c is for cat

Rules for Anchorites

Letters from Proxima Thule

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depending on how local you wanted to GET.. there is hemp fabric. we are no longer ALLOWED to grow it, but we used to, and they still do in Canada.

she is MAD. it will be far far too war for her, and staticy as all hell.
should have stuck with either unlined, linen lined, or cotton lined.

agreed with you.

Yeah, I didn't even think about the fact that you don't need to line it at all. And that, locally speaking, you don't really need a big old wool coat in Napa Valley.

I can tell you're a writer ;)

I recently pissed off an etsy blogger with similar points. The "top 100 sellers" we're that high on the list because they were selling necklaces for $4.58. They say they were sterling. Now, I buy my findings wholesale but I can guarantee that I can NOT make a quality sterling necklace to sell at that price and make enough $ to buy a dinner, anywhere.

They are obviously resellers of Chinese or Thai goods, of dubious metal content.

Keep on, doing what you're doing. You write very much better than I do ;)


I'm sure if that blogger finds this post she will be very upset with me.

Etsy has a lot of those kinds of sellers--and others who all mysteriously have the exact same "hand-printed/screened shirt" in their shops. There's no way to stop it really, but it sucks.

May I bow at your feet (and then massage them)?

I am disgusted with the branding of "local". And I live in the magic bubble that is northern California, spitting distance from Sonoma....

(I think part of the solution to the old economy/$900 coat is barter. I make stuff, and I'm getting *good* at it, and will happily trade custom hand-crafted items for what-have-you, because I *like* making things for my friends...)

Exactly--I am almost positive I could barter for everything needed to make this coat, and would then /happily barter the coat/ for something of equal time investment that I need. Whenever I have a book come out I offer copies for barter from people who genuinely can't afford the price tag in cash. No one ever takes me up on it though.

I can definitely see the advantage of local food if it is available, but other things just don't make as much sense to me.

I certainly like to support independent local bookstores and such, but there are some things where it just seems unrealistic and not really that much more helpful to the environment.

And I don't like eating just dried beans.

My father-in-law (a retired agriculture professor) pointed out another issue with the "local" movement even in food (especially in food), which is that sometimes, the environmental footprint is less to grow a crop in large quantities in a place ideally suited to it and ship it out than to try and grow it locally in a non-ideal setting.

(I'm also from Winnipeg; agriculturally not bad land, but not the longest growing season and there is no wintering without preserves. And local becomes sticky in other ways this close to an international border.)

I agree with the bulk of your post - on the illogic of stressing locality over any and all other virtues, on the apparent divorce from reality that makes the writer simultaneously acknowledge the lack of realism in $900 coats representing economic progress while encouraging her audience, the readers of the Etsy blog, to get theirs while they can.


You could make a coat like that in - at the minimum wage, mind - ten hours? Including everybody's labor? I dunno much about textile crafts, but past a certain point it's less a question of profit margin than it is of paying for the pleasure of making the thing with your blood, sweat, and tears.

You said, "It’s the old economy, where the rich can afford to have beautiful handmade things and the rest of us are priced into manufactured t shirts." There's also the middle layer of artisans, who deserve to be paid for their skill, and who wind up mediating the two poles, somewhat. I'd respect the original author more if she acknowledged that, I think, rather than that she spun her felted coat as the banner of a new utopia - but just because she didn't doesn't mean we shouldn't, right?

That's true, and I said that I was lowballing the profit because coats are not my living--but part of the reason manufacturing took over was that there were too many people to handmake coats one at a time. The time cost was too much. There are still too many people, and neither is the $900 coat in question a solution on any scale. But the experiment was not to clothe a town, so I felt ok about using just one jacket, which would of course be a pleasure for me to make because I like doing it, rather than try to scale up my imaginary operation, which is really not doable at all--but neither is her method.

In which, by the way, she makes none of it herself but only pays others (a whole lot, at least one other, the designer. In my experience 2.2 pounds of alpaca just isn't very expensive, and the labor in carding and felting straight fleece, as she acknowledges, is really not much) to do it so that she can blog about it, so I'm not sure what the difference between that and just buying a coat. Locality, which that jacket has little enough of, adds all important moral fiber I guess. But it would be super weird to make a blog post saying "I bought a coat for $900 today! I am saving the economy!"

I went through a period in my teens where guilt covered every single transaction in my life. (Not coincidentally, this period corresponded with my time in the Young Communist League, making copies for the revolution and listening to what the REAL leftists- read: men- had to say.) I decided to make all my clothing from scratch because I was concerned about labor issues. Then I worried about where my fabric was coming from, and when I began to wonder how southeastern Arizona could possibly provide me with the materials and the knowledge to make my own fabrics, I gave up on the project.

My point is: striving to be 100% local is admirable, but, outside verdant Middle America (and bits of the coasts), it is mostly a pipe dream. I cannot be a locavore and pretend that absolves me of all food sins, because I live in the middle of a desert that, when populated by actual, not inspired by Whole Foods, locavores, supported a substantially smaller population on a subsistence diet. And that was when there was still water out here. Sure, I can buy grass-fed beef, but I'm vegan, and as the daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of ranchers out here, I know that's not truly sustainable either.

Anyway- hear hear, and I concur, and, until we acknowledge that locally sourced is not a panacea for our food, labor, etc., needs, I will continue to roll my eyes when told that spending the equivalent of two months' rent on a coat constitutes A New Sustainable Economy.

The coasts really are pretty verdant and amazing, though up here it's too cold to get what Californians can year-round.

I remember being shocked in New Mexico, because I'd gotten used to how fresh things are in restaurants in Maine. But of course those fat tomatoes have to be trucked in. I wish more articles on eating local year round talked about pickling, preserving, tactics for getting through a winter the way people used to, if you're serious about the year-round thing. Or what people did eat in the desert. If we're being local, let's BE LOCAL and understand something about our environment.

Psst. The "http://" fell off your link...

Textile mills are... not nice places to work, where everyone sits around happily knitting and weaving and sewing nice things for other nice honest, hardworking local people of wherever. And they never were.

Also, can't help but think "This is a local coat for local people! There's nothing for you here!"

Ahaha League of Gentlemen I salute you.

The early Quakers thought buttons vain so used laces. Still way cheaper than magnets. </p>

Your article is splendid.

Laces would require cutting the garment, too, though. I suppose she could have added a ribbon tie instead, though seems unlikely she'd try to locally source the ribbon.

Thanks you, and all your posters, for some very interesting reading.

I work on a CSA and eat local organic vegetables all summer and half the winter, keeping my footprint small and local (about 12 miles) and I am a member of a CSF, community supported fishery, with a slightly larger footprint (Milford to Gloucester is a 90 minute drive) but the fish is fresher than WF, and it helps support the fishermen. While I don't have the time to make from scratch local clothes, there are certainly the resources to do so where I live in MA. What I have been interested in is reuse and recycling things, especially clothes, as you can, with the right sewing skills, take something that either doesn't fit, or has worn parts, and make it into something new.

Your remark about locally sourced silk reminded me of something I read once, in a book about the Roman Empire (or maybe about the history of international trade, I forget): The Romans, back in the day, imported silk from China (at least until someone finally smuggled silkworms out of China, heinously violating the intellectual property rights of the Son of Heaven, but I digress). Some Roman entrepreneurs unravelled the silk cloth they had purchased, rewove it in some distinct way, and sold it back to the Chinese, who had no idea they were buying threads that had made a round trip across Asia. Ah, commerce.

It's Etsy, did you really expect better from a site that touts itself as handmade and yet is run rampant with resellers and mass manufactors and shuts down the shop of anyone who dares to speak out about the rampant resellers, the copyright thieves, the copycats, etc??

Oh MAN and here I thought I was doing good by buying yarn from the local store instead of walmart or joanne fabric! I should be out CARDING SHEEP or something!


I'm still trying to find my feet on Etsy. I like the concept of a venue to sell stuff that I make, that is accessible to people anywhere and where I don't have to show up somewhere at a particular time. And, I love making things and creating. Figuring out pricing is still a challenge for me--I mean, I know how much I spend on materials, but I really have no idea how to value my labor--so on some stuff I seem to undervalue it and on some stuff I worry that I'm overvaluing it. But, I figure if my tendonitis is flaring up and I have blisters after working a project maybe I should charge more for the labor involved.

One of the things that continuously perplexes me on Etsy, a site with an emphasis on handmade, is how their vintage category often seems to get more attention than anything else.

Also the part where they allow shops to sell unlicensed DC Comics super heroes costumes.

But, I still hope that it will offer me a chance to fund my creativity. And it gives me a project to work on sometimes, so that I can carve out a bit of identity for myself other than SAHM.

Things like this, though, where people crow about how local they've been, when really they just want to be on-trend irritates me. I love the idea of the local movement, because, yeah, most definitely, cutting carbon footprint and supporting the people in your community is wonderful. I loved reading your commentary on this, because it was just so spot on and astute and really picking up on the divergence between the story and the reality.

A tiny note -- I'd assume the olive oil soap *was* local. I buy *my* olive oil soap locally. California is a great place to grow olives.

I truly believe that if it was, she'd have said so, given the tone of the blog. It does not miss an opportunity to crow about local ingredients.

It doesn't seem harsh to me. You are making a very valid point. When/if we get back to the point where we really have to keep things local, we'll manage. I have no doubt. But an awful lot of people apparently aren't going to have what they want (ie: silk linings).

Here's local for real:

A friend of mine back in Tallahassee had a shirt she grew. (She really enjoyed telling people that; Tallahassee is a much less crafty area than your island, and spinners and weavers were fairly rare) She grew four colors of cotton (off-white, tan, two very distinct shades of green; it would have been more, but at the time she couldn't find red cotton seeds), picked it, ginned it (using her pasta machine; she published an article on how), carded it, spun it, wove it, and sewed it herself. That's local. And the only thing she paid for was the seeds. (You can actually get the pattern here -- the model isn't her, and the shirt isn't the one she made, though.)

She also kept sheep and goats for fiber, raised peacocks and chickens, had a clay oven she and her husband built out of clay dug from the side of the road, and of course kept a large garden -- while both she and her husband worked full time and she was in grad school (ok, she had worked at the university for a long time, and was taking grad school pretty slowly, and her degree was in textiles, and she got a bunch of credits for stuff she was doing anyway). It wasn't about locavorism, it was about doing stuff they loved. And they beat the hell out of this kind of trendy shit.

(Remarkable people. I miss them. They did things like things all the time.)

I'm with you. This isn't anything like being able to actually source clothing locally.

And snark: If the woman in the article were really serious about it, she could have raised the silkworms herself.


I think the silk wasn't actually being used as lining; it was being used as a structure onto which the alpaca was being felted. Presumably so they could have a thin-but-strong felt.

I wonder if they could indeed have used a different fabric for that. Of course, if you knit and then felt, the issue doesn't arise.

- Keyan

It seemed like lining to me--otherwise why the hell would you use black chiffon?

Reminds me of Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, where the rich neo-Victorian aristocrats have beautiful custom-made objects (as well as lots of cool tech, because this is Stephenson after all) and the plebs have to make do with mass-produced crap pulled straight out of a matter compiler.At one point the protagonist ends up with a bunch of artisans who are living the good life hand-making stuff for the Victorians and are incredibly proud of going back to basics in a high-tech universe. She points out that the only reason they're self-sufficient is because the Victorians are able and willing to trade large amounts of dough in return for genuine hand-knitted sweaters and the like. It doesn't go down well.

I'm unimpressed with the locavore movement because, in my geographical area, it would mean no fresh fruit for 75% of the year that I am not severely allergic to (apples, pears, anything with a stone: all of them make my throat hideously irritated unless they're cooked).

Yeah, the locavores either forget that most places don't have a California growing season or redefine local to mean within 1000 miles, the state, or the country.

Your post is all kinds of awesome.

I enjoy the exercise of local sourcing, and if I tend to think most about food (it's that whole shipping lots of refrigerated water around thing - dry goods do not perturb me nearly as much*) that's not the only place where it's relevant. Heck, there are some fairly major security concerns, if that is the sort of thing one might be concerned about, in both electronics and electronic components - I've done some moderately serious US sourcing of components (they're available, if usually a bit more expensive). And if one is going to go through the intellectual exercise, um, well, the article does seem to be a pretty superficial exploration.

And it seems like such an odd choice. Because high end textiles, and high end clothing items, are some of the things that have been traded across great distances even when trade itself was very expensive, right up there with spices, dyestuffs, medicines, jewels and jewelry...

* The single thing along these lines I've enjoyed most recently? K bought a soy-milk maker, and I found a place that will sell us bulk organic soy beans. Not even local bulk organic soy beans (they're grown, but only as animal feed). But now we just make soy-milk when we want it, and buy 25 pound bags of soy beans every quarter or so.

Yeah, that's pretty ridiculous. I can't imagine spending $900 for a coat, anyway. (But, then, I'm a cheapie that about fainted at paying $60 for jeans -- fuck needing plus sizes, seriously. -_-)

I do hafta say, my arthritic hands really want magnetic closures on clothes now. I didn't even think you could do that. I may have to do some alterations, because it's really becoming an issue.

Random notes on construction -

For that type of felting, it did have to be silk, and it did have to be chiffon. Silk, because that's the only fiber that's really going to mesh well with that type of felting (it's one of the things that makes silk unique on a microfiber level.) And chiffon because it needed to be a fluid no stretch weave.

Coats and other things that are heavyish and have structures like collars and lots of weight hanging from the shoulder traditionally have a lot of interfacing inside. Some of that's for stiffness, but even more important is to maintain shape. Most fabrics, especially something just mushed together like felt, will stretch, and everytime the wearer moves their arms the garment will tend to distort. On a tradionally constructed coat you would use hair canvas (which, ironically, could be locally sourced in Maine because it's ideally made from goat and horse hair). On a felted coat which is only one layer (no loose hanging inside lining to hide construction details like seam tape, canvas, and other interfacings) it's absolutely necessary to build a nonstretch layer into the fabric.

I suppose they could have used a fine wool challis instead, but silk was really the best choice.

All that being said, even though there's a non stretch layer built into the coat, the buttonhole thing is still really problematic. If you dissect a tradional coat, you'll see an awful lot of stabalizer in the buttonholes. Generally the buttonhole goes through two layers of the coat fabric (the outside and the facing), and inside that the facing will have soft stabalizer and then there will be at least one more layer of hair canvas (which is bad ass tough stuff) down the entire row of buttonholes. On top of that, there may be an additional block of fusible stabalizer where the button hole itself is meant to go. This has to be done because you're slashing a straight line (perpendicular to the grain of the fabric), which causes a great deal of structural weakness to begin with. On top of that, the buttons are going to exert a lot of pressure when the coat is being worn. Without all that stabalizer, the buttonhole will warp, twist, and eventually tear.

The felted coat has a finished rough edge down the front - there's no construction allowance for a facing, and thus for all the guts that make buttonholes possible. The only thing that would keep a buttonhole from tearing would be the chiffon that was added in the felting step. Especially cut on the cross grain, chiffon rips effortlessly.

The frog idea is another option but again, you have a very, very flimsy front edge, and especially with something as wonky as felted fabric, the frogs would get twisted and pulled apart the moment the wearer did something untoward like hoist a purse up on her shoulder.

All that being said, there are ways to make A coat from everything available in Maine, just not THAT coat.

While substitutions have been suggested all over the comments, I did point out how she could have gotten everything she actually used in California. My coat example was knit-felted.

The Fibershed Project was one woman's goal to wear nothing but locally sourced clothing for one year. The fiber, the dyes, the work, was all sourced locally, within 150 miles of her home. I commend the project, and I followed it, but what it really did was give me ideas. In today's world, you can go local for many things, but the reality is that you will have to go elsewhere eventually.

I happen to spin and knit. I buy fiber locally (there's lots to choose from here, alpaca, llama, sheep, angora). Some of it is raw and I process it from the raw fleece into the finished yarn. I sell it, use it myself, and send some to my sister who is a knitter. I also buy fiber elsewhere,from Etsy, farms, fiber shops with internet sites, etc., and I don't feel bad about this.

I am all for going local, but sometimes when you buy globally, you are still supporting local efforts, just in a different part of the world. If someone in CA buys yarn from me here in OH, they are supporting both me and the people I have gotten my raw materials from. And lets face it, the mail truck is coming to my house whether I buy locally or globally, so buying mail-order is not really reducing any footprints anywhere.

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