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Form + Function Makes Our Cross Back Apron a Best Seller

Our Japanese Style Cross Back Aprons combine form and function, making them a top seller and a kitchen essential. The added side seams in this classic design enhances the way the linen falls around the body, creating a more elegant line for the wearer. The straps are patterned as one piece from the back hemline to where they attach in front and are reinforced with a box stitch. The well-designed cross back and wide straps provide the ultimate in comfort. Every seam is completely enclosed and double stitched for durability in the wash. It's as sturdy as your jeans and it's a full coverage apron for truly protecting your clothes!  It even has enough length that you can use the fabric to grab a hot pan, dry your hands, or catch a sudden spill. Nothing to pull at your neck, nothing to tie, simply slip it on, gather your ingredients, and start cooking. 
Is your favorite apron one of ours? We'd love to hear why in the comments below!

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Why Shop at Virtual Markets?

The kitchen garden series is one of many small businesses and market organizers including virtual, livestreamed markets as a way to offer goods for sale during the pandemic. Virtual markets help us to stay connected to all of you, our lovely customers, while keeping our communities safe and healthy. Love them or hate them, there are lots of good reasons to shop at virtual markets.

First of all, shopping virtually supports your favorite shops!

The loss of live events during the pandemic has threatened our financial survival. Virtual markets offer another way for you to support the small businesses that you care about. Shopping with us virtually helps strengthen local supply chains and keeps our communities resilient. Whether you purchase or simply browse, virtual markets are an opportunity to see what new items and ideas your favorite small business owners are working on these days.

Scoring one of a kind finds and new products

Lots of creative shops, including my own, are finding virtual markets a fun way to showcase one of kind items not offered regularly. It is similar to how shop owners sometimes have limited edition finds at live events. In my business, I have been using virtual markets to roll out new products for the first time and taking the time to learn from customer feedback about what works and what doesn't.

Customer feedback and interaction

Without the social connection of brick and mortar retail gatherings, we need to find other ways to interact with our customers and clients. Because it's sometimes difficult to engage socially with our customers right now, we are finding ways to use virtual markets to get socially active. During virtual market times, we have our full attention focused on our messages and chats because we want to interact with you! So, please share your thoughts, feedback and ideas. This helps us grow as creative businesses.

Social support

Retail stores, booth markets and pop-ups are normally important gathering places that foster social connections, so you can help when you shop our virtual markets instead, send us chat messages, let us know what you think via email, or simply say hello online. For a business such as mine that offers a mission of sustainability alongside fine and elegant goods for your home, I want to know how you are doing right now and how I can help make your world a bit brighter. Next time you see a virtual market, stop by!

The Labor of Love

I’ve been reluctant to talk about making masks here as all my energy is going to keeping my business running during this global crisis. While I feel it's beneficial that so many small textiles businesses like mine have been able to redirect their resources and provide non-medical grade, reusable cloth masks during this pandemic, the production of masks can place a hefty strain on business owners like myself. In my case, making masks consumed me for two weeks in March, taking my focus away from other production needs of my business during a peak moment of my financial year. It was a time consuming process as I set aside some fabric remnants for mask making, developed a pattern I thought was most functional, and looked at best practices for production and distribution. In early April, it became obvious that positioning the business to survive this pandemic needed my full attention and it was difficult for me to split my time between making fine linen products and making protective face coverings in volume. In order for me to fulfill the many masks requests I had waiting in my inbox and all my other orders, I realized I needed to hire some help. Thankfully, I was able to hire two people I was in touch with before lockdown that are able to safely work from their homes. This small, hard working team has helped me redirect my creative energies back into the rest of my business. I feel good that my business structure is able to provide income to a new crew, to offer our work to others, and to continue to produce sustainable products for your home and kitchen. 

 

Initially, I resisted offering masks for sale on my website because the need for masks is so great that I was only able to fulfill orders for friends and family. Now, I’m able to offer masks more widely because of the newly hired members of my team. The masks we are making are made entirely with remnants from our other products. They are two layers of linen, one layer of cotton shirting, and they tie around the head with eco-friendly cotton ties. Each mask is one of a kind, so we cannot take color request orders, but they all are beautiful, sustainable and practical. Masks are available for a sliding scale of $15 - $18 apiece, but for $21 - $24 (only an extra $6!) we will provide a mask to someone in need free of charge. For now, we are prioritizing free masks to people who are working hard on growing, preparing or distributing food in Philadelphia. It is important to me to place value on the time it takes to manufacture textile products and to recognize the importance of those helping to feed us. Please support our business during this difficult moment and know that when you are ordering a mask, you are helping grow a small, but mighty community.

Straw into gold, agriculture and textiles.

Much of this business is built on the connections to be made between textile manufacturing and agriculture as ancient human practices. I began making cloth napkins in 2012 and committed to setting aside some portion of purchases to support urban agriculture. I quickly realized that I craved a more transparent supply chain to source my fabric. As my business grew and I figured out my market, it became clear to me that I was still interested in this bigger dream weaving together textiles and food production. Five years later, as I clarified my mission around supporting sustainability and local farms, I scribbled on a torn envelope the words: “My success lays in the food movement. Restaurants. Farms.” My connection to these words guides my business to this day. As KGS grows, all our fine products remain richly associated with farms and food. We offer beautiful goods for the home, elegant textile rentals to restaurants, fruitful collaborations with other artisans, and we still strive to continue our support of urban small farming. And at long last, we are working to grow our very first flax crop in Pennsylvania and exploring the many-hued possibilities of fiber farming in our region.
Our human culture is deeply intertwined with enterprises that produce fabric for us to wear alongside the food for us to eat. Lately, I’m reminded of the Rumplestiltskin story as collected by the Brothers Grimm. In the story, the king demands that the miller's daughter perform the impossible feat of spinning straw into gold. I can connect the story to my own interest in linen as the flax we planted begins to germinate at the farm. In my research, I am learning how flax straight from the fields resembles straw, and that flax plants must be rippled, retted, broken, scotched, hackled, spun, and finally, woven before becoming linen. So maybe there is an element of truth in this Rumpelstiltskin story after all as I continue to follow the threads of this relationship between fiber and farms. I can see how with hard work, and a little magic, our Pennsylvania grown linen will be worth its weight in gold.

Kneehigh Flax Field

The day after Earth Day 2020, during the April new moon, Emma and I planted flax seed on her farm in Pottstown. We gathered our cross back aprons in front of us to form carrying pouches and filled our makeshift sacks with the sweet smelling seed. Next, we dipped our hands into our seed bounty and broadcast the small, precious kernels by casting handfuls in one direction, then tossing more handfuls in the other direction, until the entire field was covered. The flax seeds were glossy, impossibly smooth to the touch, and scattered gracefully when released before falling steadily to the ground. I could already envision them growing into a glorious field of flax for future linen making. What a joyous activity!
Besides planting flax, it is exciting for me to connect Germantown, the neighborhood in Northern Philadelphia where my parents lived when I was born, with our newly germinating flax field. Germantown was an important flax producer as early as 1700 when German settlers brought their knowledge of flax and linen production to the United States as they emigrated to America. Each family grew roughly two acres of flax that would produce all the linens they needed for clothing and home goods. I love imagining that the view from my studio, which is just two miles from Germantown as the crow flies, likely included flax fields whispering in the wind and people working the fields.

Although I do not have a direct line of sight to the Kneehigh Flax Field as I gaze out my window while I work, I am already picturing the many potentials of our flax project. This 1/8 acre is the beginning of what we hope will become a much larger farming venture. Inspired by the work of the Rustbelt Fibershed (The Cleveland Project), the Chico Flax Project, and other fiber shed affiliates striving to build a sustainable textile future, we look forward to contributing new knowledge about this traditional industry to others. Among other benefits, we hope that local flax crops could eventually help sequester carbon and help revitalize our local fiber industry. Plus, this first flax field will be our chance to get familiar with the plants and see how they thrive in our locale. We’re excited to learn how the local bees, pollinators, and other beneficial insects take to the flax flowers and help bolster the farm crops. And of course, we look forward to reaping a bountiful harvest!
This is a true community undertaking and we are working on the details of how to invite all of you to join us in supporting our Pennsylvania flax field! Look for an invitation from us here and keep an eye on inbox for more information on how to support our endeavors.

 

 

- photo by  Zoe Schaeffer/@dirtjoy

My bright spots under quarantine

Driving Less

By this point in your state lockdown, you may be missing social outings like going out to dinner, or to the movies, or, well, anywhere at all. The upside of less cars on the road means improved air quality and less traffic, so your daily walk, run, or bike ride (wearing your mask, please) probably feels a lot quieter and less stressful. I plan car trips more efficiently now by reducing stops to collect supplies in one loop. I am starting to feel I can keep this habit of driving once a week and enjoy the positive environmental impacts, forever!

Knowing the Essentials

We've been forced to examine our needs carefully under new rules of socially isolating. As a consequence of sheltering in place, I've had a great opportunity to notice what's essential to my well being. I can choose what's vital to my mental health and I can use the skills I've gained to re-examine my choices from time to time. I am still looking forward to indulging in many things as soon as it's safe again. I'm also going to let go of some of the things that aren't essential to for good.

Nature's Song

Lots of people are wondering if the birds are singing louder this spring. I see more people quietly spending time outside. Everything seems more peaceful with less plane and automobile traffic, so we can hear more clearly. Birdsong is magical, especially in the waking spring. Let's go forward a little more quietly from now on so we can hear our friends sing.

How to plant a kitchen garden in small spaces

Spring is a great time to plant a kitchen garden, quarantine or no quarantine. In most areas right now in the Northern hemisphere, community gardens, nurseries and plant centers are among some of the essential businesses that are able to remain open for shopping during quarantine. Many such garden supply hubs in my community are offering online ordering and curbside pick-up so that we can all stay well and keep growing plants such as vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Here are a few tips to inspire your stay-at-home kitchen garden no matter the size of space.

Have a window ledge?

Plant a tiny herb garden!

Choose the appropriate containers. Make sure your containers will sit well on a ledge, won't get knocked around by pets, and have good drainage. Any container will work! You can choose fancy pots, simple pots, or even make your own pot by drilling or poking holes in the bottom of something the right size for your space. The pot doesn't have to be the main attraction because it's all about those plants! Don't forget to consider a tray underneath your pots to catch water.

Choose a good potting soil mix. There are several varieties out there making great organic mixes. You want something with a good balance of materials. Organic Mechanics and Fox Farm are good brands.

Choose plant starts grown in a nursery if you want immediate plant gratification or go for packets of seeds if you are feeling patient and want to watch sprouts grow. Four herbs that do well inside near a sunny window are oregano, thyme, sage, and dill. Give each plant its own container and remember most herbs like 8 hours of sunlight a day!

Have an outdoor patch of concrete or a small backyard?

Make a milk crate garden.

If you don’t have milk crates lying around, ask a local orchard or co-op or wine store if you can purchase a wooden crate. Line the crate with burlap or gardener's felt. Most local coffee roasters have extra burlap sacks, so ask your roaster if you can get some burlap sacks for pickup curbside!

Line your crate so that the fabric covers the sides and bottom then fill it with garden soil (not potting soil) from your local nursery.

If you have 6 to 8 hours of full sun, you can try growing tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and squash! Squash and tomatoes like to climb, so just keep that in mind when  you are planning

Plants that like 4 to 6 hours of sun include peas, beets, radishes and beans. Peas and beans are good climbers as well.

If you have a shady spot that only gets 2 to 4 hours of sun, try luscious, low-growing greens like arugula, lettuce, mustard greens, and kale.