Tag Archives: sustainable

Roadtrip – Custom Woolen Mills, Carstairs, Alberta

30 Apr

Welcome sign

Welcome sign

Custom Woolen Mills working museum

Custom Woolen Mills working museum

Storage barn for unprocessed wool

Storage barn for unprocessed wool

Yesterday I took a road trip to rural Alberta to check out the Custom Woolen Mills near Carstairs Alberta, which is a working museum and store. I order my wool from there for my felted soaps and wool dryer balls and wanted to take a day to go and check it out and see how wool is made and learn more about the materials behind my products.

Well, it was well worth the trip!

When you get there it’s like a step back in time. All the machines date back to 1886 and Custom Woolen Mills started operation in 1975 as a family run business. They have grown from processing 40,000 pounds of wool a year when they first started to over 100,000 pounds a year now! The mill has a self-guided tour of their working museum which is where they process the wool and you can watch the machines and staff working away. There is also an elevated working area that you can climb up to to get a top-down view of the processing area.

When I walked in there, it was noisy and a little dark, and my glasses immediately steamed up. I thought for sure I had walked into a place where I shouldn’t be. ie. only for workers. A nice lady came out and introduced herself and welcomed me to the mill. After defogging my glasses, I could then see all the machines in front of me and was in total awe. I hadn’t really thought about the processing of wool being a warm & humid experience, but it makes sense! To wash & clean the wool, you need very hot water, which makes for a steamy workplace. It’s also a little bit stinky as you can imagine with the amount of wet wool in there. It’s really not very strong though and your nose adjusts pretty quickly.

I got a chance to have a quick tour and learn a bit more about the wools they process and where they get their wool from. They get wool from farmers in: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, BC, and some from northern US states. They process wool form the following breeds: and even do some alpaca wool processing. All the wool is what is called “new wool” meaning it’s fresh from the sheep and hasn’t been processed before it reaches their mill. Fact of the day for me was: There is no need to be envious of New Zealand wool or Uk wool, Canadian wool is often of a higher quality, loftier in texture than imported wools because our sheep live in more extreme temperatures. Our Canadian climate helps makes their wool more fluffy and bulky and higher quality! That’s something I can support and be produce of despite all the snow we seem to get getting this year!

The staff are very nice and take pride in what they do. Their little wool shoppe is adorable. It’s where you can buy wool, roving, sweaters, socks, etc. all made from their wool that is carded, spun, and dyed on site. They even make wool pillows, blankets, comforters, and wool insulation for your house. How neat is that?! If you want some of these awesome products but can’t make it to their store in person, check out their online shoppe.

Why I love wool! Wool is:

  • a sustainable, renewable resource
  • reusable
  • biodegradable
  • fire resistant
  • water resistant
  • wrinkle resistant

Wool has insulating properties keeping you warm in winter and cool in summer. Wool can absorb 30% of it’s weight in water without feeling damp. One of the reasons they are great in wool dryer balls and felted soaps!

Before I left, I picked out a car full of roving wool in a variety of colours to bring back to Edmonton with me to get working on my dryer balls in prep for the Royal Bison, May 3-5 and a few more shows coming up after that! Check out my events page to find out where I’m at for upcoming shows and my products page to see which stores are carrying some of my products.

The lowdown on felted dryer balls

2 Mar IMG_1240

What are felted dryer balls you ask? They are an all-natural, handmade alternative to dryer sheets.

What’s in them and how are they made? These dryer balls are handmade, from all natural wool, felted around a small terrycloth sachet filled with lavender buds to make your laundry smell fresh and clean!

How do they work? Toss them in with your laundry, and they will bounce around, softening your clothes and absorbing moisture from the dryer environment. This helps cut your drying time down. They more you add the more it will reduce your drying time.

How many do you need? In dryer climates like the prairies, for a small to medium load, 2 would be fine, and for a larger load, or a load of towels or jeans, 4 would be a good number. As mentioned above, the more you add, the more you will notice a drop in your drying time. I love that they naturally soften your clothes just like fabric softeners or dryer sheets, but without all the nasty chemicals!

How long do they last? They can be re-used indefinitely! The lavender scented balls will eventually lose their scent after several times in the dryer. Too bad, I know. But there is an easy solution. Just add a couple drops of your favourite essential oil to each ball and toss them back into the dryer. Good as new! Nice! They balls will get more and more felted as you use them, so they may feel more firm with time, but they still work just as well.

Pair this with my soapnuts laundry detergent for an eco-friendly laundry room. Excellent!

Image

Soapnuts Laundry Detergent

29 Jan

Soapnuts are so fascinating! This nut, which is also called a berry, grow on trees in South asia in Thailand, Indonesia, India, and Nepal. There are many varieties. Check out the link for more information on the plant. They are one of the few plants in the world that has natural saponins in them aka natural soap. Another plant that contains natural soap is called soapwort

Soapnuts can be used raw by putting them in a cloth muslin bag and tossing them in with the laundry. Here is what they look like. You can find them in many health food stores or green living type stores.

While, I love the idea of just using the nuts in their raw form, I found myself wanting a liquid detergent for hand washing and so that I could add a nice scent with essential oils to leave my laundry smelling fresh and lovely.

I crafted a recipe a couple of years ago and it’s been one of my best selling items. customers can’t believe how soft their clothes feel after using the detergent. They are often surprised that they now longer need fabric softener or dryer sheets.

I love telling people that the detergent is gentle enough they could take it camping and dispose of it on the ground with no harm to the environment. It’s even gentle enough to save and put on your plants.

Here is a picture of the soap nuts detergent ready for bottling. How did I make the detergent? Boil the nuts in water and your water becomes a detergent after boiling for a certain period of time. I boil down the liquid to ge a high concentration that is still gentle, but strong.

This specially formatted concentration means that you only need 1-2 tbsp. per load. So, let’s do the math, for a 1L bottle, and 1 tbsp. = 15mL, that means the bottle can give you 40-65 loads. Wow!

This photo is of the Lavender & Lemongrass scent. It is the original scent I crafted and one that people love! I have made 2 more scent blends recently which include: High Tea (Hints of bergamot, grapefruit, and lime), and Lemon & Sage (Lemon and Clary Sage mix together to remind you of a stroll through the forest after a rain).

Here are the 3 scent blends mentioned above. I also make an unscented version, which is great for people with sensitive skin, cloth diapers, etc.

I sell my soapnuts laundry detergent on my etsy store. For those of you who live in Edmonton, if you are interested in purchasing it, you can buy online and won’t be charged shipping if you can arrange pick-up. I also sell at craft events and fairs. Watch my blog, follow me on twitter (@AmeyaStudio), or ‘like’ my Facebook page for the latest event information.

Eco-friendly lino-block greens bags

23 Oct

Say goodbye to yucky lettuce!

I’m always looking for more ways to live sustainably and to make my fresh produce last longer in our short Edmonton growing season. I came across this idea in a great book i was reading called “Grow Great Grub“.

What are they? How do they work? They are cotton bags that are made for storing your greens in your fridge. Unlike plastic, the cotton can let air in and out, which keeps your greens crisper for longer!I used a hemp string to make a drawstring closure, so you can tighten up the bag if you wish.

I dressed up the bags a bit with my own design. I created a hand carved lino-block print of lettuce greens. After I’m done sewing, I stamp the bags. They are handmade and each bag is different.

Remove your lettuce from it’s plastic bag (if it’s in one). Wash your lettuce, shake excess water off and place in the cloth bag and put in the fridge until ready for use. It’s that easy!

They are now for sale in my Etsy store. Click here to find my listing.

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