Have you cottoned on yet? organiccotton.biz is the biz!
Lynda Brown - 07 December 2012
As we know, thanks to pioneering fashion companies like People Tree, ethical fashion is now an everyday reality, and awareness of the supreme importance of supporting organic cotton farmers and industry is finally getting through (for why, look no further than the Soil Association's latest blockbuster campaign).
But - and it's a big one, though we can now buy organic clothes and towels on the high street, that's not the case with organic fabrics generally, which once again means turning a blind eye. For example, I've just spent a frustrating 3 months trying to find curtain material that both suits my little Cotswold cottage and my principles (not to mention my purse). At the eleventh hour - and purely by chance - I discovered the Organic Textile Company on the web... read on!
Now, organiccotton.biz might sound large but is actually a tiny grass roots company with a big heart, run on an organic shoe string by husband and wife team Phil and Ann Wheeler, plus one helper, Jane. Their customers are primarily start up organic textile enterprises, students who want to make their own clothes or patchwork – see their new sister site patchwork.organiccotton.biz – and people like you and me who happen to stumble across them (they don't advertise, churn out press releases or court publicity which is why you probably haven't heard of them either).
They've been in the fabric business for 30 years; 10 years ago they cottoned on to the unpalatable truths and environmental and human hazards about conventionally grown cotton, and became determined to provide an ethical and environmentally sound alternative. The result is that today they offer 300 fabrics; I quote:
"Our main objective is to promote organic growing. This gives farmers and their families a chance to live safely and earn more. Our second objective is to use fair trade yarn wherever we can as again this gives farmers and co-operatives the possibility of earning a fairer wage." ... "We stock organic cotton, linen, vintage prints, gingham, canvas, jersey, fairtrade cotton, muslin, fair trade fabrics, denim, velvet, cord, corduroy, voile, calico, unbleached cotton, natural fibres, bamboo and linen colourgrown cotton, remnants and chemical free cotton." PS they also stock pom poms, wadding for quilts, hessian and cotton thread, organic cotton towels and tea towels, and a comprehensive range of sample packs.
The website is a joy to browse (it’s also personal and entertaining, which makes a nice change). To say they're affordable is putting it mildly: organic cottons start at £2.95 metre; a pack of size large organic muslin cloths (great Xmas present) is £6.95; hand made gingham at £5.95. Their most expense fabrics, a hand printed designer collection (local artist) are £11-14.95 metre. Yes, that's right: a fraction of the price you'll find conventional fabrics on the high street.
I bought some gorgeous natural linen for 8.99 metre (and it's 150cm wide) plus some naturally coloured Chinese organic cotton at £9.95 metre (and how exciting is that - I never even knew there are varieties of coloured cotton: mine is a beautiful pale muted green they've called 'wasabi green').
The toxic fallout of textile production is truly horrific. Only yesterday, the Guardian ran a graphic feature about the latest Greenpeace expose of 'Toxic threads' in China. You could buy into that when you next need curtains or want to make a vintage skirt. Then again, you could check out organiccotton.biz, happy in the knowledge that you’re helping to provide a living for not just their designer cum weaver Ganesh and his family but a whole web of families and co-operatives in Kerala: (part of their income, too, goes back into the community to repair weaving looms). Sounds pretty good to me - and I already know they’ll be the best curtains I’ve ever had.
Lynda is an award-winning food writer and broadcaster, and keen advocate for organic living. She is author of several food books over the last twenty years including Planet Organic: Organic Living, The Cook's Garden, and The Modern Cook's Handbook, as well as writing The Preserving Book that was published in 2010 in association with the Soil Association. Lynda is an expert on food and nutrition and a seasoned broadcaster, regularly speaking on food and farming both on the radio and television.