Organic Cotton- Because It Feels Divine

I love working with organic cotton.  My husband is an ecologist; we were both brought up to believe in the importance of conservation.   So for me, organic cotton is a no-brainer consumer choice- almost a requirement; expected.

When I bought those first few meters of organic cotton bottom weight canvas, I pre-washed and ironed as I would for any cotton.  –Now that I know organic cotton wovens better, I would recommend several wash/dry cycles because it tends to shrink slowly over time.  I usually throw a length in with my towels several weeks in a row.

Organic cotton handles like regular cotton, initially feels like regular cotton, and even smells like regular cotton but it’s a completely different fabric.  As my husband wore his shorts made from organic cotton, and I noticed the fabric changed nature over time.

Noooo… I’m imagining it, I said to myself.  I continued to use organic cotton when I could find it, for everything from hats to Blueberry Parfait’s midriff to my beloved Jean Ross pants.

Those pants have worn very well.  They’re not what I would call “smart” for work, they’re more like the softest, coolest pair of jeans imaginable.  They live in the “sweat pants” or “blue jeans” slot in my wardrobe.

After several years of sewing with organic cotton, I know it’s not my imagination.  Like linen and hemp, organic cotton ages spectacularly well.  The fabric changes over time.  It becomes almost plushy, or “buttery.”  Smoooooooooth, soft, delicious and surprisingly hard-wearing.  The “warm fuzzies” from wearing an ethical fabric is far outstripped by the delight of this soft fiber against my skin.

Information on the ethics:

Information on US Organic Cotton

Why Organic Cotton

Have you worked with organic cotton?  How does it behave for you?  Do you notice the difference?  Where do you like to buy your organic cotton?  I like Funky Fabrix and NearSeaNaturals, but a simple google search shows me the market is exploding so I’d appreciate some leads!

(I added t-shirt pattern sizes 40V and 45V today.  “Birds on the Wires Tee” is rather cumbersome, so I labelled these “Blank Canvas Tees” because it’s shorter and describes a purpose of the design- to showcase pretty fabric!  That’s how I’ll refer to the pattern in the future….)

Edited to Add, December 31, 2012: Check out this post for a great online shopping guide to eco-knit fabrics.


26 comments

  1. So then, would it change your application of said fabrics? If you’re going for a crisp pant say, like the ones in your photo… does this garment become saggy in the butt and shapeless over time? Do the lines of a more tailored garment soften? I’m curious…

    • Saggy and shapeless might be too harsh of words…It retains its shape well enough and springs back after a wash, but they’re definitely not “smart” pants. It’s not in the nature of the fabric to be crisp, as far as I’ve found.

      I’d use it perhaps for a soft jacket, like a jean jacket type garment, but I wouldn’t bother trying to tailor it.. Maybe with heaps of seaming and top-stitching it would tailor, but I’d rather use hemp-silk for summer jackets..

      • I am considering some organic cotton/hemp for a sturdy colette patterns chantilly or parfait… had to ask what your opinion might be…?

  2. YAY! Thanks for uploading my size! I’m heading to work for a couple hours, so I’ll print it there, then come home and search for the fabric.

  3. How interesting that it would behave more like linen. Makes you wonder just exactly what all those chemicals they usually use are actually doing to it, huh. Does the extended-shrinkage not happen with knits also?

    On another note, I excitedly printed off the 45v pattern only to discover than in my haste to get back to child wrangling, I managed to set my printer to ‘scale to fit’. Now trying to decide whether a 3% shrinkage is going to be dealable, or whether I need to flip the paper over and use more ink. Sigh.

    • Oooh… Tough call. It means (maybe?) you’ll lose 3% of the size, which would make it 1.35″smaller… Measure across the bust/underarm area.. Up to 2.5″ negative ease should be ok… Hmmmm!

      I pre-washed the knits several times, gave it every opportunity to shrink. It should be ok… I do wonder if the chemicals have everything to do with it… Or maybe organic cotton (which is not Genetically Modified) has a different staple? Longer fibers? I cast around looking for answers and didn’t find much verifiable science.. But I do know it feels different.

      • I wish I had read more about organic cotton before I made a tunic with it. I pre-washed the fabric and washed the tunic after wearing it and not it feels snug. And now I know why! Will keep all this information in mind when I use organic cotton again.

  4. Thanks for the links to some places selling organic cotton. There are some lovely choices available. Also, thanks for the ‘Blank Canvas Tees’ patterns. I am assuming teh 45V is a larger size than the 35V? Hope you are having fun preparing for Christmas. I am at Mum’s place in Cairns and lets just say it doesn’t get much hotter or stickier than this!

    • Yes. 35 and 45, etc refer to the full bust measurement in inches. Check out the pattern page for more sizing information… http://3hourspast.com/how-to-sew-the-birds-on-a-wire-tee/ If you email me your bust/waist measurements, I’ll either tell you which is best for you or draft one for you, Dianne.

      Have you ever gone up to the Daintree while in Cairns? It’s… Oooooh… Gasp! Wooww…. Like that…

      Mareeba has some exceptional coffee plantations, and fruit wine distilleries, too. The husband and I are fond of going up there for holidays…

      • Okay – glad I got that right. I will likely need a larger one – just need to grab a tape measure (and I’m at Mum’s place so I’m not sure where she keeps it now).

        I haven’t been to the Daintree since I was about 7 / 8 years old. As far as I know, you need a 4WD to go still so have left if off the list for some time. I’d probably like it in ‘winter’ or what should be referred to as the slightly drier season I think! I usually go up to the Tablelands when I visit – we’re just watching the weather as it has rained a bit and the range can get very slippery. Perhaps it will be on the cards post Christmas. I want to get my hands on some Daintree vanilla while I am here though and some coffee to bring back.

      • Nah, we went up there in a regular old rental car… There’s just the one road, it’s narrow and only two lanes but it’s paved… You’re probably quite right about the season, though… We go in July usually and it’s absolutely heavenly.

        If an extra bag of coffee beans jumps into your luggage, I could find a nice home for it. :) :D :) :D Coffee for a blouse draft?

      • Okay – that’s good to know. I usually drive my Mum’s Yaris when I’m here but I think I would opt for a rental car for that trip. When I went up it was dirt road and boggy – even the 4WD buses struggled.

        I shall try and get you some coffee beans – do you have a preference eg. dark or light roast, sharp or smooth etc.? I am assuming you have a grinder at home as you have said beans. Feel free to email me your preferences at shepherddm (at) bigpond (dot) com. I have my laptop with me and mobile broadband. This year they have improved the 3G network so I am getting 3 / 4 bars of signal instead of 1 / 2 at Mum’s place which is great!

  5. I used some knit mill ends last winter that were organic and also noticed a difference. The fabric seemed more “buttery,” a little heftier and softer. I did notice that it seems to stain and picks up other colors in the wash much easier than other fabrics. I am wondering if this has less to do with how it is raised and is result of not being treated with resins, sizing and other crap after being knit up. Sort of like organic potatoes not being treated with fungicides after harvest. I really want to try the Spoonflower knits now!

    • It gets better and better and better with age… I put most of our clothes out on the washline to dry… After a few months, low-grade cheap cotton goes rather brittle. Then after a few more months of that, most cotton does. But not the organic cotton. It stays nice, though it will get stiff it softens up immediately when I put it on. The other cottons often go nasty…

  6. I love hearing people rave about more sustainable/eco-friendly fabrics and I know it’s a passion of yours. I’ve just started sewing with the Spoonflower organic cotton knit and I’m hooked… it’s beautiful! I’ve made a bunch of t-shirts for my kids and have a dress cut out for myself. It washes really well and has a gorgeous weight and incredible softness – as you say, even when line-dried which is how all our clothes dry. I just whipped up some simple pyjama shorts for my eldest boy and they look so comfy. The colours also come out lovely and muted – fade a little with the first wash but not a sad-sort-of-faded, more like an intentional softness… not cheap but well worth the investment for both the ethics and the quality :)
    I have bought some Australian organic cotton knit (plain colours) online from Kelani – it’s rather more lightweight but nice and soft, and not too pricey.

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