Clothing Care Labels

I've been meaning to do a post on the topic of labeling requirements for for a few months, first because it's important, and second, look how cute they are! But first, a disclaimer:  I'm not a professional law interpreter, this is just what I figured out by reading the guides published by the FTC (here) and (here).  So if you know better than I do, and spot any misinformation here, please let me know!

When I first started making labels to put inside my clothing, they just had my business name and logo on them.  They were nice looking, but I suspected that I might be required to do more.  After all, every single garment I saw in stores had care labels in them.  So I did a little research, and found two really helpful guides: Threading Your Way Through the Labeling Requirements Under the Textile and Wool Acts and Clothes Captioning: Complying with the Care Labeling Rule.  My suspicions were confirmed: even though I wasn't making thousands of dresses and only selling at craft fairs, I was still required by law to have care labels in my garments.  I really recommend reading through both of those guides if you're looking for how to word your own care labels, because it could be very different, depending on what you make.  It's a lot to read, but it's written understandably.  I'll explain what I needed to include on mine.

All clothing labels need four things:   manufacturer, country of origin, fiber content, and care instructions

1. Manufacturer: Pretty straightforward here.  I put my business name, Always the Forest.

2. Country of origin:  You need to disclose two things here, where the materials are from, and where they are assembled.  So if your materials are all from the US, and everything is assembled in the US, all you have to say is "Made in U.S.A.".  If your fabrics are imported, you would say, "Made in U.S.A. of imported materials. In my case, since my fabrics are all thrifted or remnants, I usually can't say for certain where they are from, so I would have to write "Made in U.S.A of secondhand materials"

3. Fiber Content: If you know what your fiber content is, you need to be pretty specific here. I had a slight "ahhhhh oh no oh no!!!" moment when I realized that I had no way to determine the fiber content of my fabric.  Upon further reading, I found that you can simply disclose the fact that you don't know the fiber content.  I put "fiber content unknown".  Much easier than I thought.

4. Care instructions:  There are many different things you might have to include here, depending on your materials.  If it's not "dry clean only", you need 1) washing instructions (like water temp, gentle cycle), 2) bleach info (yes or no), 3) drying instructions (temperature) and 4) ironing instructions (temperature).  Also, if there are trims or decorations that need special care, you need to include that as well.  For my labels, I wrote "handwash cold, no bleach, lay flat to dry, warm iron".

After I waded through all that information, and figured out what I needed on my labels, I had to figure out how to get them made.  I looked online for some label making options. Most companies I found had high minimums (at least 1,000), and at the time, that seemed like wayyy too many.  On etsy.com, there were a few places that had low minimums, but I didn't see any that I liked.  I didn't really care much for the look of woven labels, and the printed ones seemed like they would be too stiff.  So I decided I would find a way to screen print my own.  I made a screen that had rows of my label image, front and back.  Then I found soft ribbon to fit, and aligned them under the images on the screen.  After I printed the images on the ribbons, I cut them apart, and ironed them in half.  Then they're ready to be sewn into the garments.  So if you know how to screen print, or have a friend that does, you can make inexpensive and professional-looking care labels to keep your stuff legit.  If you don't have those resources, you might want to experiment with using iron-on paper on the ribbons.  I've also heard about printing directly on fabric, but you should test it out in the wash first, because on of the requirements is that the labels have to last though washings.  If you make your own labels, share how you do it in the comments.  I love seeing handmade labels, it's so neat!


Renegade Holiday Sale Chicago '09 Recap

The Renegade Holiday Sale in Chicago was awesome last week.  The Pulaski Park Fieldhouse was packed both days. I got to catch up with some people I hadn't seen since the last show, and I met a lot of great new people too.  I also scored some awesome stuff!  I got a show poster from Mat Daly, a bar of face soap (a staple of mine) from Biggs & Featherbelle, squalane oil from Rinse, the Handmade Nation DVD from the craftster.org table, and an awesome jacket from Elsie Q.  Oh yeah, the food vendors downstairs were excellent as well.  Treat restaurant for dinner, and Tipsycake cupcakes (red velvet and lemon raspberry) for dessert.  So good!
We had a pretty good time enjoying Chicago in the off hours of the fair as well.  We stayed with our friends Mike and Justin, who have a cute little apartment in Bucktown.  Their downstairs neighbor was really nice and we played lots of Rock Band (I kicked butt on the drums). Friday night, we got to Chicago really late. Everyone went out to the Flat Iron except for me.  Not a huge fan of bars, big fan of sleep.  Oh come on, it was 3am!  So I was semi-rested forRenegade the next day.  It was a great craft fair day, and when it was all done, we went to eat at the Earwax Cafe. The food there is so good, every time we come to visit Chicago, we eat there at least once.
The other night at the Flat Iron, somebody told Justin about an "art party" in a loft in West Loop.  So we decided to check that out, for kicks and giggles.  I still don't get why it was called an art party.  We got to go on the roof of the building, which had a pretty neat view.   And people don't close their curtains! It was like watching little movies through people's windows.  So excellent craft fair, excellent adventures, but I was so excited to pull into my nearly deserted parking lot in downtown Romeo and relax in the small town calm.


Things to do in Detroit before/after the DUCF

You could probably spend hours at the Detroit Urban Craft Fair, but just in case you are on the fence about driving a long distance for one (awesome!) event,  I've put together a list of ways to spend an entire day in Detroit!

FOOD:  My first pick is Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes.  Yes, a creperie! They have sweet dessert crepes, and savory crepes filled with meat and cheese that would be more suitable for lunch.  Not only is it my most delicious lunch pick, but it's probably the most budget-friendly too, with a big crepe for $3-5.  Open 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.  If you want something more substantial, but just as tasty, then Slows Bar B Q is just the thing.  Mouthwatering sandwiches, soups, salads, and everything you would expect from a BBQ.  Open 11 a.m. - 2 a.m.  Cafe Muse is not in Detroit, it's in Royal Oak, but this is for you fabric store junkies who are going up there anyway(see below).  It's a fancy/cozy cafe that does breakfast and lunch, but the food is seriously amazing.  They have the best grilled cheese sandwiches, and vanilla bean waffles, and egg scrambles, and ahhh I could go on and on but the food is seriously just that good.  They're only open from 7:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. so make it a breakfast or lunch rather than dinner.

CRAFTY STOPS:  There is a comprehensive google craft map of metro detroit here, listing craft and art supply shops, fiber and fabric shops, places to buy handmade items, and other misc. D.I.Y. locations...but I've picked a few of the best ones here: Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak.  Fine (and I mean really) fabrics, patterns, and notions.  If you have a sewing question, just ask, these people know their stuff!  Oh yeah, a ton of Merrimekko fabrics!  Open 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.  The Fabric Warehouse (technically in Warren) is one of my favorite haunts.  And it is what it sounds like, a huge fabric warehouse.  All fabric is $3.49/yd.  Great quality fabrics, they get new stuff in all the time.  Make sure to wear a coat, it gets a little chilly in there.  Open 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.  And for you knitting people, City Knits is a cozy little yarn shop that also has a good selection of knitting/crochet books.  Also open 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

MUSEUMS/ATTRACTIONS:  The Detroit Institute of Arts is currently showing the Avedon Fashion Photography Exhibit.  If fashion photography isn't really your thing, there will surely be something else there for you.  The DIA is the best!  If you've already been there, done that, head across the street to the Detroit Historical Museum.  It's so fascinating!  I even loved it as a little kid.  John K. King Books is a bookstore, but I think it fit better in this category, rather than shopping.  Four floors crammed with used books, and there is even a vintage sewing patterns section.  The Heidelburg Project, named for the street it spans, is the work of Tyree Guyton, who has been turning abandoned houses on this street into art for over 20 years.  You'll find a house covered in stuffed animals, a lawn full of vintage vacuum cleaners, and other strange things as you take a look down Heidelburg St.

HANDMADE SHOPS:  The DUCF should be more than sufficient for your handmade needs, but in case you still want more, here's a quick list:  City Bird, Bureau of Urban Living, Naka(Ferndale), Lost and Found Vintage(Royal Oak).

If anyone has other suggestions, leave a comment letting us know!

Photo credits:


Upcoming Shows...Detroit and Chicago

I have two really great shows coming up this season, in Detroit and Chicago.  First off is the Detroit Urban Craft Fair.  This was actually the very first show I did back in 2007, and I can say that this one gets better every year!  This year, there are 50+ awesome vendors. It will take place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on November 21st at the Majestic Theater.  There will also be a DUCF Tweetup the night before (Friday) from 7-9 p.m. at the Majestic Cafe.

Next up is the Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale"Over 150 of today’s finest indie-craft and contemporary design talents will be setting up shop at the Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale on December 5 + 6 from 11am – 7pm at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse! Over 150 of today’s finest indie-craft and contemporary design talents will be setting up shop at the Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale on December 5 + 6 from 11am – 7pm at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse!"  And ooh, this is neat: there will be free trolley rides between the Fair and a few places in Wicker Park, so you can stay out of the cold. 

Both fairs are free to attend, and all vendors are handpicked, so you'll be sure to find something awesome. 


AVFF (Awesome Vintage Fabric Find)

The other day, my friend's mom called to let me know about this awesome estate sale with a ton of fabric and crafting supplies.  Fabric finds at estate sales had been pretty sparse this year, so I dropped what I was doing and went to check it out.  I got to the house and was going through the yard looking at all the neat stuff (they also had a bunch of musical instruments!) but not seeing any fabric, when one of the homeowners came up to me and asked me how I was doing.  I asked about the fabric, and he said, "Ahhhh, now that's in the basement, and there's a ton of it!"  So I scrambled down to the basement to find a treasure trove of fabric and crafty goodness.  Yards and yards of awesome vintage fabric, all sorts.  Tons of craft stuff too!  Purse handles, ribbons, wooden forms, tiny birds, macrame, everything.  The woman's niece was in the basement, and she explained to me that her aunt used to teach crafting classes from her home, and that's why the basement was set up like a store.  So I picked out my fabric (all 70+ yards of it) and brought it back outside to pay for it.  It ended up costing only 83 cents! The whole family was eating lunch outside, and they were all so sweet and said, "Well since you're such a good customer, why don't you have lunch with us?"  Best estate sale ever!  So I sat and talked with them for a bit, and then one of the guys helped me take all my fabric to my car.  What a great find.

Here's some more of the fabric I got.  My favorite piece is probably the 13 yard bolt of Waverly Fabric in the "American Primitive" print.  Some pieces still had the original price tags on them, and it was really neat to see where they came from.  One tag read "Andrew Foltyn, Inc. 13144 West Seven Mile Detroit, MI".  I looked it up, and that store was started in the 60s, but doesn't seem to be around any longer.  Speaking of old fabric stores in Detroit, who remembers Zemco Textiles? It was on Washington Blvd. between Grand River and State St., and sadly, it's not there anymore.  Does anyone remember any other old fabric stores in Detroit?


I'm on vacation!

Billy and I have been on vacation for the past two weeks.  He just got out of the army, so we're celebrating by moving his stuff back home to Michigan the long way.  I've been chronicling it over on my livejournal, but we've spent time in Spokane, Yellowstone, and Denver so far.  And all the places in between!  It's been a pretty awesome trip.  We're staying at his cousin's house in the mountains of  Evergreen, CO right now, and our next stop will be to visit some friends in Chicago.  I've been sloooowly updating the website whenever there's a lull in adventure, so some links are not working, and I still need to put the measurements up.  It'll be fully updated once I get home, which we're thinking will be sometime next week.  So thanks for your patience everyone!

p.s. go to Yellowstone National Park if you get the chance, it's like another planet!


Renegade Chicago 2009 Recap

The Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago this weekend was awesome!  This year, the weather was awesome, and the selection of vendors was even better.  There were a lot more handmade clothing vendors, and I was really excited about that.  Sunday evening, I got a chance to walk around and chat with some of them.  I talked with Marie from Les Enfants Sauvages about traveling to far away shows, visited the jo clothing booth to check out some cute underwear and chat about Brooklyn, dished about being Polish with Pierogi Picnic, and was totally inspired by how Lesley of Squasht by Les runs her business.  I'm so glad I had my mom as my booth helper so I could get a chance to walk around.

And we can't forget about the excellent loot I procured.  I traded a top for a cashmere sweater from Elsie Q, got this year's and last year's poster for the Renegade Craft Fair Chicago from Mat Daly, a little glass to hold my bobby pins from Mary Ink, and two cute balsa wood necklaces from Greenola.  We ate very well, with yummy breakfast and lunches from the Milk and Honey Cafe, and frozen kefir(!) from Starfruit.  The only bummer was that I got a parking ticket, but that was nobody's fault but my own.  I'm definitely really happy that I got a chance to do this fair again!


Canopy Weights!

With the Renegade Craft Fair coming up this weekend, I knew I needed some weights for my canopy.  Last year, I used gallons of water on each corner, and that wasn't enough.  My mom, sister and I had to anchor ourselves in the corners so the canopy wouldn't blow away!  Granted, that weekend we had extreme rainy and windy weather, but still, it's always good to be prepared.  So I looked online, and found a lot of expensive, ugly and cumbersome weights.  Then I happened upon this site, which detailed how to make sleek-looking 35-b weights for about $60. Basically, you just cap off one end of 2.5' of 4" PVC pipe, put an eye hook through that, and fill it with concrete.  Billy's helped me make these (and by helped, I mean did most of the work, mixing concrete is hard!). They seemed to work pretty well when I tested them out today, so hopefully it will be the same this weekend.  It's recommended that you use about 40lbs per leg to keep your canopy secure.  A gallon of water only weighs 8lbs!


Studio Tour!

I always love seeing other artist's spaces, so I thought I would do a quick tour of mine.  I live in an apartment above a gags 'n gifts store.  There's always something going on outside, between the bars and the music venue next door, so there's always something to spy on watch while I sew. This is the fourth sewing space I've had.  The first was a corner in the basement of my mom's house when I was in high school.  Then Billy and I moved to California, and my sewing space was half the living room.  Then we moved again in California, and I got a whole room for sewing.  This is my favorite space so far.

Lots and lots of natural light during the day.
My sewing machine station: general purpose sewing machine, coverstitch machine, and serger.  Billy refinished that really nice sewing table on the left; I built the really goofy table on the right out of a scrap piece of wood and some milk crates.
Turn to the right, and you'll see my sitting area. The clothing rack is for my alterations work.

Rack of finished items, dressform, storage.

Bookcase made of milkcrates!
And if you're wondering where my cutting table is, it's in my mom's basement!  So I use the kitchen floor for cutting and screen printing. The room behind the kitchen is the music room, and behind that is the bedroom and bathroom.


Renegade Craft Fair Chicago 2009

Always the Forest will have a booth at the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago next month.  I’m really excited for this one!  From renegadecraft.com: “Over 300 artists are traveling from all over the country to participate and sell their handmade goods: from clothing and accessories, to stationery and concert posters, with everything from bath-products, ceramics and housewares in between! This FREE TO ATTEND DIY craft, art and design extravaganza occurs in one of Chicago’s liveliest neighborhoods, on its busiest block!”  Last year, it was apparently monsoon season in Chicago, but so many people still came out despite the pouring rain.  That’s how good this fair is.  I have a lot of neat new stuff for fall that will be ready in time for the fair.  Previews to come shortly!


I'm Back!

I was visiting my husband Billy in California (he’s stationed there for the military, but not for much longer now!).  It was a great time, and awesome to see him.  I also got to go fabric hunting in the L.A. Fashion District.  90 fabric stores in 4 blocks.  Yes, you heard right. Wowie.  But this past week, I’ve been preparing for two shows, and a fashion show!  Hence, the lack of site updates.

Movement 2009.  May 23-25  Detroit, MI. I’ll be joining Handmade Detroit there this weekend with some select items, in a huge 20×20 tent right by the entrance.  I changed my fabric up a bit for this event, expect lots of neon and black.

Maple Days Art Festival.  May 25, 9am-4pm  Walled Lake, MI.  I’ll have my own tent set up here, with a full stock of clothing.  This is also where my fashion show is going to be.  Come and check it out!


Next Show - Flint City Handmade Spring Market

This is where I’ll be tomorrow, in the Lunch Studio.  Three buildings of lovely handmade goods.   I have an item in the raffle, one of my Michigan-themed shower curtains.  Hopefully I’ll see you there!

Craft Revival 2009 Recap

Handmade Detroit’s Craft Revival was great!  They gave me a big open space, I had a lot of room to spread out.  I even got two clothesracks in there!  It was a little dimly lit, and you can’t see it in the picture, but it gave this dramatic glow to my display.  I had people comment that it felt like a fortune teller’s booth or a seance, haha.  But that was okay.  One of the reasons I really like doing these shows, aside from the sales and the compliments, is talking with customers and other vendors.   I like getting direct feedback from the customers, and the vendors are usually really nice and it’s fun swapping stories.  My mom was my booth helper, and after the show, we went downstairs to eat at the Majestic Cafe.  I liked the contrast of the many memories of late night shows and shenanigans at the Magic Stick, and then eating downstairs with my mom.  The food was super terrific.  I hope they decide to do this show again next year, I really enjoyed it.


The Importance of Pre-washing Fabric

Last year, I started pre-washing all of my fabrics.  The reason I do this is because knit fabrics tend to shrink a lot once you wash them.  So I would rather pre-shrink the fabric myself, than have an item shrink on a customer.  Also, the dyes in some fabrics will bleed, and I would rather find that out in the beginning!  I use an all natural laundry detergent that is biodegradable and doesn’t have any perfumes or dyes.  The largest fabric pieces I get are no more than 10-15 yards, so putting them in my washing machine isn’t a problem.  Now this won’t work if you need to shrink fabric that is a hundred yards long.  In that case, there are ways to draft the patterns to allow for shrinkage after they are sewn.  You have to test a square of the fabric by washing it and calculating what percentage of shrinkage occurred on the straight grain and the cross grain, and then factor that into your pattern.  Since I use so many different fabrics, that’s probably not something I would want to do, so pre-washing is the best option for me.


Works in Progress...

Tonight, I’m finishing grading the patterns for my Spring/Summer ‘09 collection.  This year, there will be consistent sizing throughout all the styles.  Today has definitely been one of those the-more-you-learn-the-more-you-realize-how-much-you-don’t-actually-know type of days.  I recommend that anyone who is serious about clothing design and manufacturing take a look at www.fashion-incubator.com.  On my breaks today, I was poring over the blog archives, learning the right way to go about business, and I would like to summarize my conclusions here, but I don’t have any yet!  I need to mull things over for a bit.  So I’m going over to my mom’s house, and we’re going to make a delicious blueberry cheesecake, and hopefully the cooking and eating will  be good for my brain…


Spring Sale!

I’m having a spring sale at Always the Forest until April 15th. 25% off everything on the site. Robin Dresses: originally $48, now $36, Robin Tops: originally $38, now $29.50, Willow Dresses: originally $38, now $29.50, Willow Tops: originally $24, now $18, and Robin Hoods, originally $28, now $21.

New items for spring and summer are coming soon!


Craft Appearance: Craft Revival, Detroit

“Handmade Detroit presents Craft Revival, a spring indie craft fair
featuring 30+ DIY makers, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on April 18th at the
Magic Stick. Celebrate the end of this brutally cold winter with the
freshest goods from Detroit’s busy and growing craft scene. Free
admission. All Ages.”

That’s where I’ll be on April 18th, selling my new items!   I have new dresses, tops, and skirts, all with a healthy dose of ruffles.  Also…Michigan-themed shower curtains!  I am making them myself from fabric remnants bought locally, and screenprinting Michigan imagery onto them.  Hope to see you there!


Goals for 2009

Now it’s already March, but I’ve been pondering and reflecting my goals since January.  But before we do that, let’s see how I did on meeting my 2008 goals:
1. Accept credit cards - DONE!  I set up an account with ProPay in July, and my sales have more than doubled.
2. Streamline our products - DONE! (sort of)  I have limited the collection to a few designs, and this has allowed me to offer sizes XS-L.  I also cut out all the vintage offerings.  But…this year I am also going to be doing Michigan-themed shower curtains…not exactly keeping with the desire to streamline.  I think I’m okay with that for now.
3. Do more shows - DONE!  I did six shows last year, surpassing my goal of four.  This year, I would like to do even more than that, maybe make it to ten?
4. Update the site and blog more - FAIL!  I made a whopping 11 blog posts in 2008.  That’s not even once a month!  How embarassing.  And it’s not due to lack of content either, I have a huge list of things to write about.  I need to stick to a schedule.
Overall, I feel like 2008 was a very good year, full of growth and productivity that went above and beyond the goals I made.  When I started off in 2007, I had no idea that I would be doing one of the Renegade Fairs the next year, or have my clothing in a store.   Now onto 2009:
1. Update the blog more - Seriously, like I said above, I am awful at updating this thing.  This year, I will set a schedule for myself, and try my very best to stick with it.  I am going to blog every Tuesday, and if I really get the hang of it, maybe every Tuesday and Friday.  I have a list of things I want to write about, and even if it’s just a craft show announcement, I feel like there should be no problem in meeting that goal.
2.  Do a fashion show - I have seen a few other indie fashion designers that have done this, and I’m not quite sure how to go about doing it myself.  I know waiting for an invitation is never a good idea, but I’m at a loss where to even start.  But that’s how most of my endeavors start off anyways, so I will just have to figure it out.
3.  Continue to do more shows - I did really well with this goal last year, and I’m going to try and do even more this year, maybe ten?
4.  Get my clothing in more stores - Currently, my clothing is for sale in only one store.  I need to start contacting more stores, but that’s the hardest part for me, putting myself and my designs out there.  It’s something I will have to work to overcome this year.
I’m on the right foot, this is my first Tuesday blog of the year.  Stay tuned for another blog next Tuesday, and hopefully you’ll see my goal-achievement in action!


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