Hello, this is just a quick note to say that I can't make it to the market in Fairhaven today, August 18 and I'm sorry to have to miss it. I will be there next week.
I've been having a great time vending at the Bellingham Farmers Market! I'm at the Wednesday market in Fairhaven, noon to 5 pm. Local customers can now either shop in person or order online and pick up your pads at the market.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive for the most part, and I've even won over a few brave new converts! A lot of people can't figure out what the heck I'm selling, though. So far I've been asked if they are:
cell phone pouches
For the last couple weeks, I've been lucky to have a spot next to Sip-T Tea Company. Those ladies make some wonderful tea! They've also given me a lot of great advice and helped me to settle into the market.
Towels for the Gulf Coast Animals
Yesterday I sent off a box of towels for Project 8's handmade towel drive. The towels will go to the IMMS to clean oil off of sea animals. At first I thought it was a strange stipulation that the towels have to be handmade. It seemed like any towels would do in such an emergency, and the animals are not likely to notice that the towels are handmade. But the Project 8 site said that the towels didn't have to be anything fancy. I had some cotton materials that I couldn't use for pads, so I made towels and sent them.
If you happen to have any cotton materials to spare, it doesn't take much more than to cut them down to hand towel size, pink or serge the edges and box them up. The deadline for the towel drive is July 3.
What was formerly known as the consultation form has fully morphed into the new custom sampler set order form. Long story short, it went through a period of changes while I tried to figure out a balance. Customers loved the consultations and a lot of people found them very helpful, but I didn't have time to keep up with them.
- What's changed is that custom sampler sets based on the custom form are now a whole new separate item, and they are $18.75.
- The "canned" sampler sets listed in the catalog and on the standard order form are the same old $15. (Someday soon they will all be in the catalog together.)
In other news, I've changed the shipping day to Wednesday. Local customers will now be able to shop pre-made pads and pick up custom orders at the Bellingham Farmer's Market in Fairhaven, on Wednesdays from 12 to 5 pm. I can't even tell you how excited I am to finally be going local and selling the pads in person, outdoors, surrounded by lots of wonderful fresh food! :D
I'm also thrilled to be included in the Indie Banditas Bazaar in Port Townsend on Saturday, June 26. Please come and see me if you happen to be in the area!
The consultation form has been pretty popular, and I'm glad to be able to help so many adventurous women leap into the world of cloth pads. =) But I had to make some changes because it's kept me so busy lately that I've had a hard time keeping up.
I didn't want to take the consultation form away completely because it gets a lot of word-of-mouth traffic and I do not want to disappoint the friends of my customers. So, what else could I do, I put a price tag on it. A consultation now costs $5, but $3 of that goes toward your first order. If you decide not to order I refund the full $5.
In the mean time, I'm continuing to work on the Three Hour Tour (I wonder if people still get Gilligan's Island references. Maybe I should rename that :p ) and the Consultation Form Cheat Sheet so that you can get your questions answered more easily without having to go through a consultation.
So, in other words, the price for a consultation and/or sampler set is now:
- Consultation + Sampler set = $17
- Sampler set without consultation = $15
- Consultation that doesn't result in a sampler set = fully refunded
I'm still signing up testers for the DIY kits. If you've got a sewing machine handy and a little bit of time, I'll give you a discount code for 100% off and you can pick out whatever you'd like to try.
I'd like for testers to be as picky as you can, and critique the site as well as everything else. Let me know if anything is confusing or strange, if you have any suggestions, see any typos, anything else you can think of that would help me improve it. I'll give you the final versions of the patterns and tutorial as well when the testing process is over.
The time has come to introduce a new waterproofing material. But first, the background story.
I've been using leftover PUL scraps from diaper makers and other pad makers who are de-stashing. Lately my PUL stock levels have been a little precarious. I've had to turn down some people who asked for PUL in their bigger pads because I didn't have enough or I didn't have big enough pieces. The diaper makers do send a lot of nice pieces my way, but I also end up throwing a lot away because many of the scraps come in odd, scraggly little shapes that aren't big enough to cover a pad. It seems wasteful to ask people to send me things in the mail that I can only throw away.
So I started researching and experimenting, looking for second-hand or recycled alternatives to PUL for trim, secure waterproofing that can be sewn into the pads as a hidden layer. (Please let me know if you can think of any!)
One thing I tried was fusing plastic bags. They came out very stiff. Basically, the result was Tyvek. You know, the stuff that the floor of a tent is made out of. I tried softening them up in the dryer with a dryer ball, but the pieces were too small so they just stuck to the wall of the dryer as it went around. I looked for a way to soften it with chemicals and found nothing. (Is there a chemist in the house?)
At this point I started to consider buying PUL new. But I couldn't bring myself to it because there would be scraps to throw away and I'm trying to throw away as little as possible. My city takes all of my cotton, hemp, silk and wool scraps and mixes them in to the yard waste compost bin, so there's no throwing anything away there.
And then! I took a close look at my shower curtain. Last summer I replaced my vinyl shower curtain with one that is made of a very soft, thin layer of #2 plastic. It feels like fabric, doesn't make a crinkling noise when you crumple it, and is so breathable that you can actually breathe through it. It's a very stable plastic so it won't off-gas. And it's recyclable. And it holds water. It's not perfectly waterproof, but it does hold water better than synthetic fleece does, and synthetic fleece is adequate waterproofing for most cloth pad users. So, in other words, a light came on.
I emailed the makers of my shower curtain and asked if they could spare any scrap material. They said they have their materials manufactured to the exact size they need, so they don't have much scrap. They suggested Fed-Ex envelopes, which are also a form of Tyvek. But Fed-Ex envelopes feel like stiff paper. Nobody wants that in their pads.
Wait a minute. I hadn't realized that my shower curtain was Tyvek! Weird, because it was so soft. It turns out that soft structure Tyvek is made of very fine high density fibers so it behaves like poly fleece, which is also made of plastic, except that soft structure Tyvek is smaller and more dense so it's thinner, tighter, and more water resistant.
What I did next was I tracked down a distributor and ordered a roll of soft structure Tyvek. On one hand, I'm pretty excited about it because it's recyclable and it's more durable, less noisy, softer, and more breathable than PUL.
On the other hand, I finally had to break down and buy a new material, which was a little depressing. I had to change the "made of reclaimed and second-hand" in my tag line to "made of mostly reclaimed and second-hand." But at least I won't have to throw any of it away!
- Machine wash in cold or warm water with gentle detergent. Do not use any fabric softeners except for vinegar. Vinegar works great.
- Hang it up to dry. Pads with soft structure Tyvek dry very quickly.
What is Tencel?
Tencel is the brand name for lyocell fabric, which is made of hardwood pulp. Its properties and the way it's produced are similar to organic bamboo velour, which is another popular eco-friendly fabric and one that is often used in cloth pads.
How eco-friendly is it?
In this case it's second-hand, so the environmental impact of turning it into pads vs bedroom curtains is pretty minimal. (I do need to make bedroom curtains, though.)
But if you were to buy the material new you would be interested to know that Tencel, manufactured by the Austrian based Lenzing Group, is made of sustainably farmed hardwoods and processed in a 99% closed-loop system, which means that the solvents and water used to transform the wood pulp into fibers are recaptured and reused. There is very little waste, and emissions from the factories are low. The enzyme-based solvents are non-toxic, and Lenzing Group uses oxygen instead of chlorine bleach. This process earned Lenzing Group the European Union's Environmental Award in the category "technology for sustainable developments" in 2000. The fibers are highly biodegradable, and in the right conditions they can decompose in just eight days as long as they haven't been treated with chemicals that change their structure.
Although Lenzing Group is committed to high ecological standards, the finished products made of Tencel vary in how they are treated and blended with other fabrics once they leave the processing plants. Tencel fabrics are sometimes treated with chemicals to make them more colorfast and durable. This is why people who have multiple chemical sensitivities should be as cautious when buying clothing made of Tencel as when considering other fibers.
What kind of Tencel do I have?
I don't know the complete story behind the fabric that ended up in my sewing room, but it's a heavy, dense woven fabric that has more of a fine, peach fuzz softness than a silky softness when you run your fingers over it, although there is no visible fuzz.
It shares some properties with cotton and wool. It breathes well, feels very natural, does not pill, and regulates temperature the way other natural fibers do. It feels like soft cotton fabric against the skin. It absorbs liquid slowly but holds a lot.
It doesn't shrink in hot water and it can take a hot iron. The red dye is not super colorfast though, so it's best to wash in cold water.
What am I making out of it?
This fabric makes a very comfortable topping for light to medium flow, but it wouldn't be a good topping fabric for anyone who gushes a lot because it is a slow absorber like flat cotton. It holds a lot though, so it makes a nice trim alternative to wool or synthetic fleece backing when used in lower layers or as backing on medium abosrbency pads.
The only color I have is scarlet, but if you'd like to try it, you can choose between contrast stitching and matching scarlet thread.
How do you wash tencel?
Wash in cold water. Do not use Dr. Bronner's soap because it causes the dye to bleed. Other soaps not meant specifically for laundry could have the same effect. If you're using homemade detergent, make sure it includes salt to help keep the colors from bleeding.
Line drying is great for tencel pads. They dry quickly and don't get "crunchy" the way other fabrics can when air dried.
Sources and More Information:
Well, I have been the queen of loose ends lately, but things are starting to come together! I've installed a catalog and started stocking it. If you don't see what you're looking for in the catalog, please continue to use the order form.
I'm also very close to being done with the DIY kits. I keep going over and over everything, tweaking little details... I feel like I'm trying to wrap up a novel. It's like when you have a really big all-consuming project and you have a fear of finishing it. Or does that happen. Anyway, I mostly just have to take the pictures, set up the web pages, and sign up some testers.
Please contact me or watch this blog for further announcements if you'd like to sign up to test a DIY kit. I'll provide testers with instructions, patterns, and whatever materials you need.
People often want to know whether I make a living at this. Well, the short answer is no, but I hope to some day.
I've just finished figuring out my taxes. I'm very pleased with how the year went, mostly because a lot of what I worked on this last year set the stage for lots of great pad making this year. Keep an eye out for several grand developments in the next few months.
Here is the data:
What I think is great about it is that I was able to invest so much in equipment and materials without going in the hole. After my first calendar year in business I have a beautiful 20-ton shop press and 10 dies, which makes cutting so much more quick and accurate. I'm also using them to cut the pattern pieces for the DIY kits, which will be ready to go out to testers soon.
I'm still sewing on my Grandma's old Kenmore, but I wouldn't trade that in for anything.
I'm also impressed with how much fabric I have. I could not have done it without the bartering.
My partner looked over my figures and immediately wanted to know how much I'm making per hour. Well, never mind about that. I haven't been very good at keeping track of my time but I will do more of that when I have my routine and my workspace organized more efficiently.
Many thanks to everyone who has bartered, bought, spread the word and done so much to help throughout the year!
I leave you with this lovely quote from Raj Patel. "The opposite of consumption isn't thrift, it's generosity."
Happy New Year!
I took a break from bartering through the holiday season, but now I'm back at it.
Here's what I'm interested in:
- Dark cotton flannels. Used flannel clothing is great as long as it isn't threadbare or pilled. Ideally, the used items that I <3 have a tear or stain that makes them unusable in their current incarnation, but still have plenty of usable material. I will trade you $15 of pads per lb of nice flannel, or $8 per yard if you have any left over from your own sewing projects. The smallest scraps I can use are 3 1/2" x 7 1/2". Please remove buttons, zippers, etc before sending used clothing in the mail.
- Handmade leg warmers. I have a gray and red skirt that needs leg warmers to go with it.
- Gentle, all-natural bath soaps. A lot of artificial fragrances tickle my nose, but I've never met an essential oil that bothered me.
Here's what I don't need:
My fleece bucket is overflowing, so I'm going to have to say no thanks to any trades for synthetic fleece at this time.