Monday, September 14, 2015

Magickal Properties of Fabric

Maybe because it was Sunday when I wrote this. I started thinking about the magickal properties of fabric. Of Cotton.

Some time ago, fabric most of us used shifted from natural  fibers to synthetic.

Cotton wrinkles, and so when clothing showed up on the racks that didn't need ironing, as well as sheets and pillowcases, kitchen towels, etc., most of us (including me) were sold on synthetics. It had its downside too and eventually most of us went back to natural fibers.

As I thought about my personal fabric usage as a quilter, I was re-educated about fabric by the two fabric store owners here in town. They taught me about good fabric that would hold up to hard use, would hang right, wash easily. I knew that if I wanted this good fabric, I had to be willing to pay over $10-12 a yard or more. They taught me that the outer wall at JoAnns was craft fabric, not for quilting even though it went on sale often for less than $3-4 a yard. It would bleed more often, was thinner and simply would not hold up in quilts.

I re-gifted any fabrics & thread given to me that were not quilt-quality cotton and even stopped using poly-batting. I made it a practice to wash what I received, and thought it was to equalize fabrics bought from different manufacturers, because washing removed chemicals and loose dyes put ON it by the various manufacturers, and cotton would shrink differently, anywhere from 0-3% and always wrinkles.

I found one article, the_magic_of_fabrics, which gives correspondences, trivia and material origins for most of our fabrics. It is worth reading their lists because they were created from a lot of other world-wide research. What I learned, and what was of interest to me, is how many other fabrics come from the cotton plant, and are sold as calico, chiffon, chintz, denim, flannel, gauze, lace, fake leather, linen, muslin, fake suede, velour, and voile.

If you are interested in more FAQs about cotton, I found addressing world cotton production stats and the logic behind growth, marketing and consumer consumption which is based on supply and demand. Why read it? Well, if the demand for cotton has increased over 2% of the world supply, we are going to see an increase reflected in the cost for our thread, quilt fabrics and batting. Oh, and the price will go up on cotton sheets, cotton clothing, cotton anything. Bet the cost of cotton products goes up more than 2% so that everyone (designers, manufacturers, brokers, store owners, delivery staff and maybe even the farm grower) gets a share of the increase.

US Cotton growers are shifting from cotton to higher cash producing crops such as soybeans or peanuts, and allowing China, India and other countries to produce cotton for export to the states.

Cotton, used to symbolize simplicity, harvest, protection, good luck, and rain. Rain. 

With the three-plus-year-drought Cali finds itself in as a consideration for me, I wanted more information and sought out resources like the WWF Global, who reports that cotton is a water-wasting crop! I figured as much but had more to learn.  freshwater_problems/thirsty_crops/cotton/

One part of what I read says, "Agriculture is the largest source of pollution in most countries. 2.4% of the world’s crop land is planted with cotton and yet it accounts for 24% and 11% of the global sales of insecticide and pesticides respectively. Unsafe use of agricultural chemicals has severe health impacts on workers in the field and on ecosystems that receive excess doses that run-off from farms.

The use of genetically-modified (GM) cotton varieties has increased remarkably in recent years reaching 20% of the global crop area in 2002. 

Additionally, It can take more than 20,000 litres (over 5,283 gallons) of water to produce 1 pound of cotton; equivalent to a single T-shirt and pair of jeans.”

Their report continued to be a jaw-dropper for me and something I cannot even address fully. Its one of those "read for yourself" pieces. It gives agricultural / economic stats, without addressing working conditions for field crews, or possible chemical exposure to those of us wearing or using cotton. And then what? We give our quilts to people we love!

Does simple washing take care of what is INSIDE the product beyond what the fabric manufacturer puts on it? Do we skip any regulation process, because it is imported, the way we are doing for our food? We are keeping US workers safer, but not even looking what the lack of safety in other countries does.

Bottom line, after seeing all this information, is that I am even more convinced that I have to shop from my closet of fabric stash first and foremost to be a conscientious world citizen and help keep my footprint as light as possible on our Good Green Earth.

Things are changing for the plant nation with the shameful genetic engineering / modified planting that reached 20% of the global crop in 2002. I have no idea what that means for me as a clothing & household goods consumer, nor as a quilter. There is a very mini label on the bolt of cotton or for the simple t-shirt, with very minimal information. How do I know what I am buying? Does anyone know? If it says, 'Made in China' or 'Made in India', do I know what chemicals are in it? The more I think about it, the more questions I have. I don't know what I know.

What I believe is that we have to reconsider the magickal properties of the cotton plant, and of the fabric made from cotton. 

At one time, when the world was young and more innocent, Cotton was believed to vibrate higher as a cleaner member of the Plant Nation, and it was believed that Cotton protected us from negative energies and so we covered ourselves in it from our underwear to our outerwear, and used it for what we slept on, washed with, and even in our soft baby toys. It was good for the health of our skin. I am not sure that is true any more.