Updated May 2022
At LaHave Weaving Studio I'm working on the goal of weaving with sustainable and ethically-produced fibres.
The alpaca mill where our alpaca yarn comes from has been in the business for 90 years. The mill has certifications that include several Organic Global Textile Standard certificates, Responsible Alpaca Standard and Responsible Wool Standard, USDA Organic, OEKO-TEX Standard 100 tested for harmful substances, and several initiatives within the Peru Fair Trade for Business Practices certification. Animal welfare initiatives include free range and comfort of the herds, access to natural grasses and water, promotion of good health, and careful fiber shearing.
Alpaca is an animal hair, not a wool fibre. It is hypo-allergenic, super soft, strong, resilient, lustrous, warm and has a silky texture. For me I love the comfort and luxurious feel of alpaca and the fact that, like wool from sheep, it is from a renewable resource and a live animal.
Merino & Other Sheep Breeds
Wool fibre also has wonderful characteristics. Strong, biodegradable, wrinkle-resistant, warm, and, of course, renewable since sheep have to be sheared every year.
Most of the wool I use at LaHave Weaving is from the merino breed of sheep and merino is a particularly soft wool. The merino wool that we use is mulesing-free (mulesing is a practice of cutting away the skin around the breech of the sheep, especially in merino sheep, to prevent flystrike).
While other countries have developed strict guidelines about the health and welfare of fibre animals, it is still challenging to obtain information about the standards and ethics of processing wool in Canada. When contacted the Canadian Cooperative Wool Growers Ltd.'s head office in Ottawa had no standards or certificates to provide.
Industrial hemp is a highly-sustainable fibre and the hemp yarn I use in the studio is undyed and, so, in its most natural state. It is similar to linen, another bast fibre.
Hemp is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet. Used 50,000 years ago hemp was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fibres. Hemp is very strong and light, doesn't need herbicides and pesticides, is mold-resistant, is used in erosion control, ridding of soil of contaminants and is used in a wide variety of commercial products.
The 100% natural linen with which we just started weaving is from a Belgian mill, a family business currently run by the 4th generation. Some of the mill's certifications include the Bureau Veritas Certification "certificate of conformity" for European Flax Standards, a guarantee of traceability for premium linen fibre. This linen is a natural and sustainable fibre, cultivated without artificial irrigation and GMO-free. The yarn from this mill meets the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 of human-ecological requirements.
Linen is spun from the flax plant and is a bast fibre, like hemp. Linen is strong, absorbent, and cool to wear. People the "hand" of linen and, if taken care of, will last for generations.
The "cotolin" I use is a combination of cotton and wool and we use organic cotton blended with natural a linen. It has the great characteristics of linen and cotton combined, with a softer "hand".
I have also started again weaving, in small amounts, with Foxfibre cotton. Sally Fox has been breeding and growing organic naturally colored cottons since 1982, the first cotton to be organically bred and grown in the USA. This means the cotton bolls are naturally coloured in the field--for those of us, all these years, who thought cotton was naturally white, this is so exciting. Sally has developed a biodynamic farm as well.
Recycling clothing and textiles
Lesley has a large collection of used clothing, primarily 100% wool, kindly given by a friend. This clothing and pieces of wool blankets are cut into strips and woven into rag runners.
There is inevitably a bit of waste at the beginning and end of each warp. Lesley either donates the longer bits of yarn to textile students at the art college or puts undyed waste into the compost bin. All pieces of leftover weaving are saved and are being incorporated into pieced items. The Burial Shrouds currently being developed at the studio have a no-waste construction model.
The Environmental Protection Agency in the USA estimates that in 2017, of the 16.9 million tons of textile waste generated in the United States, only 15.2% was recycled. It can take 200+ years for some textiles to decompose, generating methane gas, and leaching toxic chemicals and dyes into the soil. Did you know that according to the World Resources Institute, it takes 2700 litres of water to make one cotton shirt?
It is up to each one of us to buy responsibly, to purchase or make our own good quality clothing and consume them in lesser quantities. Making our adult worn clothing into children's clothes, dishtowels, give to rug hookers or weaving for re-purposing, making quilts or runners out of them, rip into rags--all are fun things to do with recycling in mind.
Washing & Drying & Sewing
See care instructions>
Our woven items are washed with environmentally-friendly soap, air-dried, and ironed. All of the items that need to be sewn are sewn in-house or by our superbly-talented local fashion designer who has been working with us for 30 years.
We encourage our customers to bring their own re-useable tote bags; however, we do provide undyed kraft paper bags and kraft paper boxes if needed. Our mailers are stuffed with recycled paper and are totally recyclable.