Why I’ve stopped selling stuff

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Over the past year I’ve given a lot of thought to what happens to the clothes I take to the charity shop, to my recycling once it’s taken away, to the end of line sale clothes in the shops that nobody ends up buying and of course what happens to all the products I make once they’ve been purchased by one of you lovely customers. Having a baby and ultimately realising that you now have a child that may one day have a child and a grandchild of their own makes you really start to think about the future of our planet, I suppose.

I’ve always tried hard to make Botanical Threads a sustainable business. Of course I don’t use any chemicals in my dyeing process and use fabrics that are organic and unbleached. I often use reclaimed fabric and I’ve tried my hardest to make packaging sustainable (reusing plastic and wrapping things in paper). To me, it never made sense to make eco friendly dyes from plants, only to through that all back in nature’s face by wrapping plant dyed fabrics up plastic or using chemicals. 

Since the beginning of Botanical Threads I’ve chosen to work primarily with organic linen, partly because it is a bit better than cotton as it requires less water in it’s production, making it better for the environment and partly because it is a really gorgeous fabric that gets better with age.

So this brings me to my products. Initially I began Botanical Threads by selling linen tea towels that I dyed with avocado stones. I figured it was a practical item that everyone needed in their home. Slowly but surely I began to expand the range of products I offered to include things like cushions, scarves and bags. I suppose this was partly to satisfy my need to create things but also to play ‘catch up’ with the other makers out there, the ones that seemed to be making lots of money and were able to quit their day jobs. My business was morphing into something I didn’t want it to be. It was time for a rethink.

A few weeks before the birth of my baby I began to wind down the making side of my business and started to focus on the teaching aspects, my ebooks and books. At the time I was fully intending to put my orders on hold and start making again in a few months time, but I quickly realised that looking after a baby takes up WAY more time that I anticipated...so it was time to take a step back and reassess my business.

I found that I was at a bit of a cross roads. I loved writing books, ebooks and blog posts. I loved creating articles for magazines and sharing the magic of plant dyeing with a wider audience. But I also really missed making things, turning plain pieces of fabric into beautiful plant dyed products. Even though I haven’t been making anything over the past few months since my baby was born, I’ve still be plant dying. Using up little scraps and offcuts of fabric (old curtains I’ve saved from the charity shop and T-shirt’s that have seen better days) to test out plant colours in my dye pots. As you can imagine it’s meant that I’ve got quite the collection of rainbow coloured fabrics now. 

Last week I got all of these fabrics out of the box they had been hiding in and began to have a play. I cut them out into squares and then cut them up again into triangles, arranging them to form shapes and patterns, matching colours for some and then picking ones that clashed beautifully for others. And then the realisation hit me: quilts. 

So going forward, I won’t be offering any made-to-order items in my shop any more. It will be a mainly a TEACHING business. I hope to expand my range of ebooks to share my techniques with you (and of course there is my book which is due to be published in January 2020) and I have great plans to launch an online e-course sometime in the future. Alongside this I will still be dyeing fabrics and experimenting with new dye plants that I come across - there’s no point turning a passion into a business if you forget the joy it gave you, the very reason you started in the first place, is there? 

And that’s where the quilts come in. Making quilts are the perfect way to utilise all of the fabrics that I have dyed. I will be sharing the process of dyeing the fabric and creating my quilts with you. Some of these beautiful handmade pieces will eventually be added to my online shop for you to buy as heirloom items, designed to be cared for, used and cherished, eventually to be handed down, perhaps to your children. Others will stay in my home, making cosy blankets for my son while he reads books by the log burner, or for putting in the boot of the car for day trips to the beach.

If you’ve read to this far then thank you. Thank you for all of your support in the past and supporting me now as my business changes path.

alicia hall