V ä v a! V e v e! weaving cloth one thread at a time

Friday, July 26, 2013

Linen Bath Towel in the Damask design.  Natural Color with Cornflower Blue accent.

Monday, February 18, 2013

An ancient solution to our modern-day global warming?

I am in the middle of reading the book, "Hooked!  Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume" as edited by Stephanie Kaza.  It is so nice to read a book that seems to take it's words right from my heart, and by placing them on paper, makes it possible for me to begin to understand and put to rest some of my heart's turmoil about treating our earth with delicate and tender hands.  It has given me some simple direction, since the challenges of living green, and doing what is right, and voicing my opinions, leaving a world in which my children can live healthy lives, and reducing my carbon footprint . . . are all pulling me in so many different directions as to make my well-intentioned efforts fragmented and inconsistent.

I'm told from several different sources that the most important issue is . . .

reducing wasteful use of water reducing herbicides and pesticides in our farming eating only grass-fed beef changing out my lightbulbs RECYCLING MY PAPER developing an alternative energy to fossil fuel saving the whales hybrid vs. electric? hemp forever!

Each of these camps is saying that if we only got this part or that part under control, we would have a huge impact on global warming!  So, not knowing who to believe, but believing that something needs to be done and doing anything is better than doing nothing, I attempt to remember my cloth bags when going to the market (but end up forgetting them in the front seat of my car when I drive to the store located 1/2 mile down the road); buy plastic solar powered yard lights (which are made in China - a half world away, and whose carbon footprint just in the shipping and plastic parts far outreaches any benefits of the solar contribution) to unnecessarily accent my totally inappropriate and water consuming lawn. And in a misinformed altruistic effort to start fresh, I throw out all toxic household hazardous waste in my home (which end up in a land-fill, leaching into the soil there, thereby contaminating the ground water in that area).  Okay, I haven't actually done all of those those things . . . okay, well maybe forgetting my bags in the car, and maybe driving my car when I should have walked . . . and I did buy a couple of those stick lights that are solar powered for the steps going down to the lake at the cabin (which never really worked by the way), BUT my yard is a totally cool environment for wildlife, filled with native grasses, flowers, fruits and vegetables, rocks and trees.   (No mowing!!  No watering!!)  And I have always properly disposed of household hazardous waste with our county treatment facility!!

It seems that we, each of us as individuals, and as part of organizations from corporations on down to small businesses, churches, schools; nay, no one is exempt;  have let things get so far out of hand that at every turn, we accidently, ignorantly, naively, or just plain ignoringly misbehave and step all over our newly acquired, and quickly tarnishing green image.  What are we to do??  No matter which way we turn we are messing up!!  It is completely overwhelming us!!  WE ARE DOOMED!!

But wait!  I was talking about that special book at the beginning of this post.  It is a book that talks about ancient ideas, putting them in modern context. Even in the book's foreword written by Paul Hawken , wisdom shouts from the pages!  "It is tempting to see the problem of consumption as something other people do.  People with SUVs should cut back and buy smaller cars, get more exercise, and use a bicycle.  But this wonderfully edited volume shows us that it is more relevant and poignant to look at our own lives.  A Buddhist perspective on consumption offers understanding of oneself.  The quotidian ways in which we rob the earth are pathways to genuine insight.  And in the awareness of self arises compassion for others, especially those who are weighed down so heavily by material desire.  It is fair to say that people are overwhelmed by this world we share and live in.  Alleviating people's sense of isolation and fear can do more than any recycling program.  As Buddhist teachers so aptly point out, we can reduce our and others' desires by being generous and kind.  It is hard to be grasping when we are reaching out."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Linen: The Unfortunate Second Choice

Something that I have struggled to understand since I first started to weave with linen, is why there are no linen mills in the United States.  From the research that I have done, although not exhaustive, it has not revealed any record of any linen or flax mill in the United States, ever!  Or at least none that were big enough to have any record of existing.  Why is that?!  Did we go so gung-ho for cotton from the beginning??  Did Eli Whitney and his cotton gin have such an overwhelming effect on the textile industry as to delete flax from our very shores??  Did the unfortunate use of slaves in the 1800's make it so that cotton was easy to be king?  Did the politicians/land barons/cotton plantation owners of yesteryear buy their way to power, ensuring the dominance of cotton as the fiber of that century and centuries to follow??  Up until the late 18th century linen was probably the most important fiber in the world.  So what happened?

It is my understanding that flax is an easy crop to grow.  And although Belgium and Lithuania are in an optimal geo-climate, allowing that region to grow beautiful, long strong flax, it can be grown in just about any soil condition and in fairly harsh climates.

Oldest active linen mill in Lithuania.  

It requires water for the initial spouts to survive, but after that, basic rainfall works quite well for its healthy growth.  It is naturally pest resistant so pesticides and herbicides are not required for its growth, and its growing season is only about 3 months long, alowing most regions, even further north into Canada to grow flax with success.  The whole process of bringing the flax from seed to consumer is lots less costly to our earth in terms of toxic chemicals and water waste than cotton.  The linen fabric is so much stronger than cotton, and glossier and more beautiful than cotton, and more absorbant than cotton, linen lasts and lasts and is used and used, and is still passed from one generation to the next.  Whereas cotton is worn out in a couple of years at best, and thrown away.  So why is cotton still at the top of the heap??

 Large contemporary linen mill in Belgium

It just doesn't make sense to me, why the world persists in using cotton when linen is so much better!  My thought is that people just don't know!!  It has been a well kept secret and I guess I need to educate the world as to linen's functional, green, and beautiful qualities that are so lacking in cotton!!  Not even organic cotton can stand up to the workhorse fibers of flax!!

Combed Flax, being prepared for spinning.

So, until I can convince the world that flax is a very sustainable crop with very little waste, and what is waste is totally biodegradable; Until I can educate the world that flax is a very 'green' crop with very little to no use of toxic chemicals or herbicides to enhance its growth, nor has need of lots of water wasted in processing it into usable yarn and yard goods;  Until I can demonstrate to enough people that the superior inherent qualities of flax plant make linen an almost perfect fabric, with a long wearing life, extremely comfortable breath-ability, a quiet elegance, extreme absorbancy, a long glossy fiber that enables fabrics to have a sheen only seen in luxurious linen; Only when all this is accomplished will linen once again touch our shores and become a 'staple' in our farming communities, and our clothing and textile industries!  So help me spread the word!  Wear LINEN!  Use LINEN!!  BUY LINEN!!!  Linen:  The fiber that does it all!!

Linen Yarns imported for  v ä v a! v e v e!

Color:  AGATE

Color:  NEW LEAF


Color:  SLATE

Color:  VIOLET

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Conscious Evolution

There are so many things in our world to concern us and take up our attention; so much has gone awry.  The US political system is corrupt and it's economy is based on smoke and mirrors; Europe's monetary system is in jeopardy; many of Africa's nations seem to be in war and/or turmoil and their peoples in huge need; our earth's ecosystem is so out of balance that ice is melting on our polar ice caps, and weather systems are getting more extreme and intense; our wasteful living is piling up and polluting everything around it; the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer.  At the core of all of this . . . . greed.  And it is not somebody else, some nameless person living in some other neighborhood, state or country who is causing this.  It is each and every one of us, trying to make ends meet, struggling to pay the mortgage, feeding and clothing our families, trying to scratch out a decent way of life.  Sure, the rich are benefiting from much of the chaos and destruction that is going on, but so are the rest of us.

I have talked about this before, and feel I need to address it again.  We all need to take responsibility for what is happening to our earth.  We each need to make many changes to our lives if we are going to survive.  I'm not talking about surviving in our own lifetimes.  I am talking about changing the way we walk through our own lives so our descendents will be able to live in anything other than a bubble.  Call it Conscious Evolution.

As each species confronts a problem that threatens them, the ones that are not as subject to the threat are the ones that survive.  This is evolution 101.  Built in defense measures such as the spiky fins on a fish, or the odor of the skunk are what have enabled these species to survive to date.  Even now, each species is evolving ever so slowly to accommodate our aggressive world.  But mankind has been manipulating our world, messing with this natural order, and disrupting evolution.  Through our striving to come up with a bigger and better mousetrap, and through our insecurities and needs which compel us to build up storehouses of supplies, we have managed to strip our world bare, and created such gaping holes in the world's balance, we now have outpaced the natural evolution and are now required to figure out our own evolution.  We now require everyday things like sunblock for our skin, since our ozone layer, thanks to humankind, is now letting in the wrong kinds of sunlight which is having huge adverse affect on skin.  We use so much water, we have to regulate it's use.   We have caused all manner of flora and fauna to die and even go extinct long before it was meant to, never to be seen again.  We are polluting the air, ground and water, and stripping the earth of the tools to mend itself, such as the large forests in our world which clean our air, developing wetlands into condos taking away the most efficient water filters we could have, and digging horrible sludge up from the bowels of the earth and using it for fuel - something definitely wrong there - and who knows what long term effects there will be from disrupting our earth miles below it's crust??!!

Each of us is a consumer.  We buy lots of stuff!!  We buy lots of stuff we just don't need, made in such a manner as to save money for the manufacturer who is trying to compete with the market by making the cheapest product he can make and still earn a profit, and who is not paying any attention to the actual costs to our earth.  We buy these cheap products to fulfill our needs.  Therefore we are supporting the destruction of our earth by buying these products.  We need to start paying attention, and being responsible and accountable for what we consume!  Rather than buy the inexpensive salad bowl, made a 1/2 world away, and which will need to be replaced in a year, we need to invest in our lives and our earth by purchasing quality, locally made items that will last, which are made with the least impact on our earth.  These items are more expensive, but in the long run, they have the least cost.  We need to change how we consume!  We need to make a conscious effort every day, about what we use and consume.  This is difficult, since it means having to pay attention to things we never really had to think about because we let the manufacturer make decisions for us.  If we trusted the manufacturer/brand name we didn't have to look any deeper.  They did the policing for us, or so we thought.  But now, everything has changed.  We need to take a look at everything, all the time!  We have gotten away with a very relaxed way of consuming for a very long time.  It is time that we started putting in some effort to support a positive way of consuming, so we can stay healthy along with our earth.  It is time that we evolve in our approach to consumption in our daily life so that we are not outpaced by the changing earth.  Let's start to consciously evolve and think about what and how we use our earth's resources by consuming less, local, and lime 'green'!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Goodness!  It's been waaaaay too long since I last posted.  Inhale . . . So, lots has happened in the last year.  I have moved my studio, started working with retailers, set up a yarn business, added designs to my line, sent my son off to Kuwait, and my daughter to Europe!  Pant! Pant!  Wheeze!  For those of you looking to respond to my  plea for production weaving help through the Weavers Guild of MN, please go to my website www.vavaveve.com if you want to get an idea of who I am and what I do, then email me by clicking on the 'Contact Us' tab on my website.  Thank you for your help!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How can we be more responsible in our daily lives?

My parents were the forerunners of the recyclers of today.  They reused aluminum foil, and plastic bags, which I hated because I was the one who had to wash them, and they were very hard to wash and actually get clean without destroying them!  They reused paper bags until they didn't hold together anymore.  We handed clothing down through the family, and I ended up having to wear my brothers clothes to play outside, which I thought was just fine since I thought my older brothers were pretty cool.
 yep, that's me!
They brought clothing no longer used to Good Will or Lutheran World Relief.  We rarely had things dry cleaned.  My mother canned things from the garden.
We played outside until dinnertime.  We always had a family dinner together every single night (no exceptions), until each of the kids went off to college.
Rockwell Family Dinner
We were told to always shut off lights when we left a room!  And we kept the thermostat at a steady 68 degrees F.  We had no air conditioning except to open the windows.  We didn't take regular trips to Target; that was only for just before school started, when we purchased paper and pencils (we reused the crayons, scissors, glue, and anything else we were required to bring to class), and a minimum of utilitarian clothing, and the rest my mother sewed for us. My folks told us they never had the money for snacks like pop or potato chips or candy.  Any cookies, cakes or pies we had were baked by my mother.  We often went on family drives to local parks for picnics.  We rode our bikes once a week to the local library.  We only had one phone in the entire house.  And to be honest, I think I had the best childhood ever, even though I had to hand wash all those plastic bags and aluminum foil!

In that little description of my childhood, there about 20 ideas about how we can slow our lives down and be more responsible to ourselves and to our earth at the same time.
  1. re-use those plastic bags in which you purchase your bread from the store.
  2. re-use the aluminum foil more than just once!
  3. re-use the paper bags you get at the store until they no longer function and then put them in your compost pile.
  4. reduce the number of paper bags that you use by sewing up some bags from old worn out jeans.
Photo credit: STC Craft
from "Sewing Green, 25 Projects Made with Repurposed and Organic Materials"
By Betz White
available here 
    5.   Purchase clothing from garage sales, especially for those
          young ones who aren't so aware of fashion and who grow
          so quickly.  Often garage sales have brand new clothing
          which didn't get worn because the young owner grew too
          quickly, or was the right size but the wrong season!
    6 .  Pack up unused clothing and household items and donate
          them to a local charity.

        7.  Purchase clothing that does not need drycleaning!
        8.  Start a small garden this spring and plant some vegetables
             and melons and maybe even some berry bushes!

          9.  Establish a routine of having dinner with the family more
               than a couple times a week!
         10. Don't schedule so much into your children's life, so that
               they have a chance to develop independent thinking skills.
               Let them have some down time, where they aren't having
               to be anywhere or do anything!
            11.  Remember to turn lights off when leaving a room.  It
                   just makes sense!
            12.  And keep your thermostat at a temperature that is about
                   2 degree below your comfort zone, and then put on a
                   sweater!  This would give you all kinds of reasons to take
                   up knitting!
            13. Try going a week without an air conditioner!  See what a
                  difference it makes on your utility bill!  Open those
                  windows and let the outside air in!  Use a homemade fan!
              14. Start to use things until they wear out, and then instead of
                    running to the store for a replacement, try to FIX IT!
              15. Go to the fabric store and see if you can sew something
                    beautiful for your home or for yourself or your family.
                    And don't give up with the first project.  It takes a little bit
                    of practice, and I guarantee you will get better at it!
              16. Start making your own snacks and you may find your
                    health improve, because you will be making them from
                    ingredients you know and trust without added chemicals
                    or preservatives.
              17. Try taking your family or friends on a picnic to your local
                    parks or zoo.
              18. Ride your bike to the grocery store instead of going in
                    your car.  You will get some exercise AND spend less!
                    Plus you will need to do this at least a couple times a
                    week since you can't load up a bike like you can a car.
                    . . . or can you?
               19. Take a trip to your library every week, just to get out and
               20. Reduce the amount of time you spend on your mobile
                     phone, iPod, computer, etc.  Look out beyond the screen!

              Wednesday, March 9, 2011

              The answer to EVERYTHING!

              I have a Facebook Page called "Slow Life"
              ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/Slow-Life/127006940668282 )
              in which I started out extolling the benefits of slowing down my life.  Of course, that is easier said than done!   As a hand weaver, my existence is based on doing something that takes time.  I don't necessarily do it slowly, since I am making my living doing this, but it is, by it's very nature, a slow process.  I am weaving fabric thread-by-thread.  But as I started really exploring HOW to slow one's life down, it also became clear to me that as life slows down, one also starts to notice more things, and the things that tend to grab the attention are the things that are out of place.  Things like a McDonald's wrapper in the woods,
              Photo credit - Tim Barnes

              or as I take time to really appreciate my life, it is difficult to ignore the lives of others that aren't so great.  These contrasts are what make us sit up and take notice.  If we don't have some cloudy days, how can we really appreciate the sunny ones, right?

              I found myself at the beginning of a large maze where I could catch glimpses of ideas to improve one's quality of life, through being greener, healthier, more generous.  I could see little snippets of concepts for slowing down so one could enjoy good health, a robust environment, and  good relationships even with people we don't know.  The further my thoughts wandered, the more I realized that the ways our great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents lived made a lot of sense.  It wasn't always the most convenient to have to grow all their own food, and then process it, and put it on the shelf for consumption within a few months at most, and do without when things ran out!

              Nor was it convenient to walk to most places, or save every bit of paper because it was such a treasure.  All this took more time and thought!  But it seems that many things they did are things we are trying to do now.  Growing a garden, canning the harvest, walking to places, cutting back on consumption.  And we are finding that all this takes extra time and thought.

              The creation of time-saving devices and the idea of circumventing inconvenience both seem to start out with good intentions.  Time and convenience seem to be the commodities that have spurred so many 'improvements', from the washing machine and dryer to the car and robotic assembly lines. These things do save us time and do make things more convenient in accomplishing the objective of the various devices, but it seems we are finding there is a huge cost.  I have a multitude of time-saving devices and modern conveniences; a car, a coffee maker, a washer and dryer,

              That was then.
              This is now.
              For which I am thankful!

              a vacuum, canned food from the grocery store, electricity, automatic heating and cooling in my insulated home.  But the question is, do I really have more time as a result of all these time-saving additions??   Is my life really better with all these things?  I think it is more affluent . . . . but better??  That has me really thinking.  If we have all these conveniences and time savers, why is it that I am still so short on time, and I am always finding that I am inconvenienced?!  The answer is simple:  All these wonderful time-saving devices and modern conveniences cost money and in order to be able to afford them, I have to work longer hours.

              Are we just chasing our tail here??  Does it seem a bit puzzling that to save time we have to spend time and in order to have things more convenient we have to be inconvenienced??

              Now we are getting closer to the center of the labyrinth.  Because very few of us are capable of doing everything to sustain our lives in a comfortable way, we have specialized, each of us doing something that we are really good at doing, and we have brought specialization to such a fine razor sharp edge that sometimes there is only one group or even just one person in the world who provides a specialized service or product!  Many steps now need to happen and there are many more people on many more levels involved in accomplishing one task.  From garden to plate, there could be hundreds of people involved in getting that broccoli to you.  As a result, each of us as a consumer is so far removed from the actual production of a product as to make it's production almost non-existent.  The example of the thousands of children who have never seen a real farm animal comes to mind!
              See that hamburger in your hand?  It came from that herd of huge animals over there called cattle!   Most children stare in disbelief!  Shock is next.  Then comes the, "Ewwww!"

              So now, at the center of the labyrinth, I realize that, of course, we can't go back to exactly how things used to be for our great-grandparents.  We have distanced ourselves too much from each aspect of producing what we need to live.  So now we are back to having time-saving devices and modern conveniences, but with a twist.  All of the things we consume we need to scrutinize.  We need to be the oversight committee for all the things we eat and use.  We have trusted others with our welfare and are now becoming aware that the trust may have been misplaced!  We are realizing that our welfare may not have been their primary concern, but rather, profit and the bottom line.
              It is becoming apparent that we may have turned our heads while individuals and corporations with money hired lawyers to find a way to point fingers at anyone or anything else for mistakes that have been made which ultimately have damaged us, others or our earth.  It is no longer something we as individuals or the earth can ignore or even bear.  Whether on a corporate level or a personal level, having enough money to hide mistakes is not something with which our children can exist.  Now that we are an interacting PLANET of knowledge, commerce and powerful  nations, more than ever we need to take responsibility for our actions.  Today our mistakes don't just affect the guy sitting next to us.  They can affect the guy down the street, or the group in the next county, or the nation that is the poorest and can't afford to protect themselves against drought, famine, and disease, resulting from climate change.  Each of us needs to accept the responsibility of taking care of ourselves and our earth.  We need to read labels at the grocery store and buy things grown without pesticides and artificial hormones.  We need to be aware of our food sources, and know that humane treatment is provided to the animals we process into food.
              This is a picture of life for a corporate farmed egg-laying hen.
              Note the de-beaked, featherless hens, packed 6 to a cage with a floor the size of a newspaper.

              Take a close look because we are what we eat!!  Perhaps there is some correlation between our horribly treated farm animal food sources who are highly stressed during their whole lives, and the level of stress in the world today!!  But that's a completely different topic!  I want to know that my food sources are pure and grown in a positive manner.  The same holds true to everything else we consume!  If we only knew some of the corporate secrets!  The treatment of 3rd world labor, the pollution just under the surface, the frightening toxic things added to products that we consume, the profane treatment of animals that are raised for food, the presumption that if the consumer buys it, everything and anything is justified for a profitable bottom line.

              Each of us was raised with the naive idea that corporations keep our best interests at heart.  We have the innocent belief that what we don't know, won't hurt us.  We have the dangerous misdirected trust that if it is on the shelf it is okay to buy!  Too much has been been done for the benefit of the bottom line to put our health and well-being in anyone's hands but our own.

              So we have reached the end of this maze and here is what we have found:  At work we need to demand a more gentle planet. . . each of us needs to take responsibility and do the RIGHT thing!!

              We need to speak up when something isn't right, we need to step up and absorb costs rather than sidestepping them by abusing something or someone for that extra profit.  We also need to take responsibility at home and quit assuming that all things in the store are suitable for purchase.  Much of this does take extra time, and it certainly won't be convenient.  It may even involve risk.  But it does come down to YOU AND YOUR CHOICES both at work and at home!

              So, this maze wasn't so very huge, but maybe it was full of  twists and turns.  In order to enjoy a slower life filled with better health, a sparkling environment, and more positive relationships apply the following checklist:
              1. Read those labels!
              2. Make responsible decisions, and assume that each decision you make affects you directly!  (. . . because it does, eventually!)
              3. At work and at home, treat others (even those you can't see) with respect and dignity, as you would want to be treated!
              4. Do the right thing in all aspects of your life!
              This all takes more time and effort and thinking, but in the long haul, we all benefit!  In my next post I will talk about how you can do this in your everyday life.  Stay tuned!