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.

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