Organic cotton and kapok pillow inserts

For all of you who have been purchasing  the decorative pillow inserts that are filled with kapok and have organic cotton covers, I have taken http://www.fabricadabra.us down and am now selling them through a company with which I have been working for a decade named The Organic Mattress, Inc. You can buy the inserts here and shipping is free. https://www.theorganicmattress.com/products/organic-cotton-and-kapok-decorative-pillow-insert

Traffic to my website has been light for the past few years and I feel that the inserts are a better fit for The Organic Mattress, Inc. I still have lots of inventory on decorative pillow covers in ikats, suzanis, wax prints, batiks, kantha, tie-dye and block prints. Feel free to contact me at djhhalloran@msn.com if you are interested. I have ikat placemats and cheeky slogan embroideries in embroidery hoops. You can see them in a previous post.kapok beauty shotOrganic throw pillow inserts

Traditional camp and army cots

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Topos Camp Bed

I’ve seen images of the folding wood framed cots with undyed cotton canvas here and there over the past couple years, but  with an updated twist. They are being used more as hip daybeds with fluffy toppers to make them cushy and are layered with lots of exotic throw pillows. Very inviting! There are some makers in Europe that are selling them at costly prices. I find them appealing because the contemporary utilitarian ones are now made with metal frames and polyester or acrylic fabrics. The hardwood and natural cotton canvas hearkens back to World War II and before when items were made from natural ingredients.

While just wasting time this morning, I searched the internet for companies in the U.S that are still making the wood and cotton canvas ones and just couldn’t find any. I found one or the other, but not both. I found companies that were forced to move their production to Asia.  I found very expensive European ones. I found vintage ones on Etsy and Ebay. But, sadly, I found none that are made domestically in the all natural ingredients. I think that I am going to ressurrect these folding, portable workhorses!

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More on modern and subversive embroidery.

I was so enamored with many of the hysterical counted cross stitch that I stumbled upon on Pinterest and mentioned in a previous post that I decided to ask a cooperative with which I work in India create a few machine embroidered ones for me on natural linen fabric rather than aida cloth. I could have cross stitched them myself, but the labor hours to create in quantity from hand would have made the sell price prohibitive. These are 10″ round on bamboo embroidery hoops with brass closures.

They arrived on Saturday via DHL. I showed them to a friend of mine who is, also, a tail end baby boomer. She was so on the fence about whether or not these can ever sell and if they cross over the line of social correctness, My thought is that these are benign compared with some of the potty-mouthed ones that I have seen.  I would love feedback.

Here we go!

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Sincere Sustainability Statements

When I founded Fabricadabra in 2008, I knew that I wanted to work with small female cooperatives that paid living wages and empowered female craftspeople to financially care for their children, My reason was and is that these women are typically marginalized and  financially responsible for taking care of their own children and relatives’ children. I never drafted a sustainability statement. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

It has become de riguer  that every company outline what they do to preserve natural resources, give back to communities, close the loop and whatever else that they can state that seems thoughtful and enlightened about a sense of environmental stewardship. I read many of these sustainability statements and most seem hollow or contrived. The larger corporations hire Chief Sustainability Officers. Some are effectuating real change.

Target impressed we with its bold initiative to require that all of their suppliers remove questionable chemicals from personal care products and textiles by 2020. Soon after, other major corporations  put forth similar initiatives. Target has since adopted many other admirable goals related to sourcing and packaging. When large retailers force their suppliers to reformulate their products, it benefits everyone because the suppliers will  not carry one inventory for that one corporation and another for the rest. They will reformulate and distribute that reformulated product to all of their retailers.

Smaller companies can be more agile. I happened upon a company through a great blog named AOW Handmade  which connects global artisans with buyers. Annie Waterman highlighted an apparel company based in Australia that works with a group of female artisans in India. I was beyond impressed with the company’s heartfelt commitment to true humanitarianism. Most of these artisans are mothers and they can bring their children to work when there is no school. This is just one example of the thoughtfulness of Carlie Ballard.    In the drop down menu under ‘About Us’ there is a link to ‘Sustainability’.  It is mind blowing when compared with the now obligatory sustainability statements that we read on a regular basis. Here is the link.

Below is a copy and paste to the beginning of their sustainability statement. Read it in its entirety. It reinforced my belief in the goodness of womankind. I’ve heard the phrase “The Boy’s Club” for my entire life. Carlie Ballard makes me want to be part of its “Girl’s Club”. Beyond what you read below, they use only handwoven organic fabrics, mindful packaging, deadstock fabric and encourage minimizing laundering. This company gets sustainability and sisterhood right!

Sustainability

Manufacturing 
 
Carlie Ballard garments are made in a small workshop in Lucknow India. offering the dignity of employment, fair pay and excellent working conditions to a talented bunch of artisans. You can read all about our workshop partner here. In Australia it is called Zenana Women, but in India they had to use a more Indian name for business purposes which is Appropriate Improvements Fashion. Oh India! 
 
All of the profits from the workshop are dedicated to growing its capacity to employ, train and support the families of the women it has been established to assist.  
 
The team love to giggle at work, they gossip, eat cake, drink chai, listen to the radio, sing and share their stories like any other workplace. They work normal hours, have a weekend, have a lunch break and have a wonderful support network. 

Working Conditions at our Cut Make and Trim workshop:

  • 5 x 8-hour days a week for the standard salary, not 6 as is the norm. When a 6thday is worked they are paid overtime.
  • Flexible working hours, especially important to women with family obligations
  • Interest-free loans
  • Financial support for any training/education undertaken
  • Paid study leave
  • Literacy classes during working hours
  • Assistance and support with personal or family problems, including health problems, led from the top down by all-female management team
  • Children welcome after school, in school holidays or when ill
  • Encouraged to train to further their skills within the workshop

Menopause Mattress- Back to the Garden

Okay, let’s talk about it. I’m a Baby Boomer. I’ve been working two days a week at The Organic Mattress in Sudbury, MA for 10 years. Many women in my age range come in and express that they have trouble sleeping and ask if the mattresses overheat. I know why they ask this. Some women are more direct and just say, “I have hot flashes. I’m awake at all hours of the night. Does this mattress sleep hot?”

What often leads my peers to the gallery to explore organic mattresses is their dismay with all of the mystery ingredients that are now in conventional mattresses and the trendiness of sleep science and technology. What are these new ingredients and who has done the research?

Conventional mattresses are made with synthetic ingredients and we all know that synthetics do not breathe.  We can apply this through experience with apparel because we all know what it feels like to have polyester or vinyl next to our skin. It is suffocating. However, most people don’t think about this with conventional mattresses. Memory foam is the worst, even if you aren’t going through menopause. I hear this complaint from men and women of all ages. In an effort to counteract the problem with temperature regulation in synthetic mattresses, manufacturers are creating and patenting proprietary gel and bio-infused synthetic materials that they claim (through whose research I wonder)  wicks off moisture and adjusts body and mattress temperature to provide optimal sleep conditions. This trend alarms me. Try researching exactly what these materials are and they are all made with chemicals, still. If they just used natural ingredients, the problem would not exist.

The brands of mattresses that The Organic Mattress, Inc. carry  have organic cotton ticking and use wool as the natural flame retardant. Wool wicks off moisture and is a natural temperature regulator. For as long as men have worn suits to work, they still wear worsted wool in the Summer and aren’t overheating from it. It feels cool. The other ingredients in the organic mattresses are springs, e pocketed coils and/or all natural latex rubber. Women my age ask if they will overheat in natural latex rubber. No. It is not synthetic and it has holes. It breathes. The entire mattress breathes.

Natural fiber mattresses can cost more than synthetic fiber mattresses because natural ingredients are more expensive than synthetic ones. The advantages, however, far outweigh the expense. Your face and body aren’t absorbing chemicals all night, many of which have been associated with brain fog, ADD, Autism, thyroid disorder, lower sperm count, asthma …on and on. Chemical flame retardants are linked to physical and cognitive health problems. Natural latex rubber lasts far longer than synthetic foam. It breathes. Most “organic” or natural fiber mattresses have warranties of 15 years or longer. What our pores and bloodstreams absorb are every bit as serious as the foods that we ingest.

While I’m on my natural mattress throne, I would like to add a couple more comments about creating a better sleeping environment. Your pillow should not have sensors, monitors or play music. Don’t lay on a smart pillow and read a Kindle until you fall asleep. The fewer electronics that are in the bedroom, the better. EMF’s interfere with our brain wave patterns. Knock off all electronics a couple hours before trying to sleep. Blue light from electronics disturbs sleep. Choose natural fiber bedding accessories for airflow. Polyester sheets are increasingly popular due to their price points, but polyester doesn’t breathe.

Joni Mitchell did have it right and still has it right. We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Boho Themed Parties and Baby Nurseries

I didn’t know this was a trend. I went onto the internet to get inspiration for fringed fabric tassels and stumbled upon it. As a tail end Boomer, I don’t attend any weddings, showers or decorate baby nurseries. But, I wound up on Pinterest and was inundated with images of dream catchers and scrap fabric garland tassels in the setting of bridal showers, baby showers and nurseries. My reason for searching was that I am siting upon piles of fabric that need new life breathed into them. So, here you go. I must say that I truly love the tee-pee idea in a toddler’s room. I like that the room is light and bright, still providing stimulation. It is a refreshing change from choo-choo trains and lollipops. The hanging macrame bassinets outright scares me. It is very cute, but the chances that we take with plants shouldn’t be equal with those that we take with newborn babies. I would want that attached to a set of firm legs that meet the ground.

Living in New England and having had dreadful weather all winter and into Spring makes me long for any type of an outdoor celebration with flowers, plants and a meal. I’m craving a 70 degree day in our near future. I’ll sleep in a teepee if we get one, too.

Mystic Knotwork Rope Bracelets-Nostalgic

I stumbled upon their website through Martha Stewart’s ‘Made in America’ website and link to her ebay shop. We all wore these bracelets in the 1970’s where I was raised in Massachusetts. We didn’t live on Cape Cod, but everyone vacationed there. So, these bracelets were a symbol of our ties to Cape Cod, the ocean and New England nautical life. Back in the 70’s, they came in natural only. There were no dyed color options.

To see them again, see the colored options and to learn that they are made in Mystic CT is uplifting. They could easily come from China and be sold on Ali Express. I support the resurgence of  manufacturing products here in the States, despite my having supported the passing of NAFTA in the early 1990’s  and shortly after its passage in 1993. ( I am in the textile industry and witnessed the rapid shift to overseas manufacturing, closing of textile mills in the States and losses of jobs for some of my peers.)

What is delightful about these rope bracelets real people make by hand is that they ring in at $5-$7.95 each!!!!!!! They offer an array of rope knot products that they didn’t in the 1970’s. Door mats, coasters, key chains, dog toys, napkin rings, door stoppers, drawer pulls, necklaces, trendier bracelets and ornaments. However, the classic sailor bracelets appeal most to me. Take a look.

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My favorite- Sailor bracelets in happy colors.

Pure Upholstery website is live!!!!

I am very happy to announce that my newest endeavor with The Organic Mattress, Inc. is a line of upholstered furniture that uses all natural and organic ingredients. Ingredients include natural latex rubber with no additives or chemicals, organic wool batting, eco needle punched wool, organic cotton canvas, VOC-free wood stains, solid hardwood frames, Greenguard Gold certified glue and upholstery fabrics that are either GOTS and/or Oeko-tex 100 certified.

We have been making the upholstered pieces since Spring 2017. However, we decided that the collection merits its own brand and website. Please check out the site and feel free to sing up for our newsletter- which you receive infrequently. We publish sale items and special savings news.  https://pureupholstery.com/

Meet the classic English Arm Loveseat: Chatham.

Please reach out if you are visiting Boston and would love to come to our 5,000 sq. ft. showroom that is shared with The Organic Mattress, Inc. We will treat you to an Uber ride to our showroom!

Cheeky cross stitched embroidery

It has been going on under my nose and away from my late boomer friendship circle. My nephew posted to Facebook an image that tickled my funny bone last weekend while grocery shopping with my husband.  I could not stop laughing. This is the image.

please-dont-do-coke-embroidery

Tacky frame, boring font, 1980’s colors and hysterical words.

After putting away the groceries, I went onto my laptop and Googled images for “humorous embroidery”. Unbeknownst to me, the Gen Xers have picked up the embroidery hoop and needle and have put their own spin on it. I used to embroider in my teen years until about age 30. That was over 20 years ago. Most embroidery patterns where so bland, traditional and serious. So, I started this Irish Blessing in my mid 20’s, put it down for a year, all of the embroidery threads were tangled when I went back to it, had to order more from the manufacturer, began working on it again at age 30 and then out it back down. Many times I thought to just trash it, but I had logged over 1000 hours on this seemingly small counted cross stitch. (It is 20″ x 16″). I just pulled it out again and am going to finish it. But, it is so tame compared with what I am seeing on Google images.

donna embroidery

My decades old in process counted cross stitch.

Or, do I just ditch The Irish Blessing and get on with one more 2018 like these below?

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You’re dead to me cross stitch.

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What’s wrong with your face cross stitch.

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I scream. You scream. Police come. It’s awkward. cross stitch.

Any thoughts? What irreverent words would you like to cross stitch?

Ankara, African and Dutch Wax Print Fabrics’ long and evolving history

I have long admired Dutch and African wax printed fabrics. I have been waiting since 2008, when I discovered them, for the United States to embrace them. Well, it has never really happened. So, that is why I am sitting on hundreds of decorative pillow covers made from Ghanan genuine wax prints and Dutch Vlisco’s screen printed versions of them. I recently downsized and gave away hundreds of yards of  the fabric to lack of storage space.

Stella McCartney was criticized this week for using these fabric to make her collection for Paris Fashion week and not giving credit to West Africans or using black models to wear the pieces on the runway.  Knowing the long and murky history of these fabrics, I find it rather difficult to place blame on her. The most highly coveted “African” wax print fabrics have long been produced by a Dutch company named Vlisco, who stole the look from Indonesian batiks. West Africans came to embrace them and fabric houses there began producing their own genuine batik versions. Now the Chinese are knocking off Dutch wax prints and screen printing their iterations of them.

This Slate Magazine article is very interesting and does a great job of explaining the evolution of these fabrics that may benefit from name clarifications- specifically Ankara, Dutch wax print interpretations, West African wax prints and Chinese screen or digital one sided knock-offs of Dutch wax print interpretations. Check out this article from 2012.

Stella_McCartney_wax_prints

Stella McCartney outfit in wax print fabric at Paris Fashion Week

 

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/design/2012/03/african_fabric_where_do_tribal_prints_really_come_from_.html

Non-toxic upholstery with The Organic Mattress,Inc.

My most recent endeavor in non-toxic upholstery and fabrics is timely in that The Consumer Product Safety Commission just days ago released a warning to consumers to avoid household products with organohalogen flame retardants. While this warning isn’t as inclusive as  I would like (banning all classes of chemical flame retardants), it is progress.

So, I continue to produce the collection of non-toxic upholstered furniture that the talented Emily Kroll designed for her company that launched in 2008 under the name EKLA HOME, Inc.  Emily has designed furniture for 30 years and  disrupted the small industry of eco upholstery with unprecedented  contemporary and clean designs using G.O.T.S. and Oeko-Tex 100 certified fabrics produced by Oecotextiles. Both EKLA HOME and Oecotextiles brought the non-toxic upholstery industry forward about 30 years in  just one day with the mere existence. Prior to EKLA HOME, designs were stale, clunky and very traditional. The fabric options were equality as lackluster. Oecotextiles’ fabrics are luxurious, colorful and are all transparent as  non-toxic with their 3rd party certifications.

Thank you, Emily, for granting me the right to continue to make your beautiful pieces.

 

https://www.consumerreports.org/toxic-chemicals-substances/avoid-these-flame-retardants-cpsc-warning/

http://www.naturalawakeningsboston.com/MIDS/October-2017/The-Organic-Mattress-Releases-New-Non-Toxic-Furniture-Line/

Good Earth Home and Apparel

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Good Earth Carmine Collection

Good-Earth-Tranquility

Good Earth Tranquility Collection

 

I awakened this morning at 4:30am. One of morning rituals is to pour a cup of coffee and jump on-line to read my emails. I have Google Alerts set-up for a number of phrases. one of which is “sustainable textiles”. I clicked on the link from my email IN Box and it took me to a page on the website of Good Earth Company. I was immediately struck by the beauty of their home textiles and porcelain china. The surface designs are sophisticated and colored brilliantly. The patterns are heavily influenced by nature. What delighted me is their ability to choose the best of Eastern design influences but with a more Western color sensibility.  All of the color combinations are soothing, even the moodier ones. The best explanation of who they are and how they are inspired comes directly from the “Our Story” section of their website and I share their words verbatim in the following paragraph.

 

In January 2016, Good Earth celebrates 20 years of a design aesthetic that is crafted by hand, inspired by nature, and enchanted by history. Since opening in Mumbai in 1996, the last two decades have seen Good Earth grow into a cult brand recognised for its crafts-focused approach to luxury design and reviving the authentic skills of the crafts communities of India.Good Earth is everyday luxury defined by an intense connection to nature, history, heritage and original design through an Indian prism. As India’s leading design house, we are known for our storytelling through surface design and sustaining the craft traditions of our culture.

With a growing international and online presence, we look at the world beyond India to build on our legacy as advocates for sustainable luxury. https://www.goodearth.in/our-company/our-story

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Enter a caption

 

Good-Earth-Silk-Road-Cushions

Good Earth Silk Road Collection

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Good Earth brocades

 

The company has a number of retail locations throughout India and in a few other cities in Asia.  Their aesthetic would be successful here in the States. Their retail prices aren’t low, but the quality of their textiles is much higher than many “designer” soft home goods that I have encountered. I love their tributes or Collections of china and textiles that pay homage to the best of regional textiles and surface design, yet all produced in India by Fair Trade artisans, thus keeping artisans in their country employed. The elegance and luxury of their lines are understated and timeless. Kudos to Good Earth Company.

Recycled Sari and Mylar Tassel Garland

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Hang them in the window, in the middle of the room. Use them repeatedly for parties of all kids. Add them to you home décor as a boho touch of whimsy. No two are alike. They are more durable than crepe paper versions. Enjoy!

Non-toxic home furnishings and me.

Jamestown Sofa in Palouse Charcoal

I have worked in the textile industry my entire life. Certainly my adult life, but I have been consumed with textiles seemingly forever. I learned to sew at a young age and made lots of my own clothing and soft home furnishings. My high school and college years jobs were in textiles. I worked with conventional textiles for twenty years of my adult life. I wasn’t aware of any textiles that weren’t processed without a plethora of chemicals. I, frankly, didn’t consider which chemicals were used when I commissioned mills to spin, weave, dye, print or finish fabrics for me. I didn’t think at all about their environmental impact other than adherence to EPA limits for very few chemicals. I remember striking off a printed fabric at  a mill in New England in 1990 and I was advised to show up at midnight. While there, I asked why were starting so late and the colorist advised me that the EPA didn’t want them using a certain red dye that they wanted to use , so they had to use it at night when nobody was checking the water. He went on to say that this is why all the mills down South were thriving – because THE EPA didn’t bother them. I didn’t know at that time that the textile industry is the 2nd highest polluting and toxic industry behind  the oil industry.

I started working with FURNATURE, the only producer of truly non-toxic upholstered furniture in the world at that time, in February 2004.  The alliance was serendipitous. I set up a meeting with the company’s founder, Fred Shapiro, to discuss his inventorying and shipping fabric for my on-line fabric business named Fabricadabra. While meeting with him in his huge warehouse that was home to his home textiles retail store named Freddy Farkel’s Fabrics, I saw two back rooms with upholstered furniture, mattresses and bedding accessories. I inquired about the contents of the rooms and this is when and where my education in organics home furnishings began. I was fascinated.  Furnature began producing these all natural ingredient sofas back in the early 1990’s. Very simple ingredients: solid hardwood frames, natural latex rubber with no additives or harmful flame retardants, untreated wool batting, certified organic cotton muslin, no-VOC leg stains and undyed organic cotton upholstery fabric that organic cotton veteran Chris Hancock designed and now defunct The Rug Barn distributed.

Furnature, was, also, a U.S. distributor of Sleeptek non-toxic mattresses and bedding accessories. The mattresses contained three simple ingredients: natural latex rubber, untreated wool and organic cotton. The bedding accessories shared the same ingredients. Sleeptek was the first manufacturer of organic mattresses in North America. Every  organic mattress company since has tried to copy the look and feel of their then premier mattress that was renamed the GreenSleep  Hevea to the renamed Vimala in 2006. (Sleeptek later sold the GreenSleep brand.)

So, I learned  the rather small and evolving  organic mattress, bedding accessories, textiles and non-toxic upholstery markets during my four years with  Furnature. I sourced suppliers for the natural and non-toxic ingredients, got to work with textile manufacturers who were interested in producing organic cotton upholstery fabrics as well as really grew to understand the values of the consumers who wanted these products back in the early 2000’s. I became one of them. Once you have the knowledge, it is difficult to ignore it.

I used to speak with Leigh Anne, one of the  two sisters who founded Oecotextiles,in 2006, before they launched their line. Leigh Anne would phone during the couple years of research that they conducted to ask many questions about what our customers wanted in less toxic natural fiber home textiles fabrics, if any dyes were acceptable at all,…etc. I truly admired all of the thought and research that they put into developing their pioneering line of eco luxurious home furnishings fabrics. Prior to their debut, we were working with a line of color grown organic cottons that had been developed 10 years earlier and  were still on the market due to lack of demand along with a  canvas dyed  hemp that was offered in natural,beige, navy, olive, chocolate and black. Consumers want color and sophistication.

I co-founded EKLA HOME, maker of non-toxic upholstered furniture, in 2008 with Emily Kroll, the owner. Emily had the background in furniture design and I in the non-toxic ingredients, construction, textiles and sourcing. She had written a thorough business plan and was looking for funding. She wanted to change her business model from conventional to organic based on her own value system and lifestyle. She came to Furnature in 2007 to propose that we collaborate and that her factory produce pieces for Furnature on the West Coast. We worked with her and factory for a short period of time until it became apparent that there just wasn’t enough margin and volume to make it feasible. Her designs were fresh and progressive. She already understood the consumer because she was one of them. I knew that we would work well together. So, I left Furnature.

It was a nine year labor of myriad emotions. The launch couldn’t have been at a worse time in the economy other than just before the Great Depression. However, we were lean and optimistic.  We immediately embraced Oecotextiles as our upholstery fabric supplier. Customers love the fabrics, weave options, variety of colors and the independent non-toxic certifications. We worked from our homes, had no showroom, held sofa viewings in Skippy’s Coconut Ice Cream’s parking lot  a couple Saturdays each month or met customers just off the 5 when we were making Nor Cal deliveries.  Most customers took the leap of faith to buy sight unseen.

There was lots of confusion  after Cal Tech Bulletin 117 changed  in January 2013 from an open flame test on the entire sofa to a smoldering cigarette test on the fabric. The change meant that the sofas didn’t not have to use toxic flame retardants in the state of California any longer as long as the upholstery fabric could pass the smoldering cigarette test, which was relatively easy for a tightly woven natural fiber fabric to do so. By early 2105, many conventional upholstered furniture manufacturers had switched to non-FR foam and were clearly labeling their pieces as having no flame retardants. It became apparent that many consumers were satisfied with this option and didn’t have the knowledge to be concerned about all of the other nasty chemicals in upholstered furniture. It makes sense because there wasn’t much being written and in the media about the other components. (Read Oecotextile’s blog posts if you want to be enlightened.)

We encountered many hurdles and many successes. Hurdles: high cost of ingredients, production delays, in-transit damages, expectations that non-toxic fabrics perform like Crypton and Sunbrella, 100% made by human hands, we didn’t offer EKLA HOME PRIME, own our own fleet of trucks and we  offered no financing. Successes: all of the awards and recognition from fearless advocates of sustainability and wellness, positive customer feedback. We worked long days and needed to be available on weekends, week nights, vacations and when showering for customers due to deliveries and time zones. We became disheartened by all of the out of pocket expenses that we incurred with in-transit damages that we had to pay to rectify because the shippers wouldn’t honor claims if customers didn’t note the damages on the bills of lading. We had serious labor issues in the factory. Each employee specialized in one aspect of the construction process. If the frame builder had to go back to Central America due to a family event or the cushion maker got sick, production just stopped. Nothing was mechanized. Emily and I were masochists. When I felt frustrated, she would jump in and keep things going and vice versa. We laughed, we cried, it became a part of us. As the owner of the company, Emily was tasked with handling all of the receivables and payables , trying to multiply the loaves. It was a continuous stressor.

Emily decided to close the company in February to pursue textile waste upcycling. As co-founder of the company and the person who had all of the sourcing and construction knowledge, Emily gave me the rights to continue to produce the  EKLA HOME  collection. Throughout my years with EKLA HOME, I continued to run Fabricadabra as well as work two days a week at The Organic Mattress in Sudbury  MA. (www.theorganicmattress.com  I will continue to produce the pieces at the same factories in North Carolina and Los Angeles  with the same non-toxic ingredients through The Organic Mattress,Inc. I will, also, produce completely custom pieces local to me so that I can better monitor the production. I plan to be very selective about the custom projects that I take on. One can never charge enough for completely custom. It is  building a prototype that will never be made again and guessing the labor hours to perfect it. But, you have to price it prior to going through the exercise.

A little about the custom upholstery business and then let’s add the non-toxic components factor. I have read about a number of start-up companies that are offering custom upholstered furniture at highly competitive prices with fast turnarounds and generous return policies. Some want to mirror the fast fashion industry. I detest fast fashion. I am sickened by the speed at which new collections come out, the poor quality of the pieces, the problems with the pieces ending up in landfills, the pollution that the factories emit  and the goal of encouraging people to buy cheap , buy synthetic and buy often. This is anathema to my values.

The trend of delivering everything quickly  concerns me. Casper can offer same day mattress delivery in certain cities. Kudos. However, unless your cat has urinated on your mattress, don’t you know further in advance if you will be needing a mattress? Casper’s success has spawned many on-line mattress etailers to offer mattresses in a box with quick deliveries, generous satisfaction guarantees and a race to the bottom in pricing. I’m seeing this in custom upholstery. The business model seems unsustainable. Let’s use Greycork as an example. Their goal was to make high quality furniture that assembles in under four minutes at reasonable prices and with a  generous return policy if not satisfied. They didn’t expect the returns that they did actually received and they couldn’t maintain the price points that they set as a result.

Many people want mattresses and furniture that can be left curbside when they move because they aren’t investment pieces and they cost more to move than to leave behind. This saddens me because the pieces usually end up in landfills. All of the synthetic ingredients continue to be problematic when incinerated.

People are sometimes frustrated with the high cost of non-toxic upholstered furniture and the lead time to produce. The ingredients are 10 times more expensive than their synthetic counterparts. Natural latex rubber and needle punched wool do cost lots of money. The pieces are not mass produced. They are 100%  human made. The pieces are built to last. They are investment pieces. Natural latex rubber will not break down as  synthetic foam does, despite odd rumors that circulate that natural rubber breaks down faster. Some consumers assume that the makers of non-toxic upholstery are greedy. This is not accurate. We work on much lower margins than those selling conventional pieces. The ingredients with which we work are very difficult to manipulate, so the labor hours to make are doubled those of conventional sofas . Many furniture craftspeople do not want to make organic sofas because they are very challenging. The fabrics, too, are more difficult to use because they don’t have the resin stabilizers that conventional fabrics do. They cost more money than conventional manmade fiber textiles. Conventional fabrics are toxic. None of us is making tons of money. If we are fortunate, we are able to pay our bills and take a modest salary.

Shipping large, heavy pieces of furniture all over the country is a shit show.  The process is complex and time consuming. It is not similar to UPS or FedEx or having a local furniture retailer schedule a delivery. They don’t scan the bar codes every few hours. Often, the sofas are just “in-transit” and the shippers cannot tell customers exactly where their sofas are because they don’t even know. Consumers cannot schedule deliveries for when it is convenient for them. They must take delivery when the shipper is in that geographical region and based on the shipper’s schedule. The shipper might not be back to that region for another month.

I shy away from using the term “white glove delivery” because that implies an extremely high level of service. One can have that if one is willing to pay $1500 to ship an organic sofa. However, for $550, the shipper will offer two delivery people who plunk it down in the room of choice and ask you to sign a legal, binding document entitled a “bill of lading” without explaining that it means that you have signed for your organic sofa as being completely free of damages. Most of the time, it is free of in-transit damages. But, sometimes legs get nicked or the upholstery fabric gets soiled.  The pieces are stacked sideways on the trucks to fit more freight in the bed. This isn’t a huge issue with conventional sofas. However, an eco-friendly sofa with natural latex rubber and overconstructed frames weighs about 300 lbs and the rubber will shift downward, contorting the upholstery fabric along the way. So, sometimes when the sofas arrive, they need to be manhandled back into form. Some customers, understandably, are aghast and think that the sofa left our facility looking like this.  The organic sofas are so heavy that, on a rare occasion, a shipper will choose to drag the sideways sofa rather than lift it. Maybe he has a hangover or is planning to give his notice. Who knows what  possesses one to drag a sofa on the ground sideways. What we do know, however, is that the plastic covering will break open and the upholstery fabric will abrade. Sometimes in-room set up shippers will catch this and advise us of the damage so that it can be repaired before delivery. Sometimes, they actually just try to deliver the sofas with the side panels damaged. So, we are left with a sofa in Podunk North Dakota and a bill of lading that has been signed for as “clean” or without notation of damage and we absorb the expenses to hire an upholstery company to pick up the piece, repair and return it , despite our buying insurance to cover replacement.

One area in which Amazon has never been able to excel is signing on  furniture manufacturers to sell on their website because the logistics of shipping large pieces of furniture long distances is a nightmare. Two day PRIME delivery is another impossibility. But, again, I have to ask why one needs a sectional sofa in such a hurry unless the puppy ripped their existing sectional to shreds. And, I hope this never happens because the upholstery fabric and foam are likely toxic. I wouldn’t want my puppy chewing conventional components of upholstered furniture.

In summary, I want to share that I am going to continue the mad mission of producing eco-friendly upholstered furniture through The Organic Mattress , Inc.in Sudbury, MA.  under the brand ‘Pure Upholstery’. (www.pureupholstery.com)Every piece will be shipped boxed or on pallets to lower the likelihood of in-transit damages from forklifts. They have over 5,000 square feet of showroom space (making them the largest retailer of organic mattresses in the states). We  actually have sofas in the showrooms. The store itself is beautiful. The building is the oldest building in the town of Sudbury, dating back to the 1700’s. Sudbury neighbors the towns of Lexington, Lincoln and Concord MA, all three of which are quintessential New England hamlets in the suburbs of Boston. Sudbury’s zip code is 01776.  Yes, 1776!!!  If a potential customer is visiting Boston, John and Diane (the owners) will gladly coordinate picking them up in Boston to bring them to our showrooms.

Pure Upholstery will deliver all of its own mattresses and upholstered furniture from Portland Maine to New York City, using its own delivery truck and reliable delivery people who have been doing the deliveries since 2007.  They wear gloves, remove their shoes, do not wear cologne and they will take away your old mattress or sofa. They then donate them to Household Goods. (https://householdgoods.org/) I will physically be in the showrooms on Tuesdays and Thursdays and am available at any time to wax eco-friendly sofas, organic mattresses and bedding accessories. It’s not my first Summer out, as you might have gleaned by now.

 

Pretty organic planters made from abaca cloth

I stumbled upon the first colorful ikat fabric planter image, where else, on Pinterest. I clicked the vistit link and it took me to a closed Etsy shop named 7100 Islands. Hmmm. So cute. I read the description on past sales and they referred to the fabric as abaca (more on that to follow) and the vessels as bowls. The fabric is from the Philippines and the studio that made the bowls was in France. I checked their blog and there were no posts since 2013. I searched the internet for over an hour looking for similar vessels/bowls/planters and found none. I just kept stumbling upon active Pinterest pins of these clever bowls from the defunct 7100 Islands. It was eerie, similar to driving into an abandoned town with just tumbleweeds and great architecture.  I must say that I am shocked that Anthropologie, Urban Outfiiters or ,even, Frontgate hasn’t taken off with something similar. The ikat weave and bright colors certainly make the bowls in the left image more impactful. However, the ones in the right image do have a cool, earthy, organic vibe.

Okay, I must confess that I had to look up the definition of abaca. It is a fiber from  a species of banana that is  native to the Philippines and grown as a commercial crop in the Philippines, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. The plant is also known as Manila hemp and is harvested for its fiber which is extracted from the leaf stems. Plant grows to 13–22 feet It is classified as a hard fiber, along with sisal and coir. It is extremely strong and grows without any need for pesticides or insecticides. It, like hemp, isn’t prone to rotting or molding easily. So, it seems like a great natural and non-toxic option for outdoor use. The ikat weaving is reffered to as  T’nalak.  The weavers use backstrap looms and it takes months to yield 10 yards. The artisans strip, split, knot, design, tie, dye, weave and pound.  Prepping the loom can take a month. The weaving of the exquisitely complex T’nalak, a resist-dyed (ikat) abaca fiber. So, it is now not a surprise that this fabric used by mass producers or easily accessible in the worldwide marketplace.

Are they not adorable? Come back 7100 Islands. I never knew you.

abaca planters

Mattress and Upholstery Foam Musings

CertiPur Foam is being promoted as less toxic than other foams.  Many people assume that it is completely free of flame retardants, too. It claims to be free of only certain classes of flame retardants. The Certi-Pur website page with frequently asked questions doesn’t say that it is free of flame retardants because it tests just for certain classes. It advises us to contact the flexible foam manufacturer to know for certain. The state of California requires disclosure on the labels of products made with foam, Certi-Pur or otherwise.

Many people are unaware that CertiPUR-US is a program of the Alliance for Flexible Polyurethane Foam. However, the Alliance of Flexible Polyurethane Foam  was conceived by the Polyurethane Foam Association (PFA) whose members are chemical companies and foam fabricators. The Alliance for Flexible Polyurethane Foam doesn’t even have a website. If you search for it on the internet, it brings you back to the CertiPur website. Rumor is that the PFA and the chemical suppliers created the certification to differentiate its foam from less expensive imported foam. This is not a third party certification. Clever, right?

Oecotextiles does a great job of comparing the claims of CertiPur foam to the realities of all foam in its  well researched blog. Once you have all of the facts, it does seem as though CertiPur certification is bluster. Many people believe that removing flame retardants from foam is good enough for them when purchasing a mattress of sofa. As their blog explains, 50% of foams weight is lost 10 years after buying it. Where does it go? We breathe it in and it settles in our homes as dust.

Oecotextiles explains that the foam is still a petrochemical and that it is still toxic. This article addresses just one of many ingredients in mattresses and upholstered furniture.  Conventional mattress ticking and upholstery fabrics are processed with lots of toxic chemicals.  Those fabrics are against our skin and the chemicals are absorbed into our bloodstreams. Most people do not know or do not think about ingredients other than the flame retardants because flame retardants are topical. Many conventional mattresses contain not one natural and non-toxic ingredient. Most upholstered furniture uses plywood frames and plywood is wood scraps and glue with volatile organic compounds. The remainder of most conventional upholstered furniture are components that are, if not completely synthetic, are processed with pesticides and insecticides.

Prop 65 label

Here is the link to Oecotextile’s eye opening blog post about foam as well as many other posts about toxicity in fabrics and upholstered furniture . https://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/

 

Brightly colored pillows for Spring 2017

OC73 sold pink with pom pom face

Dyed with rice stitch and pom pom pillow cover $17.

IKT151 silk

Vliving silk ikat pillow2

Woven silk ikatesque pillow cover $30.

 

Embroidered linen pillow cover $31.EMB63 Aztec face

Vliving embroidered linen pillow

Embroidered linen pillow cover $31.

 

Dyed with rice stitch and pom pom pillow cover. $17OC71 solid turquoise with pom poms fabric

Hand block printed in silver metallic with fuchsia ground. $20BP1 Hot Pink block print

IND100 patchwork block print with pom poms

Hand block printed and kantha stitch patchwork pillow cover with pom poms. $35

Fabricadabra new additions for Spring

recycled-sari-and-gold-macrame-garland-4

Recycled sari crocheted tassel garland

recycled sari garland and decorative parasols

 

recycled-sari-and-mylar-party-tassel-garland-3Graduation party decorations that are recycled, upcycled and reusable!

Are African wax print fabrics finally getting the attention that they deserve in home textiles?

le petit congalese wax prints.jpgI was delighted to see a post in the Linked In group ‘Home Textiles Professionals” of which I am a member whereby one member mentioned that they are all the rage in France currently. She asked if we thought the trend would catch on in the U.S. Anyone who follows my blog or buys from my website (www.fabricadabra.us) knows that I have been selling African and Dutch wax print decorative pillows as well as fabric by the yard since stumbling upon them in early 2009. I still do. They just never seemed to mesh with U.S. consumers despite being a party waiting to happen. This same Linked In Group Member posted a great article about Africa wax prints that I am reposting.

One very serious concern that I have regarding Africa textiles is their being knocked off or copied in China. since the launch of Fabricadabra in 2008, I have purchased African batik, indigo cloth, mud cloth and Ankara or wax prints to make decorative pillow covers. I find it disheartening to see retailers such as Anthropologie buy Chinese knock-off fabric to make bedding and upholstered furniture using the copied versions. They charge enough for their products that it us unnecessary. Not only that, their using them tacitly implies approval of this process. Africa’s beautiful fabrics should be made by Africa’s textile artists in the traditional wax resist methods that they employ and not be copied and rotary screen printed in China for global distribution under the name of African wax printed fabric. Furthermore, the true Africa fabrics do not actually cost nearly as much as they should. They are a bargain, unless you  buy them through One King’s Lane.

So, here is the repost of a blog article by Kenisa Home that highlights how on trend they are in France currently. http://www.kenisahome.com/blog/kenisa-tips-ins/decorating-african-wax-fabric/

There have been many studies about the toxic #flameretardants in upholstered furniture, but I read little about the same ones that are in our mattresses whereby we spend more time in than on our sofas. I’m curious as to when this will be addressed and shared with consumers. This one article addresses it in the tagline, but not in the content of the article. The same flame retardants are in foam pillow inserts, electronics, car seats and so many other products that we use daily. http://www.naturalnews.com/2017-04-16-fire-retardant-chemicals-used-in-your-mattress-linked-to-74-rise-in-thyroid-cancer-tumors.html

Unmade-Bed-Pillows-Sheets-Bedroom

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