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.

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A second pandemic Mother's Day

As an American business woman, I’m constantly aware of the inequities faced by my gender in the American business world. The pandemic year has been particularly hard on women in business. The losses falling disproportionately on working mothers and hardest on those who are BIPOC. I am not a Mother, and yet the kitchen garden series wouldn’t exist without the many professional women with children in my network. My financial advisor is a working mother, as is my accountant, some of my marketing consultants, many shop owners that stock my wares, the artists I collaborate with and the production manager of the shop that sews for me as well as a large number of the amazing seamstresses there.

A year ago I wrote a blog about my bright spots under quarantine. One of them I called “knowing the essentials”. I wrote “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. “ At the end of this long year, I realize that my work is essential to my well being. It is one of the things that has gotten me through this pandemic, keeping my mind engaged and my hands busy and it contributes to my sense of self worth, giving meaning to my days, weeks, months. I’m proud to have kept my business afloat and continued to help the professional women with children in my network keep their businesses afloat.

Mother’s day is coming and, whether or not you get Mom a gift, take the time to let her know you see her struggle. According to the US department of labor, since the start of the pandemic, over 2 million women nationwide have dropped out of the workforce. Most of them Mothers who made the sacrifice in the face of school closures.

Here are a couple of ways you can help Professional Women with children regain some of what the pandemic took from them.

  • If you are in business, join me in making a commitment to working business to business with woman owned companies and making sure 30% of those are BIPOC.
  • If you are not in business, spend your dollars with woman owned companies and choose those who do business with 30% BIPOC and woman owned companies.

 

So, if your mother has been lusting after one of our Mothers day sets, by all means get it for her! She deserves it and you can confidently tell her that you got it from a company that is committed to women and BIPOC in business. If a handmade card is what you’re planning, that’s perfect too! Either way, start the conversation with Mom and everyone else about gender and racial equity in business. If we are to regain the equity lost during this pandemic and progress beyond pre-pandemic equity, the numbers matter!

renewing and reweaving

As the world around us unravels in ways most of us never imagined, I’m encouraged by the space being created for those who have been working to build alternatives to the destructive path we’ve been on for so long. In my business community, there is a great sense of renewal. 

I’ve had the good fortune to meet so many brilliant business people, farmers, shoe makers, researchers, administrators, financial advisors, fashion designers, glass blowers, wood workers. All of us are drawn together by the solutions we’re pursuing with our work. The good news is that we already have the tools to build community self-reliance through best business practices. Great change is happening. At the Kitchen Garden Series, our flax project is a significant step towards renewal of a local regenerative textile supply chain. The ⅛ acre of flax for linen we grew with Emma at Kneehigh Farm in 2020 was just the first thread connecting us to a network of people working to revitalize the production of flax into linen in our region and beyond. Now, almost a year later, we have teamed up with community organizers and enthusiasts in Philadelphia and the surrounding region. A group of us are contracting the consultation services of Fibrevolution, a similar group located in the Pacific Northwest, that is eight years into achieving the same goals in Oregon. We are forging relationships with hemp farmers, learning and exploring the similarities for processing the flax and hemp into fiber, and working on a three-year plan to have an operational mill in our region. We are weaving together our business plan, meeting with people interested in crop research and development, developing regional seed varieties, opening a mill,  and seeking brands ready to commit to using our PA linen- when we can finally make it! The strands of a toxic system are loosening and we are spinning them into solutions that are mindful of social justice and community self-reliance.

Being small business owners is challenging at best these days, but we are struggling with a renewed sense of purpose. We have great hope that the increased focus on local business, social justice, mitigating climate catastrophe and local self-reliance are permanent. We look forward to doing our part in improving our communities. We’re collaborating, pooling resources, cross promoting and feeling the energy of this collective effort to build a more equitable world.

I understand that it isn’t always the most convenient option to choose small ethical businesses to meet your daily needs. I appreciate every dollar you spend, and your patronage and support are crucial threads that intertwine to weave a stunning new fabric of society.

winter solstice and textiles from the earth

The Winter Solstice is a time to enjoy the cozy silence of the year's longest night and to set intentions for the lengthening days ahead. I like to take this time to reflect on the growth patterns I’ve set and groundwork I’ve prepared in previous seasons and to start planning for the future. Looking back at the year’s hard work helps me see and re-see that the path forward can be one of regeneration. 

At the kitchen garden series, I’ve always been focused on supporting urban agriculture, reducing waste at the manufacturing level, hiring locally and using natural fibers. Over the years, my mission has come to include designing products that reduce the use of single-use and plastic disposables in homes and restaurants. I think a lot about the idea that all textiles come from the earth, whether they are made from plant-based fibers, fibers from animal wools or furs, or synthetics derived from petroleum drawn from the deep cores of the planet. The systems for getting textiles into our hands can be systems of renewal or systems of destruction. I want to build a business community that works to make renewal the norm. I want to help create better systems that enrich and connect thriving local living economies that are part of healing the planet. To this end, in the coming year, I’ll deepen my commitment to local growers, and continue making sustainable textiles more accessible. 

One project in particular has helped me see through how to build better systems of textile regeneration. The flax growing project I started this year in collaboration with Emma Cunniff from Kneehigh Farm in my little corner of the world has been transformative. I am proud that I aspired to start cultivating a plant-based fiber supply chain on a diversified organic vegetable farm. Come spring of 2021, our Flax Project will be growing and growing and growing! Before we know it we will be able to offer locally grown and manufactured textiles! I’m excited to be sharing news about the flax project and other online offerings in 2021! Look for some special workbooks and more DIY projects soon and keep an eye out for seasonal surprises! 

Thank you for following along and helping me grow the kitchen garden series. I’m looking forward to staying connected to all of you through this work of renewal in the year ahead. Happy Solstice, may you enjoy all the bright blessings of the holiday season!

The Gift of Giving

Gift giving has long been a way to connect us to one another, allowing us to express our feelings through tokens of affection and helping strengthen relationships. Sending a beautiful thoughtfully chosen or carefully crafted physical object to a friend or loved one is a lovely way to bring worlds a little closer. My favorite gifts are part of my daily rituals like a mug that brings memories of a dear friend into my morning coffee routine, a woolen scarf that keeps me warm on a frosty winter morning, or a beautiful vase I fill with celebratory flowers. I love to include food in my rituals, too! I relish giving and receiving holiday gifts that taste good and help me feel a personal connection to the maker. Some of my favorite food gifts are simple things like fragrant local honey, bread from my favorite bakery, or canned goods from the local farm.

In the spirit of the giving season, share some joy in giving gifts from the heart that will be used in your loved ones’ daily kitchen culinary rituals. Try pairing some of our lovely textiles with a local food item to make a gift extra delicious! Make a gift a bit more personal and use our linens as an elegant alternative to wrapping paper. Wrap up some flavored vinegars from the market in our tea towels or fill a produce bag with homemade treats from a local candy shoppe. Combine some of our cocktail napkins with some artisanal infused spirits or give your favorite baker one of our aprons! You can even shop one of our holiday gift bundles for an all inclusive combo of beautiful linens highlighting good food and homemade kitchen delights. 

Whether you buy napkins from us or decide you need to support us in other ways this year, we want to let you know that we appreciate all that you do. We know gift giving is not just about the material goods. We built our business on the belief that being kind and generous to our fellow beings is a force for social good. We understand that this time of year can be difficult for many and it might be hard to feel generous. When you refer your friends to us or share our blog posts or share posts on social media not only are you supporting our small business, know that you are also giving back to a larger community. Your interest and referrals help us create opportunities for others. Your investment in our work helps us collaborate with other local makers and expand our revitalization of a local textile industry through our flax project. Your purchases mean that we can continue our annual support to urban farms in our city by donating 10% of our annual profits to local growers. Thank you for helping us grow a reciprocal relationship to our local community through the ancient art of giving. 

Make the Most of Every Morsel

At the kitchen garden series we’re thinking about how to honor the systems that feed us, and what we can do to make the most of every morsel as the holiday season approaches and the harvest brings a cornucopia of produce into our homes. 

Throughout the year, up to one-third of all food produced in America ends up in the garbage. Sometimes a farm had a great growing season and underestimated demand, so they have too much of a good thing. Sometimes food is dumped when the farmer has a crop that is slightly irregular or imperfect looking. Some food gets thrown out between the farm and the grocery store in transport. More food is discarded at the grocery store when certain foods don’t sell well. And more food is wasted in our homes because we forgot it in the refrigerator or it was hidden behind something in the crisper drawer. 

To reduce food waste in your kitchen this season, you can start by making some simple changes in your daily food purchasing cycle. For an easy change, try out a CSA group (community supported agriculture) in your area for some ‘ugly’ vegetables or shop for your groceries at local farm stands and farmers markets. Plan your menu to use every part of the goods you bring home from the market. Eat the beet greens with local cheese baked in a tart, make carrot top pesto with backyard walnuts, enjoy some radish green soup, or just make a big pot of vegetable stock with your food scraps. And of course, think about how to better store your food wisely to keep it fresher longer. 

 Our linen produce bags, bread bags, and tea towels are great for all sorts of food storage and can help kickstart your holiday food mindfulness journey. Our linens can help you set a sustainable table this holiday season, honor the natural resources used to produce your food, and send gratitude to the people who labored to bring it to your tables. Let us help your food stay fresher and give you something to feel good about during big holiday feasts. 

Finding Equilibrium

On every equinox, night and day are approximately equal in duration as the sun centers directly over the earth's equator. This ancient symmetry of our rotating planet reminds us that we must find new ways to restore balance as we move from season to season.

The 2020 spring equinox occurred on March 19 when the pandemic shifted our everyday lives out of sync and rapidly brought major halts to people's structures all over the globe. Disruptions have continued through the summer as life and death continues to hang in the balance. Changes are arriving not just from the pandemic, but from climate disasters and social-justice revolution, and these changes have begun challenging our priorities, forcing us to find new methods to work, reorganizing how we play, learn and stay connected. Some of the changes have been exhilarating as we elevate what is important and necessary and discard what is no longer needed. Some of the changes have been devastating as we have seen lives lost, families fractured, and large parts of our environment destroyed by floods and fires. Balance has definitely been scarce!

I know we’re all exhausted by the many challenges of the last six months. The upcoming autumn equinox reminds us there is much work to be done to restore equilibrium to our communities and to the natural world. For me, the upcoming fall equinox signals an invitation to appreciate the relative quiet of nature as I notice the sensation of the evening lengthening to meet the day. I find myself looking for simple ways to restore serenity in my daily routines like enjoying a new warming tea blend at my mid-day break or shifting my daily schedule to take advantage of the shortening daylight hours. I am getting reacquainted with my favorite recipes for the season, savoring the flavors of the fall crops. I skip the fall garden clean up, leaving the perennial seeds and leaf litter for the birds to enjoy as the nights get colder. I step outside more often to notice color changes in the leaves and take note of my garden's changes. I take time to rest so I can prepare myself for what comes next because there is still much on the horizon. The equinox nudges me to remember symmetry and to find grace by inviting more calm into the chaos. 

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