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Organic Silk vs Silk

 

What’s the difference between Organic and commercial silk?

First of all, the difference between the two is not that big, but the result of choosing one over the other makes a difference. The process is almost the same, but the scale of which they are produced and what is put into the production is not.

Silk is one of the oldest fibers we know of and has its origin from China, around 2600 BC.  The cultivation of silkworms in order to produce silk is called sericulture. The first step in the production is called “hatching the eggs”. During this stage, silkworms lay eggs in an artificial environment with the  aim of getting them to lay as many eggs as possible. The female produces around 300 tot 400 eggs at the time. The silkworm dies right after laying these eggs. After 10 days, the eggs hatch into larvae (caterpillars), and the feeding period starts.

During the feeding period in commerical silk production the larvae is fed mulberry leaves (results in the finest silk) and grow very fast. They eat around 50.000 times of their initial weight. In approximately 6 weeks, the larvae are 10.000 times heavier than at the time of hatching, and ready to spin a silk cocoon. The silkworm needs around 3 till 8 days to spin a cocoon, thereby producing one kilometer of silk filament.

Silk worm
Silk worm

Organic silk has more or less the same processing as conventional silk here, but no pesticides, insecticides or harsh chemicals have been used to make land or larva grow faster. The silkworms get a more varied diet instead of mulberry leafs alone, and everything is organic.

When the coooon is ready, it is treated with boiling water or hot air and the silk filaments are unwounded again, getting soft by the heat, which is called “reeling the filament”.

In nature, at this point, the silkworm (e.g. chrysalis) would break out of the cocoon and become a moth. However, this would damage the silk fibers, and therefore the chrysalis is killed before the thread is collected from the cocoon.

Wad Silk dress - photo: Tse Kao
Wad Silk dress – photo: Tse Kao

The process in organic silk production and commercial production is more or less the same in the stage where the silkthread is collected. There is still no way of keeping the thread in one piece and make the moth survive.

One cocoon contains only a small amount of silk and around 2500 silkworms are needed in order to produce one pound of raw silk. Silk amounts to only a very small percentage of the total textile fiber market, even less than 0.2%. Organic silk is then again a marginal percentage of this. The production is small and controlled, thus also creates a smaller amount of raw material.

To conclude:

  • Organic silk  still kills the silk worm to get one length of thread. If you want silk where the silk work leaves the cocoon before the thread is collected, you need to look at Peace Silk/Wild silk. Here the fabric has structure and is stiffer than traditional silk.
  • Organic silk is not produced in the same volumes as commercial silk. The process is longer and there are no chemicals used in any step of the production.

    Elsien Gringhuis diagonal blazer in beige silk
    Elsien Gringhuis diagonal Wild silk blazer in beige
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Story1: Luxury Cotton

English fine cotton getting spinning home

 

What to expect in 2016?

We must admit it; there has been a gloom and kind of a pessimistic feel in our office. Even though we are a company believing in the power of good choices, and have a general large degree of optimism, we have still been quite discouraged in regards to why the industry can’t make the BIG changes that needs to be done.

No matter how hard one works, things take time. A loong time. And no matter how much we want the world to change, we need the big businesses to want to change too, the changes that changes everything faster.

But the last few months, our hopes have been growing. The world IS changing and we hope that it is a staying change. When reading the textile business news from all over the world, we are getting positive, and want to share it with you. This is the first story of why 2016 makes us smile.

 

Story # 1: Manchesters new cotton mill

English company English Fine Cottons and the Textile Growth Programme, are in total investing £5.8million to bring old British cotton mills back to life.

One of the main goals is to bridge the gap between global retailers, domestic micro businesses and SMEs (Small and medium-sized enterprises), to strengthen local supply chains and promote sustainable growth.

The two initiators are renovating a former Victorian cotton mill, and combining it with cutting-edge technology, to start production of luxury yarn. English Fine Cotton, which today makes material for bulletproof vests at Tame Valley Mill, Dukinfield, is to produce luxury yarn at neighbouring Tower Mill. This way, British cotton is to be spun at home for the first time in a generation. The last time Tower Mill had cotton production was in 1955.

 


The plan is to be
 re-starting cotton spinning in the UK mid-2016, and it will by then be one of the most advanced cotton spinning plants in the world, with the latest in loom technology.

The Mill is not meant to compete with mass production of China, South East Asia or India. It will be a “high end” quality product, produced with luxury cotton from Barbados (Sea Island). The same cotton that Ian Fleming specified James Bond’s shirts were made of, and the ones Daniel Craig wore in the Bond movies.

“We are almost vertical as a company and the only thing we don’t buy in the UK is cotton, which I would very much like to do. The project could hopefully utilize the abundant skills base for textile manufacturing in the UK, as we remain exceptional as a country in specialist manufacturing. From cotton spinning to pattern cutting – the skills are there to make in Britain.”

British shirt-maker Emma Willis
(makes the shirts for Daniel Craig’s James Bond)

Cotton mills in Britain

What is a cotton mill?

  • A cotton mill houses spinning or weaving machinery for the production of yarn or cloth from cotton.
  • Cotton was an important product during the Industrial Revolution. The mechanization of the spinning process in the early factories was instrumental in the growth of the machine tool industry, enabling the construction of larger cotton mills.

The biggest cotton producer in the world

  • Britain used to be the biggest cotton cloth producer in the world. The mechanized spinning and weaving of cotton fiber into fabric began in Britain in the mid-16th century.
  • Manchester had no cotton mills until 1783. By 1800, there were 42 mills, and the city had become the heart of the cotton manufacturing trade. Mills generated employment, expanded population, and Manchester became a large commercial city.
  • The number of Manchester cotton mills reached its zenith in 1853 with 108 mills. In total there were 2650 cotton mills in Lancashire by 1860, employing 440 000 people and producing half of the world’s cotton yarn.
  • Then came the First World War, and cotton could no longer be exported to the foreign markets. The rise of other countries weaving and exporting their own cotton began.
  • By the 1930s, 800 mills had closed and 345,000 workers had left the industry. Though there was a slight revival after 1945, mills kept on closing down.
  • During the 1960s and 70s, mills in North West England closed at the rate of one a week in the, with the last one shutting in Greater Manchester in the 1980s.

Modern cotton mills

Modern cotton mills are increasingly automated, mainly built around open end-spinning techniques using rotors or ring-spinning techniques using spindles.

In 2009 there were 202,979,000 ring spinning spindles installed worldwide, with 82% of these being in Asia or Oceania, and 44% being within China. In the same year there were 7,975,000 open end spinning rotors installed, with 44% of these being within Asia or Oceania and 29% within Eastern Europe. Rotors are responsible for 20% of the cotton spun worldwide.

One large mill in Virginia in the United States employs 140 workers in 2013 to produce an output that would have required more than 2,000 workers in 1980.

 

“A number of times we have had firms coming to us saying they want British cotton. Unfortunately, up until now, we have had to say no. We owe it to the cotton industry – which Manchester was synonymous with – to put it back onto the world stage” 

Andy Ogden
General manager of English Fine Cotton’s parent company, Culimeta-Saveguard Ltd

Sea Island Cottons, know for their limited production of quality slowly grown cotton
Sea Island Cottons, known for their limited production of quality slowly grown cotton


“For more than 100 years cotton was the key industry in the various towns making up the borough and indeed the North West of England. The Park Road area of Dukinfield, where Tower Mill is situated, is a corridor of former cotton mills and testament to the hold spinning once had on the region. We
 believe this project shows how (…) effective a little northern grit and common sense can be in achieving successful solutions.” 

English Fine Cottons

Quality focused future

It makes us happy that it is possible to focus on high quality in an ever faster moving world. Doing it slowly with attention to details and process, from the raw material to the finished product, that’s what we hope for in the future. When you buy something, it should last and make you happy. It’s the volume and pace that we want to fight.

 

Lastly, this video that was made by the British Council to counter Nazi propaganda and help promote British cotton to the world, during the Second World War.

Sources:

manchestereveningnews.co.uk

SpinningtheWeb.org.uk

makeitbritish.co.uk

englishfinecottons.co.uk

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To make it all go in a circle.

Elisabeth and Victoria Lejonhjarta with JohannaN necklace and ring

 

This is a story about Just Fashion, and a strong woman we have gotten to know during the growth of our site. Johanna and her jewelry label JohannaN, was the fifth label to come onboard Just Fashion. We want you to know what she is up to!

Production in Bangkok

Johanna produce at two production sites in Bangkok, and they have been with her all the way from the start in 2009.

In the workshop of Cha and Joy
In the workshop of Cha and Joy

Family Workshops

The metal workshops, she knows in and out, and they have grown with her. Tom and Boom are husband and wife-team. They have a small workshop in the first floor of their house in the middle of Bangkok. Tom is sawing all the pieces and Boom is managing their orders, checks the quality, and puts on chains before dispatch to Sweden.

Tom and Boom in their Workshop with their daughter
Tom and Boom in their Workshop with their daughter

They are setting their own price on their work and that’s what Johanna pay them – done deal. Johanna can now ensure them full time work – which I bet feels great!

Since Johanna has been growing a lot the last years, she now also works with a second and third family workshop, Joi and his wife Nok, and Cha and his wife Joi.

In addition she also works closely with Boy, her creative collaborator in Bangkok and he communicate with all teams and takes care of the logistics.

Watch this short film showing the handsawing in the workshop

 

Family Factory

The bigger factory that does the casting is family owned with around 60 workers. The last visit to this factory was in February 2014. This factory is also located in Bangkok, and will be a focus in January when Johanna is going back to Thailand.

 

The raw material

There are large deposits of zinc and copper in Thailand. These metals are combined to form brass, which is a traditional material, used in the Buddha figures and in many religious ornaments and sculptures.

johanna n This is Home adjustable bracelet, seen from abve
johannaN This is Home adjustable bracelet, seen from above

This tradition means that there are people with knowledge about the old way of doing the sawing and casting process that can be given work.  Over time, generations of creative artisans built a tradition of craftsmanship around brass – a craft tradition that today only exists in a few places in the world (Abareness also uses these skills in their jewelry workshop in Nepal)

 

johanna n umeå ring with beetle, seen from front
JohannaN umeå ring with beetle, seen from front

It’s been a pain in the ass to try to track the raw material. With gold and silver, there are a lot happening in the world in regards to sourcing, but with brass, the doors are still closed and there is no tradition for these kinds of investigations. One believes that around 70 % of all brass around is already recycled, but we would of course like to know where OUR (our designers) brass is from. This is an ongoing process, if you are a brass wiz and want to share, let us know!! 

 

Can a business have a personal moral?

Yes, we do believe they can!

There are so many people who are skeptical to the concept of ethical fashion. It is such a wide term, and also difficult to grasp and to see something else than a trend in it. Well, it is in these meetings with our designers, by knowing them, that all doubt about their intentions is washed away. With JohannaN, I have been sure from the start.

Full action in the workshop
Full action in the workshop

She has walked the hardest way, to make her brand sustainable, and now she has come full circle in so many ways. The things that are still difficult to change are really difficult to change!!! Its complicated, sitting in Sweden, trying to get access to the details around the production, not because things are secret, but because there are no tradition for these kinds of investigations in Thailand.

To manage to make a lasting change, it is essential for our designers and us to understand the culture in the country in which we operate. To make room for dialog that can stretch over time, so there are no misunderstandings.

Elisabeth and Victoria Lejonhjarta with JohannaN necklace and ring
Two beautiful up and coming fans, Elisabeth and Victoria Lejonhjarta with JohannaN necklace and ring

 

It is about knowing peoples cultural habits, and making them understand that you want to get under their skin, working WITH them, not having hidden agendas and papers with small writing on them. And this goes both ways.

 

JohannaN's second hand system. You can borrow, excange and deliver back what you dont use
JohannaN’s second hand system. You can borrow, excange and deliver back what you dont use

The skepticism is often grounded in fear of prices being forced down, or fair of losing the order completely, or that somebody will force changes on them that makes the production difficult. They can be scared that questions are about taking something away from them, like they may have experienced before.

 

a form from the casting process of the jewelry
form from the casting process of the jewelry

In January, Johanna is going back to Thailand to visit the workshop and the factory. We are going to be with her on her journey through films, stories and pictures. The thing with great designers with good intentions is that it never stops. It’s not about either or, it is about the journey and the choices one makes along the way.

Designer Johanna N herself
Designer JohannaN

 

And remember, , if you buy your JohannaN products at Just Fashion, you support both of us in our work towards a sustainable future!

Marte & Just Fashion

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Qualities of Porcelain

Dutch Basics classic eco jewelry

 

Origin

  • China was the birthplace of porcelain making, and it’s been found in the shape that we know today, as early as the 206 BC (the Han Dynasty).
  • Marco Polo was one of the first Europeans to learn about porcelain, but it didn’t enter the European marked until around 1517.
  • In these ancient times, it was very expensive and only used by the rich and famous.
Dutch Basics adjustable porcelain ring with one white and one black porcelain stone
Dutch Basics adjustable porcelain ring with one white and one black porcelain stone

 

Why porcelain?

 

Natural ancient process

Porcelain is a ceramic material, made by heating materials in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C. The end result is always a surprise, since the colour constantly changes during the process. Kaolin is the primary material from which porcelain is made, but also clay minerals normally account for a small proportion of the whole.

Dutch Basics Double drop earrings in porcelain
Dutch Basics Double drop earrings in porcelain

Incredibly strong

Porcelain is a strong material and will last a long time! You can find proof of that in ancient ruins in the Middle East, and also in the fact that is is still used in making of teeth. The toughness, strength and translucency comes mainly from vitrification at the high temperatures it goes through.

Longevity

Porcelain conserve its colour and characteristics for a long time. Words that describe it is: hard, tough, completely vitrified, whiteness, translucency, resonance. and a high resistance to chemical attack and thermal shock.

 

The Porcelain collection

Dutch Basics was inspired by China and the far East, and wanted to merge this with its own classic simplicity. The collection was developed in collaboration with Chantal Lensink and Gaby van Deutekom. I is also done in collaboration with a small Dutch workshop, where people with disadvantages get a chance to work in their own pace. The silver and gold pieces are made in Dutch Basics permanent jewelry workshop in Portugal.

 

Watch Dutch Basics making of the collection

See the products in store.