Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Indra's Net, Reaching Higher: Practical Ethics in Textiles

My last post talked about one author's attempts to align her ethics with her passion for fashion. For many years, looking stylish has been very far down on my list of priorities; ethical sourcing, comfort and durability are the things I look for when buying clothing. (I hope those who know me were sitting down when they read that, because I realize a statement like that from me comes as a horrible shock.) I'm all about wearing natural fibres, as close to the source of the plant as I can get. I'm fortunate, in that I can spin those fibres and shape them into cloth, but for most people, this is not an option and, even for me, wearing only what I've made myself would leave me very scantily clothed indeed. No one wants that. Although I am not given to wearing runway fashion, I do like to to be presentable and wear attractive, casual clothing which meets the higher priorities on my purchasing list.

With current economies structured the way they are, it's virtually impossible to "do no harm;" every choice we make as textile consumers has a cost.  Sometimes, the best we can do is aim for "least harm." As I continue to research textile fibres, I've come to believe, for the moment at least, that hemp fibres and textiles are among the best sources for ethically produced clothing. You can click on the italicized links for more information, but here's a good summary (with a bit of advertising adornment thrown in) of why people might want to consider wearing hemp:

Hemp, the first and strongest natural fibre to be cultivated, is considered to be nature's most valuable, versatile and reusable natural resource. Unlike cotton, hemp can be grown in most any conditions without chemicals and pesticides for uses such as clothing, paper, food, medicine and cosmetics. It has long been known that hemp fabrics provide many distinct advantages such as comfort and feel, easy care and excellent durability. Hemp's resistance to mildew and bacteria as well as its high protection performance against UV rays means wearing hemp benefits both skin and health. ("Why Hemp?" Clothing Label, Effort Industries Inc., Toronto, Canada)

Unfortunately for many of us, hemp products can be difficult and expensive to find, so it's wonderful to find local shops which specialize in ethically chosen and sourced goods with products you like. One of these is Hemp Haven. Not only does this small shop supply hemp clothing, fabric, yarn and other products, Travis, the owner, is also a fibre craftsperson who specializes in crocheting hemp hats for sale in the store. While the hats are made from 100% hemp yarn, pure hemp clothing is rare, so most consumer can only buy hemp/cotton blends. (Look for blends made from organic cotton.) The clothing sold in this store is made from heavy, closely woven or knitted fabric, at very reasonable prices.  (A bunny hug/hoody costs around $40; prices for T-shirts range from $25 for short sleeves to $30 for longer sleeves, comparable to what women pay in many retail chain stores for often shoddy goods.) The fabric is extremely durable-pants and T-shirts I bought 3 years ago, wear regularly and launder without particular care still look good.

Travis doesn't maintain a website and told me he has no plans to start one. He prefers to keep his shop small and local, so you'll have to do a bit of homework to buy from him. There are shops like Hemp Haven across the country and you'll find hemp products in unusual places-the first hemp clothing I bought was in a yarn shop in Revelstoke-so if you're looking for casual, durable and ethically sourced products, do some research and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the growing number of suppliers. If you're interested in high end style, hemp fabrics are increasingly used by fashion designers, although the farther away you move from the retailer and supplier, the more difficult it becomes to determine whether or not your products are ethically produced, so keep that in mind when you make your purchases.

The world has lost several respected and admired people in the last few days; yesterday, one more was added to the list: the great guru of yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar died at the age of 96. These spirits came from disparate paths in life and worked in vastly different fields, but I see some important connections among all of them. Each of them, Spirits Living in a Material World, lived Life to the fullest, explored their interests to their highest potential and took their practice out into the world for the benefit of others. I've paid personal tribute to one of them; none of the others need my words added to the outpouring of respect and love heard round the world, but it is from people such as these (and many more who are close to me) that I build my own practice and make an effort to apply it for a larger purpose, although I will never be more than a shadow following in the shadow of Great Spirits. All of us can walk in the footsteps of giants and we can begin by taking our best baby steps towards an ethical approach to our daily choices.

Washcloth knitted from hand spun 100% hemp fibres.


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