I’ve been in the fiber arts since I was knee high to a grasshopper. I went to summer camp at Old Salem as a kiddo (more on the good ole Moravs later) and learned all about what it took to turn flax into linen, oily & curly sheep fluff into wool, about carding & spinning, about the natural dying process (urine -who knew?!), about weaving, about patterning and hand sewing, about mending and about reusing. It takes about a year to throw seeds in the ground and grow flax into a shirt – and that’s if you’re a diligent worker bee.
Yep. The industrial revolution did some time-saving, job creating amazing things -BUT- it also removed us from the knowledge of what it takes to clothe ourselves. Have you seen those beautiful old houses with the shallowest of closets? That’s because folks back in the day had 2 outfits – their work clothes & their Sunday best. The hung each outfit on hooks on the back wall of those shallow closets – flat – not sideways. Can you imagine? Nope? Me neither. We don’t have to. We have so many options -to the point that we all consume and spit out so many clothes each year that one of the US’ leading exports is actually bundled squares of used clothing that we ship to much poorer countries – clothes that Goodwill or the Salvation Army & thrift shops can’t sell.
What’s the point? I’d say 2 things – the first is: let’s work on buying less but better items -the 2nd is: learning about how to care for our well loved and finely made garments so that they last and continue to look spiffy.
Which leads me to wanting to tell you a bit about fibers & about laundering with some tips and tricks that your great grandmother might have used, but have often been forgotton.
I prewash almost every piece of fabric before I iron & cut out the pieces of my pattern. I believe in being able to wear & launder clothing. I don’t know about y’all but I spill things, I sweat, I sit on benches at the park, rocks while hiking, grass during summer concerts. I’m going to need to wash my clothes.
The garment industry is going to tell you to treat your item by the most conservative means possible. I’m going to tell you how I treat each natural fiber & why.