Author Archives: Julie Moore

Misconceptions About Bamboo

I recently read yet another article on an Eco Conscious web site touting the virtues of fabric made from bamboo.  This article went so far as to be entitled “Why Bamboo Bedding is a credible alternative to Organic Cotton Bedding”.  I was dismayed at the inaccuracy of the article and downright offended by the headline.  Here’s the truth.

Bamboo is an extremely hard material.  It’s used for flooring, furniture and all sorts of products that benefit from its solid and enduring properties.  Imagine what it takes to make something that hard into a soft sumptuous fabric.  What it takes is extensive processing and some extremely nasty chemicals that extract the cellulose from the plant.  The cellulose is mixed with some more nasty chemicals that make the it stick together and reconstitute it into a strand that they call a fiber.  The “fiber” made from bamboo is actually nothing more than rayon, exactly the same as rayon made from wood; and the processing of both is extremely damaging to the environment.

The US government has recently mandated that fabric made from bamboo be labeled as rayon because of the deceptive advertisement of it as an ecologically sound material.  In the past bamboo fabric was advertised as being anti-microbial or anti-fungal.  These claims were made because bamboo itself does indeed resist microbial and fungal degradation.  However, once the processing has been done, the fabric made from bamboo no longer possesses those redeeming qualities.  The Truth In Advertising laws came into effect over a year ago and those claims had to be removed from labeling and advertising of bamboo products.  Sadly, the myths are hard to dispell.  Maybe we need to sick the Myth Busters on it.

In comparison with organic cotton, well – there is no comparison.  Organic cotton is grown without chemicals and needs no processing to make it’s fiber usable.  It is simply combed and spun without the need of chemicals of any kind.  Furthermore, cotton is grown all over the world, including right here at home.  Bamboo is grown mainly in Asia and must be shipped to customers on other continents, making it’s carbon footprint quite large.

The difference between the environmental impact of these two materials is vast.  Bamboo is FAR from being a “credible alternative to Organic Cotton”.  I, personally, am looking forward to the day when I can walk into any eco-conscious retail store and not see products made from bamboo fabric.

Let’s get the word out!

Art Urns Go Around the World

I’ve been making cremation urns for years and suddenly they’re big news!

Party Jar, 2013

Party Jar, 2013

A few weeks ago a reporter for the Associated Press, Allen Breed, came to my studio and did an interview with me about the cremation urns that I make and their entry into an Art Urn competition at Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh.  He did both a written article and a TV piece.  The article came out in the KC Star on the 14th, you may have seen it.  If not, here’s the link.  KC Star 3:14:15 .  After the Star it went all over the world to cities large and small.

The video piece is available on YouTube: https://m.youtube.com/watch?sns=em&v=TZuDzOYRQIE.
Flesh & Green, 10"x10", embellished with 1930s shoe clip.

Flesh & Green, 10″x10″, embellished with 1930s shoe clip.

I’ve been making these for years and suddenly they’re a big deal.   If you google “Julie Moore Art Urns” you can see all the places where both the printed and video versions have been published.  They’ve been on everything from ABC News, to the Australian News.
I’m flabbergasted and thrilled!!  I got so charged up I had to go into my studio and make another urn. So here’s the first one that is sized for two sets of cremains. It’s for people who want to mix their ashes with their mate’s. It’s called Together In Spring.

Together In Spring, 12"x10"

Together In Spring, 12″x10″

Fabric Coatings Cause Breast Cancer

A new study on linking breast cancer to exposure to chemicals in our environment has proved what some of us have known for years.   The chemicals put on fabrics and carpeting to resist stains and retard fire are carcinogenic.  Now we know that they specifically cause breast cancer.

I don’t have permission to reprint the study here.  So follow this link to read it.  It’s short, but powerful.  The list of breast cancer causing chemicals is short and they are things that we can easily avoid.

Protect yourself and those you love.

http://features.insing.com/feature/study-lists-dangerous-chemicals-linked-to/id-42503101/

The First Organic Embroidery Floss

For years I’ve been trying to figure out a simple machine that could spin six strands of the thread together.  I’ve bought different kinds of wheels and gears but could never come up with the perfect invention.  I consulted with people from NC State school of textiles, a wood worker and anybody with engineering prowess that would listen to me.

I finally came up with a lazy Susan sort of thing that sits on the floor with six cones of thread on it.  Each cone sits on a base and peg that holds it in place then there’s a hook that comes off the base and guides the thread off the cone into a central ring.  My idea was that someone would spin the lazy susan with their foot at a constant speed while pulling the strands of thread out the top of the central loop.  As the six strands of thread are spun together the spinner rolls them onto a core of some kind.

I was rather proud of my invention.  It used no electricity, creates a good product and gives another person a job.  I set about teaching Jum (my lead seamstress) how it works.  I obviously didn’t have all the bugs worked out because centrifugal force kept making the cones of thread slide off the lazy susan, or fall over.  Then everything would get tangled up and you had a mess to clean up.  Jum is always willing to do what I ask of her, and since I’ve shown her so many amazing things (stuff we take for granted), she trusted that I knew what I was doing.  But she soon realized what I was trying to accomplish and then she had to keep herself from laughing while I fiddled with my silly machine.

Why I never thought to ask Jum how she would ply six strands of thread together, I don’t know.  She and the other Montagnard women lived in the jungle where they had to spin their own thread, ply it and weave it into cloth all by hand.  While I was trying to untangle a mess of would-be embroidery floss Jum just stood and looked at me with one of her special looks.  Jum may not speak english very well, but she can say loads with her eyes.  I stopped what I was doing and handed her the ends of the six strands of thread.

Jum Siu

Jum knotted the strands together, anchored them on a dowel, pulled a length of the threads off the six cones and laid them across her lap.  She wet the palm of her left hand slightly to make it tacky then ran her hand down her thigh over the threads.  Her tacky palm caught the threads and twisted them together while she pulled the ends of the threads off with her right hand.  She rolled the perfectly twisted, finished floss onto the dowel.  She looked up at me for confirmation that she had produced the product the way I wanted it.  I just sighed.  We both laughed; I felt stupid, but she got to be the smart one and that was worth a little humiliation.

As I cleaned up my mechanical mess, Jum set into spinning.  Her motions were so fluid and natural; I could see her sitting in her hut in Plei Grak spinning cotton she had grown in her own garden.  There was a rhythm to the sway of her body, a syncopation between her hands.  There was serenity in her face, comfort and reminiscence in the task.  I looked at the sling that she uses to hold her daughter on her back.  We had talked about weaving the cloth on a bamboo back-strap loom that her husband made for her.  We had talked about dyeing the yarns with indigo that she collected in the jungle.  We had talked about growing cotton in the natural clearings in the jungle.  She told me how she planted and tended a small field of cotton all year and how the Vietnamese had come and confiscated the whole crop leaving her nothing to make clothes for her children.

It must have been satisfying to have the cotton in your hands.  To realize the fruits of your efforts so tangibly, the roll of the fibers under your palm spoke to your body about reaping what was yours, and about warmth and protection for naked children.  Spinning meant she’d have a way to carry her next baby, it meant that her husband would have a shirt to keep the sun from burning his back.  There is a wisdom in these refugee bodies that all our machinery can’t duplicate.  Next time I want to make a new product, the first thing I’ll do is ask Jum how she would do it.