Packaging is a dirty word.
Usually associated with plastic, waste and chemicals.
Did you know that every year the UK generates more than two million metric tons of plastic packaging waste. This equates to roughly 36 kilograms of plastic packaging waste per person. It’s a serious problem.
Most packaging is printed using chemical based, water thirsty inks which leave a toxic waste pool when they end up in our water systems. These are chemicals with complicated names like toluene, isopropanol, 2-butanone, ethyl acetate, and methanol.
When we set out on our vision to create clean clothing. It was a given that our packaging would have the same integrity.
The exploration began to find packaging with a conscience and packaging that has a GREAT story to tell.
The Magic of Mushrooms
We started exploring the fascinating work of The Magical Mushroom Company who harness the natural flexibility and strength of mycelium, the material structure of fungi. These use it to grow protective packaging at any scale by combining it with agricultural waste like hemp, cork and sawdust. This offers a safe, sustainable and totally home-compostable alternative to plastic foams.
We love the innovation. 10/10 guys. Why didn’t we go for this? We needed more versatility in our packaging so it would fit through your letterbox. We will definitely revisit this in the future though.
Who gives a shit? We do
Packaging made from poo. Yes, you heard it right, but the elephant kind. Did you know an elephant can defecate 16 times in one day and its 200 pounds of dung can double as paper pulp? We came across Karl Wald also known as Mr Ellie Pooh to the locals. Karl arrived in Sri Lanka to shadow an elephant veterinarian called Thusitha.
Elephants naturally are not favoured as neighbours by farmers as they trample and destroy valued crops, so are often shot and killed. Soon the two friends found themselves looking for a way to save the elephants in Sri Lanka.
While it may not completely resolve the human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka, Ellie Pooh paper is already going a long way toward raising the tolerance of farmers toward the elephants — by actually compensating them for damage to their crops.
We love a fully circular system and Ellie Pooh is a great example. This is why we used it on the wraps around our knickers. Printed with vegetable inks they are 100% compostable.
Finally, after weighing up all the options of cost, eco credentials, locality, carbon footprint we found our star. And we haven’t even mentioned the hemp, hay, dirt bags we also explored. (Be sure we go above and beyond to find the most sustainable options for you.)
We decided to keep it local, working with a fantastic company called Seacourt based in Oxfordshire who are doing one hell of a job for the printing industry. Even the Queen approves… winning the Queen's Award for Excellence in Sustainable Development four years running.
If that wasn’t enough, they won BEST B Corp printer in the World 2021 being ranked in their Top 5% B Corp in Environment category AND have been recognised as ‘one of the top three leading environmental printers in the world' by a worldwide printing association.
Impressive credentials don’t you think?
But we didn’t just take the Queens word for it. It’s so important to us to visit and meet with all our suppliers, to get to know them personally.
At Seacourt Reg is our prepress manager, he looks after the digital machines and all the plating.
He loves working at Seacourt and who wouldn’t. The air is clean and chemical free so you don’t end up with a headache at the end of the day. On top of that their printing methods are completely waterless. Preserving valuable water supplies for future generations.
Our boxes are fully compostable and recyclable.
Seacourt, we love you. You stole our heart with your commitment to ticking all the boxes.
Learn more about Seacourt at www.seacourt.net
Want to get excited with natural dyeing?
We love natural dyes and natural dyeing. It's brilliant. Once you get started, we can assure you it’s very addictive.
Let's get inspired! Try some natural dyeing in your own home, its all about experimenting.
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Most natural dyes require a fixative, which dyers call a mordant. These help the colours bind to the fabric. Washing, Scouring and Mordanting before the dyeing process gives the most reliable and consistent results.
So here is our our guide to preparing your fabrics in 3 easy steps.
To remove any grease from your fabric put it on a 40-degree wash with an ecological soap like ecover.
Place fabric straight from the wash into a pot with enough water for fabric to move around easily. Add some ecological soap (the same amount you would use in the washing machine). Bring the water to a boil if using plant-based fabrics or to a simmer if using protein based like wool then keep it at this temperature for an hour before turning off the heat and leaving to cool. Then rinse in cool water.
Whilst there are plant based mordants (we will discuss in a later blog) for consistency and simplicity now we recommend a mineral based mordant called Alum. Alum (potassium aluminum sulphate) is considered nontoxic light metal mordant and you can use it with protein and plant fibres. The effect of alum on fibres is much improved by using an “assist” to help the fibres absorb it completely. For plant fibres use soda ash to assist and for protein fibres use cream of tartar.
If you want any information about ingredients mentioned above we love to hear from you so GET IN TOUCH at email@example.com
Weigh the fibre after it has been washed, scoured and dried. Use 8% of the weight of the fibre in alum and 7% of the weight of the fabric in cream of tartar or soda ash.
Place the fibre in a pot and allow it to soak for at least 1 hour.
Fill a pot with water that allows the fabric to move around freely and be covered.
Dissolve the measured-out cream of tartar and stir with a long wooden spoon. Dissolve the measured-out alum and stir with a long wooden spoon.
Add the pre wetted fabric and bring the solution to a simmer, cover with lid and simmer for one hour. Stir occasionally to move the fabric and make sure it is being absorbed evenly.
Turn off the heat and allow fibres to cool in pot overnight.
Wring out excess liquid and rinse in cool water. Your fabric is now ready to start natural dyeing with! Use the damp fabric to add to your dye bathe.
Have fun, slow down and enjoy the process. When you are using natural dyes you will always create something beautiful. Good Luck!
Prim x Ness
Plant burgers are now the norm. Meat-free Mondays are a national phenomenon. The Vegan Butcher has redefined the meaning of the word.
And just like plant-based diets, plant-based dyes provide unrivalled health benefits. So put down your THIS Isn’t bacon sandwich and learn about why we’re campaigning for clean colour (and then pick your sandwich up again, because THIS Isn’t worth wasting).
Just like ZDHC, we believe in a world without harmful chemicals. Safer products can be made without depleting natural resources. Yes, we’re a small cog in a big machine, but without every cog turning the light will never come on. And so, cemented in years of ancient wisdom, we’re bringing plant dyes back into fashion.
Zero chemicals and zero compromises
As one of the largest organs in our body, skin is the first and best line of defence humans have. But the introduction of fast fashion puts this at risk. By using natural plant dyes, we’re giving our fabrics the TLC they deserve – and our skin benefits from this too.
Our intimates are botanically dyed using plants that are gentle to your skin, and kinder to the planet. Plant dyes have been used for thousands of years for their unmatchable health benefits – from anti-inflammatory to antibacterial and hypoallergenic. Our clothing steers clear of harmful chemicals, instead drawing on the vibrant natural colours of Lady Bedstraw yellows, Madder pinks , Indigo blue hues and Verbadum lilacs.
We’ll always be honest about out methods. As consumers ourselves, we’re well-versed in the frustrating lack of transparency in the industry. To find out what some companies put on their cotton, you might as well don your detective cap. It’s grey and muddy, and difficult to track down the chemicals used. Why should there be a question mark about what you’re putting on your skin?
Colour fastness: just like our values, our dyes don’t budge
We know our dyes are safe, but colour fastness is paramount, whereby we measure the resistance of our fabrics colour to change or transfer in the washing process. We are incredibly proud to have met and exceeded industry colour fastness standards. Our methods are tried, independently tested in labs and proven.
Why we’re campaigning for clean colour
Sceptics will mention the agricultural land space that plant dyes take up. But our regenerative farm means that the plants used for our dyes are actually supporting the cotton – it’s a collaborative use of land. Oh, and we’re not using chemicals that are causing cancers. There’s that too.
Celebrating the colours natural colours of nature.. Made by people, powered by plants. Join our campaign for clean colour.
Clean cotton; clean water; clean colour. It’s who we are. It’s what we do.
Learn more about Bedstraw + Madder —Our pilot programs at the forefront of regenerative textiles and chemical free clothing.
Empowering farmers and reconnecting to Ancient wisdom and natural plant dyes. Sign up to our newsletter.
Bedstraw + Madder: Real people. Real lives.
Our underwear is for real people, going about their real lives.
We’re waving goodbye to an era that advocated for the Victoria’s Secret body: times are changing, and we’re changing with them. We’re here to value the inclusion of all bodies and everything that they do, by making underwear in all shapes and sizes, and celebrating comfort for real people everywhere.
Diversity isn’t only skin deep: be seen, be heard no matter who you are and what your day-to-day life entails.
Our underwear keeps you comfy whether you’re sat in an office chair, doing the downward dog or tucking into a pizza. Sending emails or serving coffee. With your best friends, colleagues or new beau. Working, twerking or tweeting. Lifting or lounging. Just ask our models: Charlotte; Alisha; Tyrece. Professional fire dancer; traveller and tailor; girlband member – in that order.
Charlotte has many bows to her flaming strings – she’s a qualified yoga teacher and art model, on top of working at Tihany Spectacular circus in Mexico as a fire performer.
Alisha models while working hard on her tailoring brand behind the scenes. She loves travel, jazz music and food (plantain being a firm favourite).
Tyrece models, acts and is a lead member of a new girl band. Her happy place is when she has the phone off and is writing songs or doing something creative.
Real people. Real lives. Real passions.
Now: which plant-dyed pants are for you?
We’ve put a sustainable spin on everyday basics, in a range of natural, botanically-dyed colours. The Classic – everything you could want from an everyday knicker – soft, comfy and made with natural materials – for those looking for fuller coverage. Or take your everyday up a notch, with our flattering brazilian shape. Don’t worry – it’s still marshmallow-soft, biodegradable and 100% chemical free.
If thongs are your thing then we’d love to hear from you, as ours are still in the pipeline. Tell us what you want from your (new favourite) underwear – our DMs are always open.
We’re making fashion kinder to people, and to the planet.
We’re not saying you should buy our underwear simply because of our ethos. But we are saying that if you do, you’ll be joining a diverse group more varied than a box of celebrations. A group that are celebrated – not despite what they do, but because of it.
Just do you. To be you.
We’re in the thralls of COP26 craziness: a week of pledges and promises from some of the world’s biggest players. But what good are commitments to a better world in five, eight, ten years? Why should we wait until 2050, 2030, or even 2025?
Especially when so many of these commitments are like New Year’s resolutions that never come to fruition (Gym membership? Diet starts on Monday? Don’t we know it).
There’s no time to waste.
The past year has proved that our climate is changing. Extremity was everywhere. Flash floods in Germany, record rainfall in Italy, typhoons in China, heatwaves in Canada, and landslides in India. People losing their lives.
And the climate is directly connected to our soil. If things continue at the current rate, we only have 60 growing seasons left until the world’s soil will no longer grow crops. Meanwhile, textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined.
"To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C, we have eight years to almost halve green house gas emissions."United Nations Environment Programme. The clock is ticking loudly.
The fashion industry needs to not only do ‘less harm’, but to actually do good. For people, and the planet. For fashion lovers of the future.
Embrace regenerative agriculture: we grow our cotton on our regenerative farm in southern India. And we’re not the only ones doing so. Patagonia, North Face, Eileen Fisher – we all see the value in regenerative methods that sequester carbon, revive biodiversity and increase profitability for farmers.
Listen to Mother Nature: research shows that contributions from women lead to long-term, successful solutions to climate change and global warming. So let’s make sure that their voices are heard. Why on earth wouldn’t we?
Go back to nature: natural, organic fibres and botanical plant dyes are good for the planet, and for your skin. Harmful chemicals are causing havoc, and polluting natural water sources. Let’s buy and create safer, cleaner, more sustainable products.
Green-washing has reared a new head: carbon. As if following a herd, companies are emerging from the woodwork, promising to offset their carbon footprints. But there are better ways – and more brands need to choose the paths less trodden. We don’t mean one-off token marketing tools, but real changes, such as carbon positive fabrics and printing methods.
The changemakers are, so often, smaller companies – they have the agility and speed to embrace the new and challenge the old. There are incredible steps being made, showing the great power in small brands. But we all need to move with the times, by saying no to unnecessary toxic pollution and the disregard of clothes at devastating human cost. We don’t have time to be talking about targets. Ask yourself and the brands you buy from: why not now?
Because we’re pretty sure it’s not 26th time lucky.
Featured image: Source @ZDHC
We all need hydration – right? It turns out that cotton does too. Known as a ‘thirsty’ crop, conventionally grown cotton requires about 10,000 litres for 1kg of cotton. Considering we’re growing cotton in a country where 70% of drinking water is contaminated, water scarcity and protecting the cleanliness of water, is an issue we want to address head on.
We’re committed to finding fashion solutions that are kind to people and planet. When we were presented with the opportunity to pilot a regenerative cotton farm in Southern India – a programme that would benefit the farmers, the soil, and the cotton – there was no question in our minds. We had to do it, and we had to do it right.
Because this is the regeneration generation. And we won’t settle for less.
Water scarcity is very real, and very scary. By 2025, it is predicted that 1.8 billion people will be living in areas with absolute water scarcity. In England – a country known for its seemingly constant showers – it can be difficult to picture this. But let’s be clear: we’re not talking about a month-long hosepipe ban, where nosey neighbours keep tabs on sprinklers and car washing. This isn’t the grass starting to lose its emerald-green sparkle.
It’s a pressing lack of safe drinking water. It’s a lack of any water. It’s not being able to grow food; not being able to provide for family; not being able to provide for a population.
And India is one of the countries most at risk.
So what’s the current situation? Data on water efficiency indicates that India uses 2-3 times more water to produce the same amount of crop than other major agricultural countries like China, Brazil and the US. This trickles down to an over-reliance on conventional flood methods of irrigation (FMI) – which don’t make the most out of the water.
And so, through working with Fibershed, our farms are fully kitted out with a drip irrigation system – giving our plants the hydration they need, without draining the resources of the community, or putting further pressure on the planet.
Going back to the roots: what drip irrigation actually means
Drip irrigation systems draw on the resources that we’re given by Mother Nature (read: rain) to slowly drip feed the roots of plants. Water is delivered precisely, without waste. Accurate, efficient, effective.
By going directly to the roots, the systems save precious water and nutrients, meaning farmers can grow crops under conditions they otherwise wouldn’t be able to; making year-round yield a possibility, even amidst the thralls of dry-season. And the statistics speak louder than we can, with on-farm efficiency of drip irrigation systems at over 90%, a wild comparison to the 35-40% efficiency of conventional flood irrigation.
So why doesn’t everyone do it?
It can be costly, making it unattainable for some farmers & farming communities. And maintenance of these systems is critical. But for us, this is still a no brainer. A quick cost-benefit analysis tells us everything we need to know. And crucially, our organic farming methods mean we’re not only saving water, but also stopping hazardous chemical pesticides from entering the already precious water supply, because up to 77 million cotton workers suffer poisoning from pesticides each year. This must stop.
But this is an evolving learning opportunity, and we’re the first to admit that we don’t have all the answers. For our first growing season, we got lucky. With a bit of good fortune from the weather-powers-that-be, the majority of our one acre cotton field was successfully rain-fed after a record monsoon season brought the rain that the Indian soil so desperately needed. For now, drip irrigation is working. But this might not always be the case, and should something change in seasons to come, we’re ready to work with farmers and partners to rethink and course correct.
Bedstraw + Madder believes we need to think differently, and challenge an apparel industry known for being dirty. We’re creating intimates with integrity, and through clean cotton, clean colour and clean water, we’re on the way to righting the wrongs of a broken system. We won’t settle for less.
If you are into natural plant dyeing then the name Flora Arbuthnott won’t be unfamiliar to you.
Daughter of fabrics and interior designer Vanessa Arbuthnott whose floral prints bring the outdoors into your home, Flora too has been inspired greatly by the natural world and has made it her work. Living in South Devon she regularly runs a range of courses helping us reconnect to ancestral wisdom and the natural world.
Can you remember the moment you first fell in love with plant dyes?
I can remember when I first did some natural dyeing with my friend Babs in 2014. It was a dark cold winter evening. I can remember taking the fabrics out of the dye pots and being amazed with the beautiful soft colours.
What was the first dye plant you learnt about?
I started working with food waste and wild plants. We made dyes with bracken, nettles, red cabbage, onion skins, and coffee grounds, using rhubarb leaves as a mordant. Now I know that coffee and red cabbage aren’t really dyes.
What is your favourite plant to dye with and why?
I love working with tagetes marigold flowers. I love the mustard yellow colour and the smell the flowers give off. I also enjoy the colours you can create from over dyeing marigolds with iron or indigo.
Why are plant dyes better than current chemical dyeing methods?
Practicing and sharing plant dye techniques is a reaction to the dyeing industry. The synthetic dye industry is one of the most polluting industries on the planet. Globally, the textile industry discharges 40,000 – 50,000 tons of dye into water systems every year. This cocktail of polluted water and chemicals, causes the death of aquatic life, contaminating soils and poisoning of drinking water.
I like to show how we can produce vibrant and varied colours through plant based processes.
Natural dyeing is also a practice of nature connection. A process for getting to know locally growing wild plants. I also grow plants to create certain colours such as orange, red, blue, green, and purple. I love how every colour has it’s own alchemical process. In art classes at school, we were taught the colour wheel and the logic of mixing colours. However with plant based colour, each plant and colour has it’s own particular recipe and process.
Can you tell us something about a wild plant dye plant growing in England that we might not know?
Fruit tree bark gives beautiful pinks, oranges, and yellows.
What do you feel is the most important thing about the work you are doing?
I see that a lot of the social and environmental issues that we face today are caused by our disconnection from the natural world around us.
Natural dyeing is one way through which we can start to reconnect. Reacting against disposable fast fashion culture to create objects of use that we have a deeper relationship with, that we endure, care for, and repair. Connecting with nature through foraging and growing our own materials. Empowering ourselves through learning and practicing whole processes of crafts from raw local materials through to finished usable objects.
Why is it important we return to our ancestral ways?
Personally, I have found that incorporating practices that are connected with nature have massively improved my quality of life. They create a sense of belonging and deeper relationship with the land. They also foster connection with community and kinship through sharing skills and processes with others.
Natural crafts are part of our cultural heritage. All around the world, we have been working with natural dyes and inks for thousands of years. It is only in the past 200 years, that we have started to lose this knowledge as synthetic dyes became popular. It has become evident that synthetic dyes are harmful to the environment. Causing health problems, killing wildlife, contaminating water and soils. So it is important that we keep our ancestral skills alive as these are our means to create our own crafts and culture independent of polluting industrial processes. To create our own culture woven from the materials of the land where we live, rather than taken from the exploitation and poisoning of other lands.
For those at home wanting to start exploring with plant dyes where would you suggest they start?
I would suggest that you start with looking around your garden and local area and learning about the plants there and what you may be able to use. Perhaps there is staghorn sumac, oak galls, buddleia flowers, dandelion flowers, rose petals, or nettles. Try using food waste such as onion skins or avocado skins and pips.
Choose yarn or an open weave fabric made from wool or silk. This will take the colours easily without too many processes.
What books or teachers have been most influential to you?
I am influenced by the work of Michel Garcia.
Jenny Dean’s book ‘Wild Colour’ is very useful.
I find ‘Make Ink’ by Jason Logan and ‘The Organic Artist’ by Nick Neddo inspiring.
Discover Flora's work at www.plantsandcolour.com
We officially have Jeremy Clarkson to thank for something, as piques public interest in the world of agriculture.
We officially have Jeremy Clarkson to thank for something, as Clarkson’s Farm piques public interest in the world of agriculture.
But here at Bedstraw + Madder, we’re singing from a different hymn sheet. Regenerative agriculture – a sustainable practice that does exactly what it says on the tin – is reversing climate change one cotton boll at a time.
We’re going back to agricultural basics at our cotton farm in Southern India. And we’re committed to doing so without cutting corners, all whilst giving consumers the transparency and traceability they deserve.
This is intimates with integrity; this is uncompromising underwear; this is conscious cotton.
This is the regeneration generation. And we won’t settle for less.
Regeneration means revival, renewal and restoration. Regenerative agriculture is all-inclusive R&R for the earth – and the planets’ soil certainly needs a holiday. If things continue at the current rate, there are only 60 growing seasons left until the world’s soil will no longer grow crops.
That’s why investing in something that not only does ‘less bad’, but actually does good – directly contributing to saving our planet for future generations – is the only way forward. There are copious benefits of regenerative agriculture for the planet; from sequestering carbon to reviving biodiversity.
But the benefits for people have just as much gravitas.
Regenerative methods, such as eliminating the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, increase profitability for farmers. Giving farmers more choice over what they grow enables villages to wave goodbye to overly-engineered crops with expensive inputs. Yes, cotton is the focus for our farm, but there are nine other crop varieties supporting it – making for a holistic system that quite literally breathes life back into our soil.
And we also support an entire artisan community on the ground. So once the cotton is ready, all the ginning, spinning, dyeing and weaving is done nearby. From field to fabric: it takes a village.
Because it’s the farmers that live and breathe their farms. This knowledge about biodiversity and land use is sophisticated, complex and experience-led – so you’d be forgiven for thinking that respecting this, and listening to these farmers, appears to be stating the obvious. We agree. Our ethos is based on it.
But wait - this isn’t new news.
For centuries, fast-fashionistas have been shoehorning in yield heavy, economically impractical practices. What remains, we hear you ask? Unsustainable farms, seed varieties facing extinction, and a hell of a big mess for the rest of us to clear up.
Regenerative agriculture methods have been used in rural Indian communities for years. We’re talking way back – before David Attenborough graced our TV screens; before non-dairy milk hit supermarket shelves; and before the word sustainable infiltrated our day to day lives. That’s why this isn’t a case of green-washing. This is a regeneration of regenerative farming. Clean cotton; clean water; clean colour.
Our next blog will tell you what to expect when buying intimates with integrity – who we are, what we value, and why we are different. Coming soon to a newsletter (sign up here), Instagram feed and website near you.