July 23, 2013

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Networking is Fun!

 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a local farmer's market, babywearing meet-up, and even a French Heritage Festival with four of my five children! What a wonderful time was had by all. Who would have thought that doing a little market research and networking could be so fun?

At our babywearing meet-up I got to teach a fellow wrapping mama a reinforced ruck carry and she got to try out a 100% linen wrap I had brought along. I love helping moms with anything and everything babywearing. I feel honored to be able to help mom's carry their babies close to them safely comfortably.

The Shelburne Farmer's Market was the perfect setting for us. There were plenty of treats and crafts for all ages, sunshine, shade by the trees, and that good old fashioned Vermont charm. We got to sample home-made organic granola, cookies, strawberry shortcake biscuits, chagga chai tea, and fresh squeezed lemonade!

As a bonus, I was able to connect with a local Vermont maple syrup producer about making our "kiss" shaped maple candies! The highlight for my children was a tie between the maple candy and the live accordion player playing "Allouette" (a traditional French Canadian folk song I can remember singing with my family as a young girl in Quebec)! 

Down at Vergennes French Heritage Day I got to practice a bit of my French with fellow francophones purusing the grounds and vendors behind the booths. I am pleased to report that everyone was impressed with my french vocabulary and pronunciation! I have my wonderful parents, our many trips to Quebec, Canada over the years and my children's French Au Pairs to thank for that!

Some of the activities at the festival included:

  • Franco-American music including Va et Vient and Gitane in concert!  
  • French Canadian fiddling and Indian storytelling
  • French response songs
  • Step-dancing
  • Re-enactors
  • French food (Crepes from The Skinny Pancake are my favorite!)
  • Antique vehicles and engines (I was sure to take pictures of the chainsaws for my father!)
  • Traditional craft demonstrations, such as my personal favorite; spinning wool into yarn on an antique spinning wheel!
  • Fencing demonstrations
  • Exhibits from local artisans such as quilts, crocheted teddy bears (which my children talked me into buying for them), and greeting cards
  • Hands-on fun such as churning ice cream, pumping water, old time games, horse and carriage rides, 
  • French Canadian Genealogical Society will help you trace your roots
  • Children’s educational activities including Les Chapeaux Puppet Theater, face painting, a coloring station and book reading
  • Waiter’s Race for professionals and non-professionals of all ages. 
  • Narrated English and French historical walking tour with “le Comte de Vergennes” 

So if you happen to be near Addison County in mid July, I encourage you to stop by this culturally rich, wonderfully delicious, quaint and entertaining festival.

July 15, 2013

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Quick Update

Quick update folks: tax ID acquired, vendors license  is in the works, registered with BCIA, (Baby Carrier Industry Alliance), started paperwork with CPSC, (Consumer Product Safety Commission). Labels, (both middle markers as well as care & instruction labels), are a couple days away from being ordered and we have some kick as custom made in Vermont hemp bags to house the wraps in about to be ordered. Samples from the mill are en route and testers are on the horizon. Oh, and just for fun: kiss shaped maple candies are also in the works! Well folks, if that doesn't wet your whistle I'm not sure what else will!

 

July 15, 2013

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Made in Vermont?

"Here I am wearing my son in downtown Middlebury, Vermont overlooking the lovely Middlebury Falls of the Otter Creek. These falls once powered David Page's cotton mill originally built in 1811. Here in 1817 Joseph Gordon assembled twenty power looms from plans he had brought with him over from Scotland."

What is a mill? Often "mill" and "factory" get used interchangeably. However, they each refer to different parts of the production of cloth. Namely, a mill prepares the fiber, (which includes fulling, carding, dyeing, etc), while the factory then takes the spun yarn and on mechanical looms, weaves it into fabric or cloth on giant spools.

So why not manufacture Poésie Tissée woven wraps in Vermont from start to finish, as that was my original intent? In fact, why not manufacture right here in the heart of Addison County, (my home for the past 10 years as well as the agricultural hub of the state).

Strong Calico Loom with Planed Framing and Catlow's Patent DobbyIn 1809 Vermont had 28 carding mills and 58 fulling mills. By 1820 there were four times as many of these mills throughout the state! In fact, by the 1830’s, Vermont was home to 80 textile mills.

Unfortunately the landscape of Vermont's fabric and textile milling industry has changed quite drastically over the last 150 years. Once a burgeoning center for the thriving merino wool industry in New England, Vermont's mills have all now sadly closed.

Many, many factors played a role in this including the decline of the sheep population between 1840 and 1870, the industrialization of the North, the migration of many textile mills to the South where cotton plantations thrived in the 1800s, as well as in more recent times, the migration of US textile milling overseas to third world countries in the East where labor costs and regulations are both much lower.

Thankfully, good old Vermont ingenuity has re-purposed, or upcycled, many of the once abandoned mills as apartment buildings, shopping centers, and other types of manufacturing operations.

So this left us with the only option to either pursue one of the (surprisingly many), extremely small-scale hand-weaving operations within the state of Vermont, or broaden our search to other areas of the United States. In an effort to keep costs reasonable, both manufacturing as well as retail, we opted to forgo the handwoven path, and travel a little further out of New England.

As we are still in the very early planning stages, we can't pinpoint which particular mill will be producing our wraps, but I can say that it will be east of the Mississippi!

Other segments of the manufacturing process, however, we will be keep within the borders of the Green Mountain State, and I look forward to sharing ways in which we will be working with other local businesses in the coming months.

July 15, 2013

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Poésie Tissée is born

“We are the windows through which our children first see the world. Let us be conscious of the view.”

Katrina Kenison, Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry

As a mother of five, I have learned that to be efficient and productive, I need to use all of the resources available. Whether it’s buying in bulk at Costco or delegating chores, I have to make the most of things. Of every baby product I've had the pleasure (or misfortune) of trying, the woven wrap has proven the most versatile and useful.

I started using baby carriers, or "babywearing", way back in 1999, shortly after the birth of my eldest daughter. I am not ashamed to admit that I started with a harness style carrier called the Bjorn, steely grey with pinstripes and toggle closures. But of all of carriers I have tried, the woven wrap has most certainly stolen my heart.

“Carrying a baby is the most rewarding experience a woman can enjoy.” -- Jayne Mansfield

The fabric a s beautiful; the patterns, fabric blends and different weights. There was so much room for creativity, personalization, customization, etc, the possibilities were endless! Each and every single factor that gets woven into a baby wrap plays in intercal role in what it’s wrapping qualities will be. Will the wrap be supportive, moldable, stretchy, responsive. Will it have nice drape, what will the texture be? Will the passes glide smoothly one over  the other when wrapping? Will there be enough grip to hold a slip knot in  a rebozo carry?

I became a local babywearing group co-facilitator, and later tried my hand on the retail end of the babywearing business. And so the journey began to create Poésie Tissée began. The starting off point was of course to choose a name.

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet."

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

I grew up in a bilingual home, the daughter of French-Canadian immigrants. As a child I took for granted the ability to speak two language - until I began taking French in school. Then I was very, very grateful! So I knew that I wanted to incorporate an ode to my French heritage in the name of my new company.

As a student I excelled at the written word - specifically poetry. I fell in love with  Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein and just about every single Robert Frost poem I read. I became a prolific poet and used writing as an escape. Over time my “Dear Diary” entries morphed into prose; and rhythmic verses with stanzas, beat and meter. Poetry gave a voice to my feelings and emotions. My collection currently sits around 2500 or so. In high school,  even wrote some sonnets in French.

And so back to the name. A Brooklyn, New York handweaver calls her work Fiber Dance Weaving Studio, and describes it, in the words of Jean Elizabeth Poli, as "the graceful motion of feet waltzing barefoot on treadles, accompanied by the steady rhythm of hands beating the weft... this is the Fiber Dance.”  With this inspiration, the words began to crystalize in my mind.

  • I am a poet.

  • I love of woven wraps and carrying my children in them.

  • The art and beauty of weaving is mesmerizing, on a hand or mechanized loom.

  • The possibilities and forms of both writing poetry and weaving a wrap are complex, endless, and beautiful.

Voila, Poésie Tissée.

 

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