Sunday, February 19, 2017

We Have News! We have Launched an All or Nothing Fundraiser: Click here to see the video:
 "Winter Moose: Vermont Sustainable Fashion"
Come have a look at the Kickstarter video and all the amazing fabric and fashion items we hope to make for those who contribute to our success. With so much going on in the world right now, we need all the help we can muster to get the word out to those who believe in our work. Thank you in advance for being a part of positive change, and spreading the word about our mission to strengthen Vermont's sustainable textile supply chain.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The year is flying by. Over the Summer, I spent a month driving to California and back, making beautiful memories with friends and family on the West Coast. Since then, my time has been split between creating ceramic pieces and developing prototypes and photographs for Winter Moose.
We had a beautiful sample woven for us at the Marshfield School of Weaving, and chose to showcase it as a scarf - adding a fringe.  This spiraling vine motif is my favorite crepe pattern weave so far.
We continue working with local models, to show our prototypes to advantage. A big "Thank You" to these wonderful community members who enjoy presenting the work of local craftsmen and women - appreciating the values behind all that we do. 

Now we are ready for the next step. To move Winter Moose out of  R & D and into the world of wholesale and retail, we are planning to launch a new Kickstarter. 

Our hope is to raise enough capital to secure our Winter Moose brand name, and create a small line for retail, featuring 100% Vermont alpaca cloth. We are designing some men's slacks, women's skirts, and button down shirts and scarves for all. A vest and soft caps will also be available. We are very excited about having more fabric woven, more pieces made, and connecting these unique items with future owners.

Earlier this month, a friend offered to help us get started on the Kickstarter, with some video footage. Right before the shoot, my new Black and Decker iron died. It was less than 6 months old! I had to get the job done - and I had these old fashioned irons...  I had even cleaned them up a little, not imagining that they would come in handy. They worked perfectly! After using them, I am almost ready to keep doing so. 

We will keep you all posted regarding our Kickstarter Launch Date. 

Happy Fall!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A quick update: 

We were recently asked, by a fashion blogger, for an interview.  Here is a link to the resulting article; our Winter Moose story.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Year Complete

It has been a full year, this month, since our Kickstarter fundraiser was successful. We were able to complete our testing goals on two fabric styles, with a few yards to spare. Over the past few months we have made patterns and prototypes, some of which worked, and some of which resulted in humorous references to muppets and Sesame Street.  Through trial and error, we have solidified three hat patterns, and a fine glove pattern, all drawn out by hand, in several sizes, the old fashioned way.

It took some time to locate an American grown and processed cotton, with no synthetic dyes, fine enough to be a lining for our hats. Our buttons were made to order by a local craftsman, using reclaimed, Vermont grown wood.  That took time as well. Slowly, enough items were finished to document and share with the world. 
I enjoyed capturing our work with photos, as our first two models had fun striking poses against the Burlington architecture.  I still have two more hats to finish and photograph, and we will also have another pair of gloves, before we formally announce our presence to the world.

As we keep detailed notes on materials, time and processes used, the real cost of producing these items, from the fiber in the fields through to the finished garment, makes itself evident. In Vermont, we do not have the kind of poorly paid labor pools that are available in the larger cities of America, and of course we do not have the vast numbers of forced laborers, or servile casts that some foreign textile businesses rely on. Hence, our prices will seem, to some, to be on the high end. The other side of the price is our happy conscience, knowing that every sale goes to support small businesses and expert craftspeople in our community. The creation of Winter Moose fashion protects the environment from toxic dyes, and supports healthy people by avoiding all synthetic insecticides and preservatives. 

Something I have been pondering is the source of power used to create a modern, sustainable fabric. What energy are we using to power the looms, rollers, teasers, stretchers etc. in a mechanized facility? It is true that giant looms have recently returned to the USA - weaving cotton in the South and wool in the North. When these industries thrived here, in the past, economically, water was the main power source. Though the power source was free, the human price was great at the mills. Child labor, injuries, long hours, toxic dyes polluting rivers, health issues from bad air quality, etc. were common. Growing an industry in a way that keeps both environmental and cultural sustainability at the heart while succeeding economically is our challenge. Will we be bringing the water wheels back?
In the fall, I took this picture of the old Winooski Woolen Mill that used water as it's power source. This mill is close to my home, but similar buildings dot the landscape of New England. 

The vast majority of weavers in Vermont use old wooden looms, now. The same kind of weaving that was prevalent in the sixteenth century. 
We have much to ponder as we move forward.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Our first tests are finished, and I think we have succeeded in creating some amazing fabric. We put away our thermometers, ph testers and odd hand powered and small electric tools. The recipe for two beautiful and practical fabrics, from each of our greige goods, is now in hand. In light of my original inspiration, to make cloth that reflects the flora and fauna of Vermont, we are giving these fabrics animal names.

"Turkey Feather Twill" - Raw goods & two sample finishes.

"Chipping Sparrow Crepe" - Raw goods & two sample finishes.

The lower left fabric in each image is the raw textile, off the loom. The other two are fulled to 16 and 30 percent of the original size. The final product is softer to the touch, and more durable than the greige goods fresh off the loom.

A New Look for the Winter Moose Website

We have finalized the first line of products, so that we can move forward with pattern making. Mika has made a few new illustrations, both painted and drawn, on the Winter Moose website. They reflect the vest, bag, hat and glove patterns that I am creating. 
See the new look: click here

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

 Last week, we payed a visit to the Green Mountain Spinnery. Nestled in the trees near Highway 5 in Putney, "GMS" is the oldest working fiber mill in Vermont. The owners are also environmentally conscious, so we can be assured of a non-toxic product.

Farmers send animal fibers to the mill in burlap, plastic, and cotton sacks, or in large cardboard boxes. The mill also purchases fiber pre-scoured, and dyed, in compressed bales.

For local fibers, GMS has a small scouring operation. Here, you see the wool soaking, before it goes through rinsing and drying processes. The ancient "spin-dry" (right) pulls out most of the moisture.
After the fiber has been dried, color mixing and "de-clumping" is done by hand feeding the fiber into a picker. The same fiber mix may be processed several times this way. When the mixing and de-clumping is finished, armloads of the mixture are carefully added to the carding machine. This tricky job starts a series of very fine tuned movements. The picture below shows the fiber entering the carder, and what it looks like at the halfway point. The smooth "batting" will be further divided into over 90 sections of "pencil roving". The weight and thickness of each must be exact, and differs for each yarn made. See the video below.
The carder is almost 100 years old. It is such a complex machine that, even after 30 years of working with it, the owners continue to rely on  experts with more, and longer experience. Here is a video we made of the carder in action, as well as a glimpse of the spinning machine. 

Large spools of pencil roving lean against a wall waiting their turn on the spinning machine. Meanwhile, the spinning machine takes many delicate ribbons of fiber and twists them into a fine yarn, called a "single". These will be plied back on themselves on a plying machine, and wound into measured skeins, or onto cones.
Every skein is tied together, and hand twisted into it's final form, ready for shipment to knitters all over the world.

After our lovely tour, Mika agreed to teach Doran how to knit. We bought a beautiful, deep teal yarn; a cotton and wool mix. There is just something special about getting yarn at the mill. Meeting the people who made it, and knowing where it all came from, was a wonderful treat. The needles passed from front seat to back, to front again, as the lessons continued on the drive home. Sort of like knitting and purling.  :  )

Monday, July 6, 2015

Thanks to weaver, Judy Blackmer, of Shelburne, Vermont, we now have several yards of each of the color combinations to work with. This fabric is spongy and soft, with a very loose feel. Soon, we will begin  various tests on these goods.

Right after the Fourth of July, Mika, Doran and I traveled to the Marshfield School of Weaving for a relaxed exploration of the school. There are 11 large looms, and several smaller ones upstairs.  The complete natural dye laboratory on the ground floor was impressive. We saw many small carpets, cotton and linen toweling and even some embossed upholstery. This is an amazing place for learning.

One piece that struck me, as well as our intern, was the clean, natural smell of the building. With mostly natural materials used in both the weaving and the dying processes, there was no residual synthetic pollution in the air to worry about. A sense of comfort and peace  was inspired by easy walking space between and around every loom, thick sheep skins padding the wooden benches, and a view from every window of green hills, trees and gardens.

After our visit to the weaving school, we drove back via the barn where Mika's two Cashmere goats, Harry and David reside. Mika introduced Doran to their keep and fiber ("Down"), as well as some of their other abilities.  Below is a picture of Harry and David before their down shed out this Spring.
Harry and David of Team Snazzy Goat, in February, 2015.