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The Loop has been on Barrington Street for over five years now, and from the way some media outlets talk about the street, you’d think that was a miracle of longevity. But I would like to contrast that with one of our local suppliers we’ve relied on since before the store even opened in 2005. I’m talking about a company that has been active in Halifax since 1884. If you are racking your brain to try to figure out who could have been supplying yarn or craft supplies since that long ago, never mind: I’m referring to London Rubber Stamps.

Since November 2005, thousands of paper shopping bags have been carried out the door of The Loop, and each one was stamped by hand by us, using custom stamps made by London Rubber Stamps. LRS is currently located out on the admittedly dreary industrial stretch of Kempt Road in north Halifax. But back in the 1880s, they were located in downtown Halifax. On their website they have a well-written and fascinating account of the business’ history, with a couple of nice vintage photos of their former downtown locations. (Can you recognize either location?)

http://www.londonrubber.com/stamps/about.asp

When we were planning to open the store, we considered what kind of shopping bags we would use. We chose paper bags in part because they are more environmentally friendly than plastic, and also because we knew they would fit with our “DIY” ethic since we could hand-stamp each and every one. Sometimes when we are tasked with stamping a big pile of bags, we might wish we had taken a different approach – but when it comes down to it, we are glad we chose this route. We’re also glad that the small amount of business we provide to London Rubber Stamps is a part of their long history in this city.

hbc cowichanThis week saw the launch of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s line of Olympic-themed sportswear in honour of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. But one garment in the collection–a Cowichan-style sweater (pictured above)–has attracted criticism. Coast Salish elders have called into question HBC’s decision to contract the manufacture of the sweaters to a non-Cowichan company. Cowichan Tribes chief Lydia Hwitsum claims that the traditional Cowichan design (like the one pictured below) is the intellectual property of her people.

Traditional Cowichan sweater

The discussion brings up interesting questions about who “owns” traditional designs, and how handmade things are used as cultural symbols.

You can read more about the Cowichan sweater tradition here, and here. There is also an NFB documentary on the subject, called “The Story of the Coast Salish Knitters”. Interested in questions of intellectual property and clothing, check out intellectual property lawyer Susan Scafidi’s excellent blog, Counterfeit Chic.

spider silk shawl

Not long ago, I read about the seemingly lost art of spinning gossamer–yarn plied from spider silk–in Judith MacKenzie McCuin’s wonderful book, “The Intentional Spinner”. Then, the other day, Brady Muller, chef at our neighbour Ciboulette Café, sent me a link to an article in the New York Times about an astonishing textile currently on display at New York’s Museum of Natural History: an 11-foot cloth woven from the silk of the golden orb spider of Madagascar. This is a contemporary textile, the brainchild of a British textile historian and an American fashion designer. It is breathtakingly beautiful, strong and priceless. What an inspiration to spinners–or should I say, aspiring spiders!

flax fibres

A Harvard-led team of archeologists and paleobiologists examining microscopic soil samples from a cave site in the Republic of Georgia believe they have found the oldest textile fibres recorded. The tiny twisted flax fibres are thought to date back more than 34,000 years. Now that’s old yarn stash! Read more about the find here. Those prehistoric yarnies were onto something–linen (Louet’s Euroflax lace and sport) is a favourite of ours, too.

louet sport champagne

Cathy is merriment
Mimi is starlings
Morgan is pomoboho
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