Heidi Barr gained her textile know-how as a costume designer. Now, she uses that experience, coupled with a passion for sustainable kitchen products, as a basis for her business at Kitchen Garden Textiles.
“Our goal is to provide beautiful and practical kitchen textiles that help people live without synthetic fabrics, plastics or single-use disposables in their home or restaurant kitchens,” Barr explained.
Kitchen Garden Textiles started with the seemingly simple act of repurposing cotton shirts into napkins, which Barr sold to help support a local farm. Although her line of products made from reclaimed and natural materials has expanded, her goal of supporting community farms stands strong. Based in Pennsylvania, Barr has most recently partnered with Emma Cunniff, who runs Kneehigh Farm and provides indigo for Kitchen Garden Textiles, in a mission to plant and develop a flax crop in the area.
Linen is made from flax, which grows well in various types of soils and requires little water, fertilizer, or pesticides. Flax is also stronger when it’s wet than when it’s dry, making it the perfect material for towels. For towels and napkins expected to clean up messes, flax does the job, because it’s 20% more absorbent than cotton. Plus, it has anti-bacterial and stain-resistant qualities. The linens are OEKO-TEX certified, so they are guaranteed to be made without harsh chemicals; they are compostable when they eventually wear out. In addition to the primary flax, Barr uses other natural fabrics like reclaimed cotton, remnants from other sewing rooms and vintage hemp blends.
Relying on natural materials for her napkins, aprons, market bags, paperless towels, coffee filters, tea bags and other products was a must for Barr. Her past experiences opened her eyes to the dangers of making fabrics that cause waste and pollution, like much of the fashion industry. “Using, wearing and washing natural fabrics like linen in our day to day lives can mitigate a slew of environmental problems, from polyester microplastics in the oceans to unrecyclable plastics in landfills. I’m optimistic that the more people have access to quality natural textiles, the easier it will be for them to make the switch.”
Barr has continued her efforts to support local, sustainable farmers with a portion of profits going to regenerative farms in the state. Now known as the Pennsylvania Flax Project, the farm she helped plant will be a future source of material for Kitchen Garden Textiles, but it’s not the only goal in growing the useful crop.
“This first flax field will be our chance to get familiar with the plants and see how they thrive in our locale,” Cunniff said. “We’re excited to learn how the local bees, pollinators, and other beneficial insects take to the flax flowers and help bolster the farm crops. And, of course, we look forward to reaping a bountiful harvest!” Future plans for Kitchen Garden Textiles include establishing its own company mill.
Photography by Zoe Schaeffer and Ted Nghiem via Kitchen Garden Textiles