The Demeter Tunic

The Demeter Tunic

sustainable-apparel-tunic

photo by Amber Breitenberg (@alittleterroir)

As a sustainable apparel company, we’re looking to create pieces that are both functional/practical and something we feel good in. Part of sustainable wardrobe  is making sure your clothes can actually work for you! The Demeter Tunic is the queen of practicality. With four GIANT pockets and an oversized shirt/tunic feel, she can work as anything from a painting smock to a stylish summer picnic piece. Here she is modeled by Rebecca of A Daily Something

photo by Amber Breitenberg (@alittleterroir)

Demeter is the first garment we created, named for the Greek goddess of agriculture, Mother Earth, the ultimate Lady Farmer! She fed the world abundantly and humankind thrived with her bounty. Designed for functionality, our all- purpose tunic is inspired by this powerful feminine energy, with its classic lines and sound construction. Mid-weight, roomy, with ¾ length sleeves with wide deep pockets in front and back that hold anything. Great for on-the-job gardening, painting, photography, foraging…whatever it is you love to do! It can be worn as a top with leggings or as a dress for those who like the shorter style.

The fabric that we originally used to sample this piece was a hemp/organic cotton blend, but we have since been  unable to source that same fabric in the quantities that we need. (We need to be growing hemp in the USA so that we can use this amazing fabric!) Instead, we’re using an equally luscious organic linen/cotton blend that we are so excited excited about! We’re currently in production on these garments (hooray if you were a Kickstarter backer!) and will be building up an inventory as well, ready to ship in late April 2018. Make sure you’re on our mailing list to be the first to know!

photo by Amber Breitenberg (@alittleterroir)

 

St. Brigit the Lady Farmer (and Inspiration for our Sustainable Overalls!)

St. Brigit the Lady Farmer (and Inspiration for our Sustainable Overalls!)

This post was originally published on February 1st, The Feast of St. Brigit, 2017. Since then we have designed, developed, and put into production a lovely pair of sustainable hemp/organic cotton overalls aptly named “Brigit” in honor of the this legendary Lady Farmer.  

As Lady Farmers, we want to pay homage to our predecessors, the women figures from history, myth and legend who embodied a powerful connection to the earth. As archetypes these personifications of the feminine are capable and independent, deeply nurturing, infinitely creative and fierce champions of nature and her cycles.

So it is with Brigit (also spelled Brigid or Bridget).  It is said she was born on February 1st, the Celtic Festival of Imbolc celebrating the cross-quarter day between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Legend has it that her birth took place over a threshold. Fittingly, she became the patroness of transitions, literally from winter to spring, and symbolically in many aspects of nature, life and the human experience. She presides over the birth of the new lambs (the word Imbolc means “first milk”) and represents fire and light as the sun makes its return.  She is seen as the protector of the home and keeper of the fire. She tends the hearth, preserving the eternal flame. She is patroness of healing, cooking, the arts (particularly poetry and weaving), animal husbandry, midwifery–and beer making! She is thoroughly and completely a woman’s goddess, and given the wealth of evidence we feel confident in claiming her as patroness of Lady Farmer.

I am inspired by Brigit in so many ways here on our small patch of earth, as folklore tells us she presides over almost every one of our daily tasks. I think of her on these cold mornings as I get the kitchen fire going and go out to tend the animals. She inspires me in my cooking and gardening, my exploration of culinary and medicinal herbs and fermented foods, as a weaver of ideas and words in my writing and as a weaver of earth friendly materials into healthy and sustainable garments for Lady Farmer. In keeping with an ancient Celtic custom, on February 1st, I will place a square of cloth representing Brigit’s mantle outside my door to catch the morning dew of Imbolc. Thus the cloth becomes a token of her blessings and protection on our household throughout the next year.

Here is a prayer to St. Brigit, a women’s Goddess and Saint. When in chaos and darkness, may we take comfort in the return of the light, the promise of spring!

Saint Brigid Hearth Keeper Prayer

Brigid of the Mantle, encompass us,

Lady of the Lambs, protect us,

Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us.

Beneath your mantle, gather us,

And restore us to memory.

Mothers of our mother, Foremothers strong.

Guide our hands in yours,

Remind us how to kindle the hearth.

To keep it bright, to preserve the flame.

Your hands upon ours, Our hands within yours,

To kindle the light, Both day and night.

The Mantle of Brigid about us,

The Memory of Brigid within us,

The Protection of Brigid keeping us

From harm, from ignorance, from heartlessness.

This day and night,

From dawn till dark, From dark till dawn.

(prayer Courtesy of SaintBrigids.org)

Home Stretch!

Home Stretch!

There’s word of a frost tonight, the first of the season. It’s mid- October so this should be no surprise, but we’ve been in such a warm stretch it feels like it snuck up. I was out in the garden just before sunset and saw all the things that are still there– fresh herbs, sweet potatoes, sweet peppers and green tomatoes, lots and lots of beautiful zinnia and dahlia blooms, lovely fragrant tansy, lemon verbena and pineapple sage. Of course they won’t all disappear overnight but there is so much I still want to do before it’s all gone, like drying out the herbs for cooking and for tea, making fried green tomatoes and apple pie and using the flower blooms to dye something before the color fades.

I think, though, that this fall I will have to let some of that go. Sometimes other things are calling, and in the last few weeks it’s the exciting momentum Lady Farmer that has our attention! This season of our Kickstarter campaign has brought us not only a quickly funded goal (100% in 100 hours!) but the pure pleasure of seeing how our project has reached out and created meaningful connections and authentic community. Even through dark days of heartbreak in these recent weeks, some wrought by nature and others by human hands, the light that shines on our power of choice is hope itself. Each of us can choose a better way,  especially in our decisions about our food and clothing and how we live with respect for each other and for our planet–and that is where we will see change for the good.


A Daily Something’s Rebecca Gallop in our Demeter Tunic. Photo by Amber Breitenberg

In reaching our initial crowdfunding goal, we’ve raised the funds to manufacture the “Essential Collection,” our first line of sustainably sourced and produced “farm-to-closet” clothing. From our launch party in downtown DC to various events in Virginia and Maryland this month, people have affirmed that they want and will support a clothing choice outside of the toxic and inhumane system that dominates the industry today. That’s why we set a “stretch” goal for the remaining twenty-six days of our Kickstarter. If that goal is met by the close of the campaign on October 28th, we commit to stretching ourselves into even more information sharing and community building in at least two ways–we will develop  a Lady Farmer Podcast by summer of 2018 and will also announce plans for a Slow Living Conference for 2019.

A lot has happened this month and is STILL HAPPENING!  I guess no matter how much is accomplished, however, we must always leave a season with some things undone, because try as we might we will never get it all done. As frustrating as that sounds it’s actually a blessing. Those desires and ideas propel us through our days with vision and purpose. Call it the creative edge, the energy of expansion, that part of our human nature that’s always reaching for something better, all the time.

If you haven’t already, there’s still time to go to our Kickstarter page and be a part of this awesome community of changemakers. Hope you’ll join us in the stretch!

With love and gratitude,

Mary and Emma

Find our Kickstarter here! http://kck.st/2xIcaWq

Shifting Seasons

Shifting Seasons

“The backbone of summer is broken”. That’s what my grandmother would say on days like these when the light is sharp and shimmery and you find yourself having to talk over the bug sounds in the late afternoon and then when the sun goes down you wish you had a sweatshirt.  It captures the melancholy of another season’s passing but belies the vibrant life in the lush, unruly growth of flora and foliage surging in these shortening days. It’s lost all discipline, this garden-gone-wild, with the dahlias and zinnias and marigolds all shouting it out, their colors almost raucous, the weight of the tomatoes pulling down their own stakes and overtaking everything around them, the morning glory vines outrunning the beans. But that’s okay, we’re past the struggle of a tidy garden, at least for this year. All I want to do is be outside worshipping on this altar of light and color and sound, this magical atmosphere of late summer. But there’s work to be done in the harvest and preparation for what’s to come.

We’re transitioning into a new season at Lady Farmer as well. It’s been a year of growing an idea, bringing a vision into form and little by little letting our creation out into the world. We planted the seeds of intention to heal something that’s very broken in the world and watched them sprout and grow and they are now flowering in so many ways! We have launched our company, developed our mission and purpose and have created a line of clothing that reflects everything we are about. Our year has brought us so much beauty, inspiration and connection to people and projects that has both sharpened our focus and broadened our community of passionate creators. And as the season of design and development shifts to this next phase of full production, we feel full, inspired and hopeful.

We are now a month away from the official beginning of our fundraising season, our goal being able to manufacture our Essential Collection line of sustainable clothing, due in our online store in spring of 2018. Get a sneak peak at our lookbook by clicking here and get full details on our upcoming Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign by making sure you’re subscribed to our email list and following along our social media channels.

If you would like to see this project thriving in the world, providing an ethical alternative to toxic fast fashion, share our message and consider making a contribution on September 28th to be part of creating something better for all.

We thank you!

 

Status Update

We know! It’s taking sooo long! (Slow fashion, y’all.)

On our end, we’ve felt incredible momentum and as much busy-ness as we can allow. We’ve tried to convey this momentum as much as possible through our various channels but are first to admit that we haven’t been the best about newsletter/status updates on the main event…the clothes! In an effort to bring things as up to speed as possible, we’ll give you a brief run-down here, and a sneak peek at our look-book. We must preface all of this by saying there is almost no predicting final fabrics, colors, and timelines in this world, we must be okay with some things shifting in production depending on what is available, but what you’ll see in these photos is the best representation of what our final Collection will look like when it is finished!

  1. We have 5 complete samples designed and sewn to perfection! A sample is the same thing as a prototype, it is simply a one-off of what we are looking to produce on a larger scale. They include: a tunic, a (wear-it-4-ways) dress, a sleeveless dress, an overall, and a pair of pants. All of these pieces have pockets and are designed with warmer weather in mind, but are each layer-able and therefore multi-seasonal/transitional. We’ve been working closely with a local seamstress-turned-dear-friend, Velma, to bring these to life.
  2. We’ve been sourcing fabric so far in very small quantities for sample-making but will need to place larger orders as soon as we have the production funds from our Kickstarter Campaign (more on that soon!)
  3. We’ve located at least one manufacturing facility that we are excited to work with. They are located in Fall River, MA and they are doing good work to re-shore the apparel manufacturing industry. Good Clothing Co., check them out. They are currently creating one of their own factory samples out of one of our “Velma” samples so that they can give us an accurate quote of what production might cost if we go with them. Production cost will depend on how many pieces we are planning to run. Economy of scale comes into play here, so the more we think we’ll sell, the more we’ll make, and the more affordable the whole thing will be. So, tell your friends! 🙂
  4. We’re also working to develop our (for now, more bespoke) Lady Farmer Home line, featuring table linens, and have been commissioned to provide the napkins for a few different fancy dinners in our area. The next one is Farm-to-Fork, a benefit dinner to promote the Montgomery County Ag Reserve, the very reserve we hope to establish our own fiber and textile farm one day in the near future to bring even more of our supply chain home!
  5. As we gear up for our Kickstarter Crowdfunding Campaign launch next month, we are planning to be at as well as host a few more area events – taking our samples on the road for people to see & try on so they are ready to pre-order through Kickstarter. We’ll be at the first annual Homesteaders of America Conference in Warrenton, VA, the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello near Charlottesville, VA, participating in the Loudon County Farm Tour with George’s Mill Cheese (come see us at their barn dance!), and we’ll be co-hosting a shopping party at local boutique Sonoran Rose, proceeds to benefit the Ag Reserve, to name a few. I’m aware that we need a separate “Events” calendar section on our website as I type all of these things out. I’ll work on that!
  6. We are continually working on updating our online store (refreshing Lady Farmer T-Shirt inventory, adding tanks and baby onesies(!), as well as working with other Lady Farmers to stock some different goodies) and will also let you know as things become available.
  7. We’re busy in the garden and kitchen, putting up slaw & salsa with the abundance of summer veggies, and I recently ran across Queen Anne’s Lace jelly on Instagram and am curious to try it…has anyone done this? Who knew? 🙂

 

Natural Dye – Black Walnut

Natural Dye – Black Walnut

We’re surrounded by Black Walnut trees around here, so many that it’s too easy to be annoyed by the annual arrival of the green, fist sized nuts that create such a hazard falling from the branches during September and October. Then the yard becomes an obstacle course of firm balls covering the ground for weeks until the squirrels finally carry them off. If we want to pick them up in advance of the squirrels (say, if we decide we’d like to reduce the risk of breaking an ankle on our way to the garden) we are amazed at not only the abundance of nuts, but the tenacity of the thick, dark stain they leave on everything they touch. If you don’t wear gloves, you are stuck with it on your hands for weeks.

Looking at it another way, however, the Black Walnut tree is an amazing resource, providing for the willing homesteader an impressive array of gifts–including not only a delicious and nutritious gourmet nut, an oil with numerous uses, beautiful hard wood, and a lovely dye for yarns and fabrics.

That’s why this year, as we begin our Lady Farmer exploration of sustainable and functional clothing, I needed only to look in my backyard for an excellent place to start in playing with natural fabric dyes.

Here’s what I did:

  1. I got a clean(ish) 5 gallon plastic tub and filled it with ripe black walnuts picked off the ground
  2. Filled it with water and let the nuts soak for a few days. I think two days would be the minimum.
  3. Poured the water through a strainer into a 5 gallon pot (I used my canning pot) and set it to simmer for 2 hours.
  4. I took two pieces of an organic hemp fabric blended with tencel, soaked them briefly in warm water (I read that this prepares the fabric to receive the dye and lessens the damage from the hot water soak)  and placed them in the vat.
  5. Took one of them out after about 3 hours and left the other one in overnight

This is just one example of the miracles of color that surround us every day, in every season. We look forward to helping you see them–and creating ways for you to wear them!

– Mary

Choices

 

There may not have ever been a time when our choices have been more important than they are right now, in 2016. We have more information than we’ve ever had about the health of our planet and our humanity, and are blessed with the greatest vehicle of change: the power of choice.

 

this image and cover thumbnail image from Han Starnes @hanstarnes

 

     

          It is no secret that we, as consumers, are manipulated on a daily basis into spending our money. In the amazing amount of choices we have surrounding us, from where to buy our morning coffee to how we’re going to catch up on current events to which lipstick to wear with which outfit to that party we have to go to later that night…we have the incredible ability to choose how we are going to solve each of the problems presented to us. In this case, these problems would be our need for caffeine, our need to remain informed, and our need to present in a social situation. The impact of the choices we make to solve these problems is usually much greater in scope than what we are led (or allowed) to believe.

           It is when we consider the impact of the choice in the same way we consider the desired outcome that we regain our power. In many ways, how we spend our money has come to reflect who we are as people.

           It can start with being more critical about labels – on food, body/beauty products, and apparel – and the general story we are told about what our problems are (some marketing is clever enough to make up our problems for us) and how to solve them. We’ll need a strong sense of what’s manipulation and what’s real – and how those things align with our own values, which we’ll have to be clear about those  too.

           In a blog entitled “Revising Fashion Marketing Terminology” by Sustainability in Style, blogger Katie Roberts addresses some of the issues with marketing terminology, labelling, and identifying our own value system so we may make better and more informed choices. She references an Alice in Wonderland quote which I love, and when used in this context speaks to the paradoxical frustration and hope in this paradigm shift.

 

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”   – the Queen

 

                                     Can’t we all relate?

                   My mom and I started this company because we were both frustrated with the lack of choices that aligned with our own values – values we are continuing to define and develop – as well as the overwhelming amount of information we felt that we were either a) constantly bombarded by or b) constantly having to search for and wade through internet “muck” to find. We look to use this platform as a place to honestly share clear and distilled information about how we can make choices for  impact as well as outcome, and how we can strive for the best of all scenarios in regard to the planet, the people, and the consumer. If this sounds good to you, please stick around! There’s much more to come.

 – Emma

*Check back in a couple of days for more about deceiving labels, and what kinds of things to be looking for as well as avoiding. (We’ll also talk about what we’re taking into consideration while designing our forthcoming clothing line!)

In the meantime, check out this article from Stylewise, on something she calls “Greenwashing”.

 

Five Girls

Creating clothing with integrity means learning as much as we can about the raw materials and when possible, getting up close and personal with the source. Enter the newest additions to our menagerie at Three Graces Farm–five sweet ewes with very special coats.

Our sheep are varying degrees of the Gotland variety, representing a breed that is growing in this country. Dating back to the Viking era and originating from an island off the coast of Sweden, they are bred for meat as well as wool. There’s hope they will become a viable presence in North America for both industries. Full blooded Gotlands are still rare in the US, but our girls are a calculated mix in a gene pool that is intended to promote the breed, the result of a formal genetic program that was established in the US in 2003.  

Gotlands are known for their silky, silver/ grey wool and for being relatively easy keepers for small farms. Medium sized with an agreeable temperament (we are told!) they don’t need much besides a grassy field and water. In return, they’ll share their lovely coats with us in the spring which we will use in creating a luscious and uniquely textured yarn. Lady Farmer sweaters on the horizon? 

We have hosted sheep for grazing in our fields before so we know something about having them around, but this is our own flock. It’s a small beginning, but enough to get us all acquainted and to learn what we can expect from each other. They’re all girls, so no lambs in the spring, but if all goes well we’ll see about next year!

– Mary

Here’s a close-up of Cocoa, named for her delicious chocolate color!

 

Beat the System: Buy Second Hand

If you haven’t watched The True Cost , please go ahead and watch it right now. Quite honestly, the movie changed my life. It laid out the severely harrowing state of a fashion industry that so many of us are able to mindlessly partake in due to cultural conditioning and a simple lack of information.

Okay, so maybe you don’t have an hour to spare right this second, but you definitely have 2 minutes to spare to watch the trailer so that we can a) get on the same page and b) you can be moved to bump the movie up in your Netflix queue.

Harrowing, right?

Y’all. Something has to change here. And guess what? The only people that are going to make that happen in any sort of efficient and meaningful way is us – the consumers. Like the organic and local food that we’ve so willingly and trendily accepted as a necessary investment, so must we do with the clothes that we wear. The best part is – it’s way less of an investment and more of an attitude/awareness adjustment.

Let’s start by being more aware. Know good advertising when you see it, and try to stop letting yourself be convinced that you need more, more, more and new, new, new to be happy. Juxtapose those images with some of the images from the film, and try to consciously think back and down the supply chain, as much as you can, to ask yourself if you are really willing to buy whatever it is you’re tempted by. It’s upsetting to think that a chicken raised here may be sent all the way to China to be processed, then flown back to be stocked on your local grocery’s shelves, right? What a waste of fuel, time, and energy for that one chicken!

It’s the same with clothes. As with everything, there are “many shades of green”, and the ability to fix all of these problems in one fell swoop, choice, purchase, donation, etc, is overwhelming and in fact, impossible. But maybe start with only buying clothes that you know where they came from, or who made them. You’ll actually be surprised; these things aren’t easy to find out. Some good places to start are companies that boast “transparency”, such as Everlane, which is newer, but some great ones that have been around are Patagonia, and Eileen Fisher. Maybe you’ll want to stick with Made in USA, maybe you’ll have more energy around making sure all the textiles used are recycled or recyclable.

Whichever shade of green you choose, a great, easy, and effortless place to start is buying second hand. And never, ever throw clothes in the trash can.

Buying second hand at thrift stores, or hosting clothing swaps with your friends, or donating clothes to said stores or swaps, is – and to my relief, because I love it – probably one of the best things you can do right at this moment to start changing things.  It’s completely a win-win, because not only are you beating the (profit-driven, planet destroying, slavery perpetuating) system, but you are saving lots of money (in many cases, the money you are spending is going straight to charity), and its really very fun.

So go beat the system, and have some fun.

#whomademyclothes

As a culture, we’ve gotten pretty good about caring about where our food comes from. It’s even trendy now to know exactly…to visit farms, to eat at restaurants that are completely transparent about their supply chain. It both tastes better and feels better for our bodies and our conscience. Some have deemed this movement away from tv dinners and hamburger helper to Whole Foods and farmer’s markets as “slow food”. It’s a reaction to fast food. As a lady farmer blog, we’re going to be talking a lot about this, because a farm’s main purpose is to produce food.

But guess what? A similar realization/reaction movement is happening in the fashion industry. We’re already a few years into the slow fashion era, but there is still so much to learn and so much to teach – ourselves, each other, the planet. The way that the fashion industry is currently set up makes it so that we can’t figure out too much about who made our clothes, and in what conditions. The truth is that some of the biggest brands we buy from aren’t even sure, because when they order from their suppliers it is unclear what will happen beyond that point. It is unclear because it is unjust, many times these systems qualify as crimes against human rights and the environment. *In most instances, we have slave labor to thank for the clothes that we wear.

So if we care so much about the food we put in our bodies, why haven’t we thought too much about the clothes we wear on them?

I think the answer up until this point has been a simple lack of information, and many people would like for it to stay that way. When we start educating ourselves, we’ll demand change, and change will mean LESS production in MORE time, probably. This means our obsessive consumption society won’t be spewing money into a system that makes a few companies really rich while ruining our planet anymore.

I’m okay with that, and I’d be willing to guess that you are too.

A system where our clothing supply chains respect the rights of all human beings? A transparency that ensures we are doing everything we can to cut down on the amount of waste and pollution that is produced by one of the largest industries in the world? It doesn’t exist yet, but it can.

Lady Farmer grew out of a desire to produce a line of sustainable clothes for the conscientious woman who has all of these things in mind. As farmers, our work is food and nourishment. As consumers, our work is making sure we consume knowingly and not too often. A paradigm shift? Yeah – but as lady farmers we’re not afraid of it.

We’re so excited to have you on our journey.

*If you want to know more about all of this, here are some great resources to start:

Movement: Fashion Revolution #whomademyclothes

Documentary: True Cost Movie

Research: Fashion Transparency Index

On 24 April 2013, 1,134 people were killed and over 2,500 were injured when the Rana Plaza complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  The building housed factories for apparel brands including Benetton, the Children’s Place, and Walmart.  Photo Credit: learning.blogs.nytimes.com