The holiday season is nearly upon us and shoppers are more discriminatory than ever about where their clothing comes from and who makes it. There are several sites that I think offer excellent products, in different price ranges. In the upper middle price range, Granted, from British Columbia, Canada sells handmade sweaters that run about $300 US. They have a variety of designs from classic and simple to more whimsical with hula dancers and Smoky the Bear. The quality and consistency is evident and while hula dancers on a sweater may seem funny, it really does work. They have a variety of colors and designs and it is not hard to imagine at least one on your Christmas list who would really be pleased at receiving a Granted sweater.
Threads of Peru has everything you would expect, shawls, ponchos, those cool Peruvian hats, fingerless gloves, beanies. (I kept thinking the only thing missing was Salma Hayek, although not Peruvian, in one of their ponchos.) South American style (some using the techniques of the Quechua), beautiful handmade clothing does not come cheaply, though. The ponchos range from $425- $750. They also have great alpaca bedspreads that run $1,515. I will have to tell my friend, Brian the alpaca breeder, about that one....
Threads of Peru- poncho
I want to also highlight a company in New Mexico called Rainbow Gate. They don't sell clothing, but make beautiful ceramics. I like their rainbow ware and saturn rings collections of dinnerware. Most items range from about $50 - $180.
Rainbow Gate- Saturn Rings
In Amish country, a number of artisans produce high-quality quilts, pillowcases and other domestic items. Amish Country Lanes has a large inventory of quilts, both large and small hanging of the patchwork, Amish colors, Christmas and embroidered quilts. The simple lifestyle and dedication to quality work is evident in their work. Production of the quilts is very exacting and detailed. Each large quilt has between 40,000 and 50,000 stitches. Patchwork quilts are designed so not only are the stitches perfectly uniform, but invisible. Designs range from the traditional:
Amish Country Lanes
...to the more abstract:
Amish Country Lanes
Scotland is famous for its quality wool and knit clothing. Wool is important in keeping warm in Scotland's cool, damp climate. Also, here are so many sheep and so many people knitting that the competition has driven quality to the very top. Kilvaree is a small croft on Scotland's west coast where they raise Soay sheep, a rare and primitive breed that is registered with Britain's Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Using age-old methods of collecting wool ( they are not shorn, but the wool is shed and collected in the fields and near the trees the sheep rub against!) and "solar" dying the wool, the owners produce distinctive felt and unique handmade Crofter's Bags (women's handbags).
Kilvaree Croft Bag
Finally, there is a new site, Caucacaus Mountain Knits. The Caucasus Mountains are beautiful, remote and rarely visited due to a lack of infrastructure. The products are made in the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, where useful and warm socks and mittens are necessary and the distinctive Karbarino slippers and dzhurabi are produced by hand. The sheep are shorn using hand clippers, the wool is dyed and the yarn made using methods handed down from generation to generation and mostly older women (babushki) make the uniquely designed, durable and warm dzhurabi and other items. Take a look at the products and also the photos and videos of the Caucasus Mountain backdrop and people who make Caucasus Mountain Knits. Because the area is remote and impoverished, buying from CMK makes a measureable difference in a place with little industry or tourism. Prices are modest and range from about $12 up to about $28 (for cool and popular dzhurabi).
Caucasus Mountain Knits