Harmony is always possible, but it does take work.
I’ve long had a set of criteria for the things that I make and buy: versatile, practical, intentional, in harmony with the planet. Sticking to these values is a practice that touches little parts of my everyday life—as a maker, a parent, and a consumer.
Sometime in the last couple of years, it led to an unshakeable idea: to design and make a garment that fits all of these criteria. It would be sustainable, wearable and beautiful, living alongside the hand-dyed and woven accessories I already love to make. I wanted to learn more about the process of producing clothing. I kept returning to this idea of a wholly compostable, versatile piece, ready to be loved and enjoyed. The idea became my muse as I worked and researched. As it began to take shape, it was only natural to call it just that—a muse.
This is the story behind the Muse Top.
A year ago, Kei Zemlicka and I met for tea. As mothers of children in the same school, we’d already realized we shared interests in knitting, plant dyes, and sewing, but had never collaborated in any official capacity. But on this afternoon, Kei’s background in garment design and my percolating wish to make a top for Pirtti came together. The idea became real.
We got to work during the height of the pandemic, meeting outside, handing off samples in parking lots, chatting on Zoom, and on the coldest days, working bundled-up by an outdoor fire. With Kei's expertise, we were able to inch towards my dream requirements for this blouse.
With a 3/4 length sleeve and lots of ease, the Muse Top can be worn by a variety of body types. How many times have you tried on a top that the sleeve was too long, too short, or the cuff too tight? By cropping the sleeve and finishing the cuff with elastic, the Muse Top addresses common fit issues.
We designed for comfort and durability, with multiple seasons and occasions in mind. The cropped sleeve has an added advantage too... Have you ever noticed that a sleeve’s cuff is what gets dirty first? By keeping the sleeve shorter, it will potentially stay cleaner longer, cutting down on washing, which extends garment life.
Every material in the Muse Top is chosen with care. Hemp fabric, for its softness, durability, and sustainability. Cotton thread, instead of dominantly-used polyester. Natural rubber elastic, as a compostable alternative to synthetic. Our sewn-in labels are GOTS certified organic cotton printed with OEKO-TEX 100 certified ink. Our hang-tags are made from sugar cane waste.
IN HARMONY WITH THE EARTH
Choosing fabric was a big decision, knowing it would be the largest component of the piece. Growing hemp requires less water and land than cotton, returns nutrients to the soil, is naturally weed-resistant, and effectively sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The resulting material is soft and biodegradable. Despite all of this, domestically grown hemp fabric is nonexistent, as it only recently became legal to grow and domestic mills still don't use it. This treasured material is only now starting to get the attention it deserves.
THE WORK CONTINUES
The Muse Top is not about perfection, it's about process and what comes of it. Making a garment that checks all the boxes is extremely challenging and proves just how far behind the industry is in terms of environmental impact. Hemp fabric is only available as an import and despite the fact that it is usually grown with organic practices, is not certified with industry standards such as GOTS or OCS. Elastic made with natural rubber and organic cotton is expensive, but for this project, a must. Organic cotton thread would have been ideal, but isn’t compatible with the Merrow machine used to sew the garment. This garment is a work of performance art, showcasing the challenges of sustainable making, from supply chain to daily use to where it will end up, when no longer of service.
It is an investment piece and one we hope you will cherish, mend when needed, dye if you want to, and when its time is done, shred and add to your compost.
Along the way, we hope it serves as a reminder that yes, harmony is always possible.
P.S. The Muse Top is available for purchase in the shop.