It's almost officially fall, in fact the official Autumn Equinox, (do you capitalize the seasonal change?) is the day after my best friend Leslie's birthday. The nights are getting slightly cooler-ish and daylight is slowly decreasing one minute at a time each day. As a weaver, this is my favorite time of year; woolen season, second cup of coffee season, snuggle with your dog season, blanket season.
The goings on around Studio Herron lately have been a mixture of hustle and flow. Thinking over the ups and downs of this past year, I have learned so much. For instance, the importance of slow and steady patience. In a flurry or business agreements, production for my small and deliberate blanket collection was crammed into 3 winter months, when it needed a longer period with wiggle room for mistakes. I learned some valuable and expensive lessons as a new business woman in the world of home textile production and retail. One of which was: release collections months before their season. Spring collections come out in January and Fall collections come out in June. I did not know that, but I sure do now. My blanket collection came out in April, far too late for buyers and much to my chagrin.
This trend spurned by the fashion industry, has had me think even more deeply about waste in textiles and retail. Fast fashion is the thing I want to change in textiles, so why I am I scrambling to participate in something I abhor? This brought me back to Herron's Mission Statement and the culture I am trying build at Herron around the textiles I design and produce.
My 2016 blanket collection is my fist home textile collection for my own label. While a small assortment, it embodies an artistic process that meets production, craft and responsibility.
What does that mean? The life expectancy of a garment on average is 2 years, for household textiles such as cotton blankets it's 3 years. When you break down the cost of a cotton blanket, factors to consider are environmental implication, and labor. Most of the world's cotton crop is grown in developing countries on irrigated land. In fact, studies reveal it takes 20,000 liters of water to produce one single cotton t-shirt. A complex, thirsty and demanding crop, the benefits of sustainably grown cotton have been proven to lead to a longer life expectancy and overall product integrity.
A year of research, sourcing, fundraising and design trial and error went into planning my two design blanket collection. Visiting fiber farms, weaving samples, tracing crops to seeds and digging into environmental regulations and codes of conduct for custom industrial dyeing. The result is a carefully considered collection of blankets that pair supply chain and labor transparency with artistic process, industrial production, craft methodology and heirloom quality. I settled on Virginia grown cotton sourced by Cestari Sheep and Wool Company. Cotton for my blankets was grown 690 miles east of my weaving studio, and the The Weaving Mill where I have my blankets woven. The carbon footprint was a concern. Cotton is not a crop that is usually farmed in the rust belt. Corn and soy are the staples of the Midwest region.
Through Cestari, the Virginia grown cotton was milled and dyed for Herron, shipped on pallets up to The Weaving Mill in Chicago where I worked with Matti Sloman and Emily Winter to translate my handwoven blanket samples to industrial looms. The Weaving Mill is a newly revived artist run mill located 3.5 miles from my studio space, on Chicago's west side.
After the blankets had been woven in 100 yard, 90 inch long bolts, (they are way heavy and I often carried and delivered them myself.) I took the fabric to a family tailoring company in Cicero, IL, who'd previously worked with me to sew all of my handwoven Freehand Chicago Pillows. There, the blankets were cut, hemmed and fringed. In my attempt to be a no-waste business, all the cut remnants from the blankets have been used to create new products like throw pillows (available soon) and table linens. We cut and sew small quanitites at a time, not the full bolts. This is simply a small business tactic to preserve time, labor and money.
The story I want these blankets to tell the world, is one of integrity and heirloom quality rarely seen in textiles. This collection embodies what I like to call a "farm to fabric" and "seed to sew" ethos. They are more than just blankets, they are beautiful works of art and utility that tell the story of land and people.