to try new things all the time. Stay warm and keep stitching!

In-The-Hoop Easter Machine Embroidery

I know I’m getting ahead of the game, thinking about Easter. But I felt like I needed a bit of Easter cheer early on, so these are what I found.

Do you have an embroidery unit you haven’t taken out of the box? (You know who you are, my friends.) This is about as simple a project as you can imagine.

Here’s a link to the designs. Just download them onto a USB stick.

Prepare some fabric…you only really need scraps. And find some scrap batting. You know, the stuff you cut off around the edges of your last quilt.

Tip: After cutting small amounts of batting on your cutting mat, use a lint remover to clean up the batting.

Here’s the trickiest part. You need a nylon zipper. At least 7 inches. These are unbelievably common in the sewing world. Anything over 7 inches will work.

I used 14 in. zippers because that’s what I had on hand. Here’s a source that your local quilt shop may have even used: atkinsondesigns.com

And here’s a bonus. If you purchase her zipper pulls, you can easily change the color of the pull. Here’s instructions on how to do that. Your life will never be the same.

Back to the Easter egg pouches. I’m sure they come with instructions but I never read them. (Surprise, surprise.) Take some scraps of batting, approx, 6 inches x 6 inches, along with some scraps of fabric, about 6 inches x 12 inches. You’ll need 2 of the smaller size for the top and bottom half of your egg, a larger quilt sandwich for the backing/lining.

Wrap the smaller size fabric around the batting, so you have a straight edge to lay against the fold.

As you can see here, I didn’t even cut my scraps with any precision, as they will be completely trimmed away. You are just making sure that the batting is covered front and back. The fabric shown is Modern Quilt Studio’s Dot Crazy. I love this because it has fabric with a line of larger dots through the center…no piecing necessary.

Hoop your large oval or any 5 x 7 or larger hoop with sticky back tearaway stabilizer. I used OESD Stabilstick tearaway.

The design will walk you through all the steps on your machine. The first stitch out will be the placement line for the zip, which stitches directly onto the stabilizer.

Then stitch down lines on the zipper, then you lay down the top part of the egg with the fold right up to the zipper. The design will then stitch across the top fabric on the zipper. The goal is to make sure you have enough fabric wrapped around the batting to cover both sides of the egg.

Next, it will stitch the top half of the egg down.

Then lay your bottom fabric with the fold up against the zipper, as you did with the top. The next stitch will secure the bottom fabric to the zipper, and the stitch after that will secure the bottom half of the egg.

Move your zipper pull to the middle of the design!

This will allow you to turn the pouch inside out once it has been stitched. Now, you can also add a ribbon or handle at the top before the backing/lining is stitched down. (As I did). Add a quilt sandwich with the backing and lining down on top.

The final stitch is a zigzag to secure the seams.

This entire stitch out is a total of 6 minutes–almost as long as it take to read this blog post. These are easy and really quick, using fabric and scraps you likely have lying around.

When you take it out of the hoop, trim close to the stitching. Remove the stabilizer from around the zipper, and then open the zipper as far as you can. This will help when you turn the bag inside out. Remove as much of the stabilizer on the rest of the bag as possible. You should only see a bit of stabilizer around the outside seam, and a tiny bit where the zipper is attached. Everything else can be removed. Turn your little egg inside out and press.

Use your egg pockets as decorations or gifts–a great gift card holder or candy pouch!

Now reward yourself with fine chocolate.

Valentine’s Day is coming after all.

2019 in Living Color

Whatever your style, whatever your favorites, 2019 is turning into a year of bodacious color.

I’m a trend-geek and I’m always interested in what the “experts” consider to be the next big thing. As you can imagine, 2019 holds a lot of possibilities, from Artificial Intelligence to Augmented Reality to graphic design with the most vibrant knock-’em-dead colors available.

I won’t go into my newly formed relationship with my Roomba named Sean. I freely admit that I am not an early adopter when it comes to technology. I like to let someone else work out the bugs. But if you ever want to know about the joys of a Roomba, let me know. I am thrilled. And I don’t even mind that my scale talks to my Fitbit, and my vacuum cleaner texts me regularly. Give me an electronic slave that cleans the toilets and I will have dinner with it afterward, if that’s what it takes.

But enough technology.

What will affect us in the sewing world?

Pantone has declared a new color for 2019 (they choose one every year.) This one is called Living Coral. I love it.

What influence will it have on fashion design and fabric? Well, for them to choose this color, they already know what the runways are planning. Pantone does their research to predict this color. So we can be sure to see more of it come spring.

Here’s a link to some palette possibilities. As I look at them, I can see that the combinations would make great quilts. So there’s something to explore. And it all looks quite fresh to me. Sometimes I find that the fabric in my stash just looks dated, but add in a few new colors and you can really brighten up, freshen up, and lighten up your color combinations.

I’ve been working on a quilt with some bold colors and a very simple design. But the quilt was more difficult to put together than it looks.

I was working with a line called Warp and Weft from Modern Quilt Studio. It is a line of wovens that they designed to have a stronger weave than the average woven. And the colors were fun.

However, I had to pull out a few of the fatquarters from the bundle because they just dragged down the whole palette.

I’m not critical of the colors. These are perfectly lovely fabrics. They just absolutely did not work in the quilt. The charcoal was too dark and would have created “holes” in the quilt. The buffalo print was just too busy and neutral, and the pink really greyed down the look of the whole quilt. It took some fussing to get something that looked effortless.

The second challenge was to lay it out with contrasting colors next to one another. That was key to the whole look.

This quilt will be quilted at a friend’s house on her longarm. It will be a collaboration and I am not tied to any particular style of quilting, as long as we all learn something in the process. I think it will be fun.

In these dreary mid-winter days, I encourage you to embark on your own color adventure. It’s fun, it’s cheerful and you may find yourself exploring something new.