Happy Earth Day – eco-printing …fashion from the earth

102 scarf eco print detail 2

I thought sharing a post on eco-printing was a suitable post on Earth Day. A lot of the textile work I do focuses on natural and plant based processes rather than chemicals.

The scarf pictured above has been eco printed. This is a process where the silk has been dyed with the natural occurring pigments of leaves through a lengthy process of bundling the item tightly to achieve the best contact with the leaves. Results can vary depending on the time of year the leaf is picked, the length of time of the bundling, the type of fabric , and the mordants used.

The leaves on this scarf are peony and maple, picked from the garden. Results are always very random with a combination of leaf prints and abstract shapes and lines.

If you are interested in seeing more images of this scarf, and how it looks while being worn, there is a gallery on my other site www.handmade-canada.com , or click here for the link .

Eco-printing and slow cloth by Debra Hunter

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Tiny and Purple

blog baby hat_4356I thought it would be a nice change to blog about something “nice”.

Last week a mom at my children’s school had a baby girl. I was lucky enough to see the sweet little baby at the grand age of two days old and thought wouldn’t it be fun to crochet a baby hat. As the gift has been delivered I can now post the project.

I  had some purple commercial yarn left in the (shrinking) stash,  a hook handy, and quickly with a search of the internet I had a pattern. Things went swimmingly until I reached the end of the project according to the instructions, looked at the hat and it appeared that the depth from crown to brim was way too short.

My next step was to go through our daughters’ bedroom trying to find a newborn sized doll. I found one, tried on the hat, and it was at least two inches too short. I then decided to search online to get a range of newborn hat measurements, only to find the circumference was fine, the depth was way off. I crocheted a couple more inches and then it looked right. Strangely, as I was finishing the hat one of my daughter’s baby hats appeared (I am guessing it had been in the doll clothes bin), so I was also able to measure the hat against a hat that I knew fit; that gave me confidence that it was the right size.

I could not believe  how quickly this hat was completed. The bulk of it was done while waiting to shoot a session and then while downloading files. I am thinking of making a bigger version for my girls, maybe even a naturally dyed cotton version.

Crocheting was a nice break from knitting up prototypes.

Now it is back to prototypes and samples……eight more to go before Easter break when I hope to take them out to the coast to show.

blog baby hat detail_4349

Crocheting and knitting by Debra Hunter

www.debra-hunter.com

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Recycling for the Wrist

recycled yarn bracelet

recycled yarn bracelet

Last week I shared a post called “Spinning Scraps”. It was a post describing an idea I had of taking small yarn scraps and turning them into recycled and re-useable yarn. In short it involved breaking down the yarn and re-spinning it on a Turkish drop spindle at an incredibly slow pace. It was one of those things that I just had to see if it would work.

Well it did work. The yarn formed on the spindle with all sorts of pretty mixed, naturally dyed colors, and I just had to see if the yarn could actually be turned into something. I decided on a quick project (because I was very impatient to see the results) and created a crocheted bracelet.

recycled yarn bracelet_3853 a

recycled button and wooden beads used as embellishment

To add to the earthiness I incorporated some wooden recycled beads bought at Nu To Yu on Pender Island (British Columbia, Canada). Every time we are on the island I hunt through the bins at the shop looking for treasures to incorporate into my projects. The button, used as a closure, is also one of my finds.

recycled yarn bracelet _3861 a

recycled yarn dyed with marigold, pomegranate, chamomile and lac

This has been a fascinating project. I am going to keep playing with the recycling of yarn, and perhaps try a larger knit or crocheted piece next. It is unpredictable, it is organic, it is eco friendly, and it is a pretty interesting way of working.

www.debra-hunter.com

Too too pink?

blog tutu1My youngest daughter has been wanting “a pouffy skirt like a ballerina” for quite a while. She doesn’t want it as a dress up costume, she wants it as a normal piece of clothing, a skirt to wear to school. Today was another catch up day of “to dos” (2 hours fixing my husband’s coat, the boys needed haircuts, etc.) so I figured I might as well spend the evening making the skirt. I was guessing a bit at her vision, but knowing that her plans as a future career is to become a “princess” (she is mentally making lists of countries that have royalty…seriously!), I knew understated was probably not what she was thinking.

blog tutu2So here we have the vision in pink. A quick iPhone picture in bad lighting, but it gives a sense of the amount of fluff and pinkness. We woke her up to show her the finished item and she loves it. She also picked out a pink top and pink tights to wear with it tomorrow. That is going to be a whole lot of pink! It should be quite the sight seeing her play dodge ball in gym class, and I’m not sure how she is going to wear her snow pants with the skirt. It is definitely a “go big or go home” clothing item. One thing is for sure, no one will be wearing the same outfit in school tomorrow.

More Knitting Finished

Winter weather definitely has it’s good points, one of them being time spent inside to finish knitting projects that have taken far too long to complete. Just before Christmas I finished this infinity scarf. I originally started it just to get an idea of how much yarn (4.6 oz.) it would take to make one so that I could dye the right amount to knit the “proper” scarf. Let’s just say knitting the sample scarf seemed to take a very long time.

blog knit infinity scarf lopi_0302

Infinity scarf hand knit out of lopi (on location at Castle Mountain, Banff, AB, Canada).

It is very cozy. This is shown wrapped twice, but I quickly discovered that on a -40C day it wraps around three times to really keep the chill out.

blog knit infinity scarf lopi_0306Gray tones are perfect for a piece that I am keeping, however I think the scarf would have been a lot more fun to knit if it had involved bright colors.

blog fingerless mitts_9315The other night I also finished a pair of fingerless mitts that have been in progress for months. This pair consists of wool dyed in marigold and madder.

blog fingerless mitts_9323I was so pleased to finish the mitts. Half way through I decided they were “mine” as I love the patterning. I had tucked them away in the knitting basket for a few months as they weren’t that portable to knit. I knit both mitts at the same time so that they match (plus it is boring to finish one and have to start all over!), so it was quite challenging to carry around eight balls of yarn to work on one set of mitts. I pulled the half finished mitts out last Saturday and took them to the knitting program at our library, and between the time at the library and an evening at home, the mitts were done. Rumor has it I need to make another more masculine set as my oldest son now wants a pair.

Knitting by Debra Hunter
Studio H
Red Deer, AB and Pender Island, BC (Canada)

www.thehuntergroup.ca

 

Etsy’s Evil Turn

I came across this little news tidbit on the internet last night. An insignificant little news story dated October 1, 2013 on www.bloomberg.com discussing how “Etsy sellers can now use factories for handmade goods”. My first reaction was disgust, my second was “I am not surprised”.

This morning as I reread the story I felt I just had to comment on this situation.

etsy

Now to begin with, I must say I am NOT a seller on Etsy. I have in fact spent the last six months researching their site trying to decide whether to launch an online store with them or not. I have spent hundreds of hours trying to figure out whether selling with them would be a benefit or detrimental. Clearly, after reading this article, “detrimental” is what the outcome would be if I was to set up a shop on Etsy.

Before I launch into why I feel having an online store with Etsy would be detrimental, I want to discuss why I feel so strongly about this turn of events. I am an artist and craftsman, and being involved in this type of pursuit I also follow the endeavors and careers of other artists, craftsmen and artisans. These are good, hardworking and highly skilled people who believe in fine craftsmanship and producing unique product by hand. Many in this same group of people have shops on Etsy, they have worked hard to create their online businesses, they have put their faith and trust in Etsy, and now they are about to be screwed over royally by that same company……Etsy.

“Why are craftsmen about to be screwed over royally?” you may ask. Or you may ask “Why would selling on Etsy be detrimental?” Well pull up a chair and I will present the situation in as a concise a manner as possible. True craftsmen, artisans and artists produce pieces they are proud of. They spend time planning out their projects, they choose the best materials to use, some choose to make products that put little strain on the earth, and they make their products by HAND. Yes indeed, a real live person makes the product. Making products by HAND takes time. Choosing quality materials or materials kind to the earth costs money. A truly handcrafted item will cost more to produce. What Etsy has done in their latest move has essentially taken true craftspeople and artists and made them compete with cheap mass-produced crap produced on foreign shores. Think about it, how can a mom in Ohio knitting hand spun, hand knit scarves from wool from her own sheep possibly compete with “hand-crafted ” scarves rolling off the factory machines in Vietnam. She can’t. Her Etsy shop is doomed.

yarn

When you Google search Etsy this is the description that comes up “Buy and sell handmade or vintage items, art and supplies on Etsy, the world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace.” however digging into the “Help” page on their website they state: “Handmade items are designed and created by the shops that sell them. Because transparency is paramount on Etsy, we ask sellers to publicly list all members of their shops and, if pre-approved, any manufacturers involved in creating their items.” The article talks of this up coming  “new policy”, however reading the fine print it seems having “manufacturers”  has been going on for quite sometime.

But beyond fine print, or even the Etsy website, a little snooping around the internet told the story months ago. A few months ago I was researching the price point on Etsy for a product similar to one I was working on. The product, working as fast as one can against a stop watch, takes 50 minutes to complete (I know, I timed it one night….however one could never produce consistently at that speed, but it gave me a base for how long it took to complete the product). A similar product was selling on Etsy for $2.00 USD. Warning bells went off in my head so I visited the shop owner’s website, which linked me through to their blog in which a recent post talked about how they had just shipped off a thousand of these items to a shop somewhere in the U.S.A……yes 1,000. Now let’s do the math, they are selling them for $2.00 each but they take 50 minutes to make by hand at breakneck speed. They are shipping out 1000 units, which if handmade would have taken 833.33 hours to produce, or 104.16 eight hour work days, or 20.83 five day work weeks…..to make $2000 USD (obviously not all profit). Clearly these items are not being “handmade”…….or at least not being “handmade” by any North American or any human being living above the poverty line……anywhere.

handmade

Whose hands are the manufacturing these goods? Sweatshop labour or child labor?

So we have already established that it is impossible to compete at a price point with goods that are obviously mass-produced, however lets continue to examine his new policy brought forth by Etsy. In the story on www.bloomberg.com it is stated that “Etsy will try to ensure that goods sold on the site still meet its definition of “handmade.”” So if one is to assume a “handmade” item is actually made by “hand”, whose hands are making them? Are we to assume Etsy is perhaps endorsing sweatshop manufacturing and child labor? That is the ONLY way that an item that takes 50 minutes to manufacture can be sold retail for $2.00. Remember that to sell retail for $2.00 the Etsy seller is taking into account all the labour, materials, shipping and any taxes and other business operating costs in that figure…..PLUS PROFIT. What is the person making this item by hand actually receiving as pay…..perhaps 4 cents….I don’t know….but it sure isn’t much.

4 cents

Sweatshop pay…for a day….a month… or perhaps a year….for making “unique and handmade” goods.

Now if Etsy protest that they do not endorse sweatshop manufacturing and child labor, what is the other option….only one…..that they are LYING to the consumer. Nice. The only other way items could be made en-mass and cheaply is by a machine. Etsy flies behind the slogan of “Buy and sell handmade or vintage items, art and supplies on Etsy, the world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace.” So if it isn’t a sweatshop it is a lie and the products are made by machine which means “handmade ” is all a lie.

We get to pick which wonderful quality of production Etsy shops will now choose to use….. sweatshop manufacturing and child labor…..or machine manufactured (a lie if one believes an item is “handmade”). What a choice. Pretty much the new policy of Etsy means you are now shopping online for the same products you buy at Wal-Mart but they are lying to the consumer as to how the products are “handmade”.

Etsy also proudly states on their “About” page that “Etsy is a marketplace where people around the world connect to buy and sell unique goods. Our mission is to re-imagine commerce in ways that build a more fulfilling and lasting world.”. Seriously, how can mass-produced items be “unique”? How can sweatshop production “build a more fulfilling and lasting world.”? Honestly.

 etsy about page

One wonders how they can honestly have this printed on the Etsy site.

Etsy’s new policy is so harmful it is not even funny. It will continue to misrepresent itself as a company providing “handmade” items. Lying to consumers who think they are supporting true craftspeople. Cheating consumers who think they  are truly buying handmade items. Robbing actual craftsmen of a living as they will not be able to compete at a price point, while the cheap products are being misrepresented as unique and handmade. Etsy holds NO value for TRUE craftsmen, artisans or artists. Etsy is a tragic company.

true artisans burned by etsy

True craftsmen and artists burned by Etsy’s new policy.

I feel lucky that I held off setting up an Etsy shop. Sometimes procrastination pays off. I do, however worry for the future of  those who honestly make handmade products and have Etsy stores. How will they compete on price point? How will they ever be believed by a consumer that they ACTUALLY MAKE THEIR PRODUCT? This latest move is a complete devaluation of the true artist, the true artisan and the true craftsperson.

I hope the sellers and customers will take a stand on this latest policy. I hope they will become vocal and out the company for the fraud they are. “Handmade” goods are made by hand not machines, and sweatshops are not acceptable.

I value true artists.

I value true artisans.

I value true craftspeople.

I hope others will also support these people who honestly make their product by hand, and shun the frauds under the new Etsy policy who will manufacture their products en-mass through machine or sweatshops.