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Sally Fox and the World of Naturally Colored Fiber

Jan 29, 2013

by Karen Brown handmade and vintage goods

In the world of fiber, there is a name so legendary that I have sometimes heard it whispered in reverence: Sally Fox. A colleague of mine used it recently as an exclamation point to a discussion on cotton growing: “Sally Fox!” she declared, snapping her notebook shut. Linda, from Northern Bay Handspun wrote me to say,“I think Sally Fox is a hero. I am so grateful for the years she spent working to give us something that we can feel so good about wearing next to our skin.”

So who is this woman who inspires so much interest and devotion?

Karen Brown

A few samples of Sally’s organic grown-in color cotton fabric, woven commercially in the US in the 1990s.

Sally Fox introduced naturally colored cotton to the world in 1989. She didn’t invent it – it has existed in nature for eons – but Sally did what no one thought was possible: she carefully hand-bred ancient, naturally pest-resistant varieties into long staple cottons that can be spun by conventional mills. And she did it using organic and biodynamic growing methods.

Travis Meinolf  

Sally’s cotton on a hand loom.

When Sally was working her way through college – teaching, spinning, and handweaving – she heard a story at the Southern California Handweavers’ Guild that changed her life.

“I heard about a local high school crafts teacher who was really into synthetic dyes,” Sally said. “She never took any precautions, never wore gloves, never did anything to protect herself from chemicals. She wound up in a convalescent home with brain damage, apparently from absorbing so much of the stuff through her skin. I couldn’t believe it! I did research, and discovered that a lot of the same companies who make pesticides also make dyes. From that moment forward I decided I wanted nothing to do with dyes. I started seeking out natural colors for all fibers.”

Paige Green 

A naturally colored cotton boll.

The unhealthy effects of chemical dyes have been noted by the World Bank, who estimates that almost 20 percent of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment. They have also identified 72 toxic chemicals in our water solely related to textile dyeing.

“Later, I worked for a cotton breeder for a summer,” Sally continued. “He had all white cotton and the breeding was very boring. But he had a bag of short staple brown cotton, just a bunch of brown cotton full of seeds. It was the first time I had ever seen colored cotton and I fell in love with it. He said there was no market for it. But I was in my twenties, so I said, ‘Why don’t we make a market for it?’ He said to go for it and I did. I went through all those seeds and hand-spun the cotton connected to every single one. I decided which ones were the easiest ones to spin and I planted those. That was the beginning.”

Left: Northern Bay Handspun; right: 2NFrom.

Items made with Sally’s cotton: Handspun yarn from Northern Bay Handspun; a quilted tote from 2NFrom.

Season after season, Sally carefully bred colored cotton – eventually under the trademarks FoxFibre and Colorganic – in shades ranging from camel to tobacco to dusky green. She cross-bred it with long staple cotton to develop fibers that could be spun by conventional mills. Although the difference in length might seem slight – “short staple” cotton can be up to 1.15 inches long; “long staple” starts at 1.25” – it was a strategic difference that produced colored cotton with the potential to go mainstream. She also discovered that the tannins in colored cotton made it more pest, mildew, and fire resistant, so much so that a bale properly stored can last up to 100 years.

Paige Green

A vest made from Sally’s Buffalo Brown and Palo Alto Green yarn.

Along with grown-in color, Sally began investigating healthier, more sustainable methods of growing. Conventional cotton is the most toxic crop in the world. Although it only occupies 3% of the world’s farmland, it consumes more than 25% of the insecticides and 12% of the pesticides used worldwide. (Insecticides are used to kill insects; pesticides are used to kill insects and other creatures, including birds, mammals, mollusks, and microorganisms.) In the US, 25% of the all pesticides used domestically are applied to cotton. For Sally, whose love of insects fueled her pursuit of a degree in entomology, using poison to kill insects was never an option.

Paige Green

A 2011 benefit fashion show included a jumpsuit and shawl made with Sally’s cotton. Boiling the green cotton for the shawl darkened it to a more intense shade.

At one point, Sally ran a $10 million dollar business in naturally colored organic cotton, all grown, spun, and woven in the US. Then mill closures, outsourcing of the textile industry, and resistance from growers who worried that her pollen might drift into their white cotton fields challenged the structure of her business.

It took a while, but she is emerging from what she calls “hibernation.” “Now, I work with one mill in Japan and I have a US spinner for my cotton again,” she said from her biodynamic ranch in California’s Capay Valley, where she talked to me while bottle-feeding lambs from her multi-colored merino sheep. “What I am best at is R and D. I really know how to grow, and I really know how to design yarn and fabric. I am very excited about working with communities both inside and outside our local fibershed.”

“The best part is seeing someone get enjoyment out of what you grow,” she said. “It’s so exciting to see what someone talented does with your material.”


  • SusanFaye

    Susan Faye from SusanFayePetProjects said 8 years ago

    Wow! some shocking statistics here...20 percent of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment? In the US, 25% of the all pesticides used domestically are applied to cotton? Time to re-think what we wear and where it comes from! Thank you Sally Fox for "planting the seeds" and giving us the opportunity to move toward something more healthy, sustainable, and beautiful!

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 8 years ago

    What a dynamic woman! We knitters have known about her for a while. A better world one skein at a time.

  • mlezcano

    Mary Lezcano from BellaBboutique said 8 years ago

    Yet another conciouse effort to move us forward in a more sustainable and healthy way, hoorah!

  • EmSewCrazy

    Emily from EmSewCrazy said 8 years ago

    Neat story. I didn't realize cotton could be grown in different colors.

  • LeasaMarie

    Leasa from LeasaDesigns said 8 years ago

    So informative - thank u!!

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 8 years ago

    What a great story! Amazing :)

  • gboliver

    Gail Oliver from AttentionGetting said 8 years ago

    Let's hope this becomes the norm for the textile world.

  • Waterrose

    Rose Waterrose from Waterrose said 8 years ago

    What a great article. Living in Arizona there are cotton fields all around; however, many are also disappearing. I never thought about all of the chemicals used to grow this crop... thanks so much for the information.

  • atelierraniera

    Raniera from AtelierRaniera said 8 years ago

    That's a very inspiring story! Thanks for sharing it!!

  • SheppardHillDesigns

    David and Celeste from SheppardHillDesigns said 8 years ago

    Great article. Hats off to Sally!

  • nitablum

    Nita Blum from GoldenPlumeJewelry said 8 years ago

    what a beautiful art form :)

  • FireIslandSoap

    Billy Bubbles from FireIslandSoap said 8 years ago

    this is brilliant I'm LOVING IT!

  • kgpaintings

    Kirsten Gilmore from PaintingsByKEGilmore said 8 years ago

    An excellent article with lovely pictures. Thank you for sharing. :)

  • Plastidermy

    Chris Evans from Plastidermy said 8 years ago

    Naturally dyed fabrics is definitely the direction I'm moving in, anything that keeps us healthier and is sustainable gets my approval.

  • CafePrimrose

    Amanda Gynther from CafePrimrose said 8 years ago

    Oooh nice! I love all things natural

  • GirlyForever

    Alexandriani from Alexandriani said 8 years ago


  • TreadleLady

    Donna Kohler from TreadleLady said 8 years ago

    Great article. The loom makes my heart pitter patter with memories of learning to weave in Hawaii. Ok, Donna, (me) snap out of it, don't have room for a loom, too many iron beauties around. Cotton is my choice in fabrics, interesting information, thank you, will look at things differently.

  • exploreroftheworld

    Riley from UnicornChic said 8 years ago

    Ah, this is wonderful

  • needleheadcrafts

    Megan Woods from MWMeganWoods said 8 years ago

    Thanks so much for bringing us this information! I learned about 'FoxFiber' while studying Fashion Design, but we didn't really focus on it as a viable alternative and what it really was all about. I had no idea it was all resting on one incredible woman!

  • amysfunkyfibers

    Amy Gunderson from amysfunkyfibers said 8 years ago

    Wonderful article. Thank you for sharing this great story of a woman so dedicated to natural fibers.

  • tonyadailey

    Tonya D from LuxeModernDesigns said 8 years ago

    I love that people are into more natural items!! This was a great article!

  • JackieDoremus

    Jaclyn Doremus from TheLandofCraft said 8 years ago

    Fantastic post! So interesting!

  • mysteryschool

    ian from MysterySchool said 8 years ago

    Wow! This woman is my hero! I love that she cares about the dyes and the growing process being as eco-friendly as possible!

  • wabiSabo

    wabiSabo from IndustrialSafari said 8 years ago

    One of the most informative and relevent posts I've seen lately. Thank you. A revival of the economy hinges on us being able to bring industries, such as textiles, back online in the USA. Hopefully brave souls such as Sally Fox will influence that revival.

  • Parachute425

    Terry from Parachute425 said 8 years ago

    Thanks for the introduction to this pioneer. Makes me want to read more on this subject.

  • elisabethringewald

    Elisabeth Ringewald from MaineCoonCrafts said 8 years ago

    Wow, truly inspiring, we are just so un-aware of the dangers of products that we take for granted, the pioneer spirit that made America...

  • empanada

    Sharon Amezquita from BasquePebble said 8 years ago

    Thanks for bringing awareness.... we need to be more responsible and eco friendly.

  • rystorteboom

    RY Storteboom from KnitGoodWomanKnit said 8 years ago

    In the end, Mother nature does it best.

  • ovoron

    OkSana from AroundNature said 8 years ago

    Wonderful woman and a great story - that's a gift for those who like all natural things that such people exist and inspire us.

  • MetroGypsy

    MetroGypsy from MetroGypsy said 8 years ago

    Lovely work! And what an intriguing read on sustainability!

  • GlistGal

    GlistGal from FindYourGlist said 8 years ago

    Karen, thank you so much for this wonderfully researched article. I am so grateful to have been given the back story to this amazing family of fibers. Having handled some of Sally's yarns, I know the truly deeply satisfying experience of something that is authentic, value driven, and beautiful on multiple levels.

  • fineartstoneware

    fineartstoneware from fineartstoneware said 8 years ago

    Very informative!

  • needleandfelt

    Amy from needleandfelt said 8 years ago

    I love that picture of Sally. This was a wonderful and informative post and close to my heart. I use a eco, low metallic dye and natural fibers for my makings and hope to eventually come up with a system to dye with plant base dyes. I always look forward to your posts, thank you!

  • EdelweissPost

    Patrick from EdelweissPost said 8 years ago

    This important post as truly opened my eyes to the danger of chemical dyes. Thank you, Karen for bringing this to our attention.

  • FibreFilia

    Lorraine Follett from FibreFilia said 8 years ago

    A truly inspiring story. I have the same problem with processing my naturally grown coloured merino wool - all the small processors have (but one) closed down in mainland Australia while others have gone with the flow of taking their raw material offshore to China or elsewhere, I am persevering with the now, very expensive scouring and millings costs. This is probably not financially sustainable for me but I will endeavour to find a way through it. Maybe one day someone in government and the powerful wool industry organisation here in Australia will understand that it's not all about 18 micron white merino wool to sell to the Italian suit cloth market. Just maybe, one day before I am too old to hobble around paddocks, there will be a return of the specialist processors.

  • auntjanecan

    Jane Priser from JanePriserArts said 8 years ago

    I think this is a very important article. I enjoy learning and this is packed full of great information. Wonderful and beautiful cloth, too!!!!

  • undertheroot

    undertheroot from undertheroot said 8 years ago

    This is so important, folks. We are the future and can do this!

  • LynnsLavishLoot

    Lynn from LynnsLavishLoot said 8 years ago

    Its time more of us got back to that! Great article!

  • mbueb

    Monica Bueb from MonicaBags said 8 years ago

    Those statistics are horrifying especially considering I generally feel good about buying clothes with "natural" fibers like cotton. Stats aside, thank you, Karen, for bringing another vastly important subject to etsy, with so much style and beauty.

  • Talking1

    Richard - TalkToMeGuy said 8 years ago

    Wonderful article/interview, another great piece Karen! Thank You I heart, the image of the women with cow !

  • TurtleGirlQuilts

    Julie Goolsby from TurtleGirlQuilts said 8 years ago

    Very interesting article.

  • TwitchyWitchy

    Bonnie Waller from TwitchyWitchy said 8 years ago

    I learned so much, thank you!

  • olusholaj

    Shola from YarningKnots said 8 years ago

    Au natural. I like the sound of that!

  • ThePolkadotMagpie

    Polkadot Magpie from ThePolkadotMagpie said 8 years ago

    Great informative blog.

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat said 8 years ago

    Cotton also needs a huge amount of water to grow it, taking essential water for irrigation in areas that can ill afford it. Linen & hemp are much greener alternatives.

  • PruAtelier

    Jeanne B from PruAtelier said 8 years ago

    Great article! I live for the day when all the unnatural, poisonous, toxic, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics chemicals, food chemicals, clothing chemicals and cleaning chemicals are lost to history.....and that without further polluting our waters and atmosphere!

  • lkmccray

    Linzee from lkmccray said 8 years ago

    Love the "patchwork" photo of Sally's fibers—so amazing that such variety is achievable without chemical dyes. In addition to being good for the environment, makers, and consumers, the patchwork makes clear that these fibers encourage innovation in weaving and knitting design, in order to make the most of the simple, rich palette. A win-win for us all. Thanks, Karen, for this great post.

  • TrendyThreadworks

    Phyllis Bourque from TrendyThreadworks said 8 years ago

    Information like this foundational to the handmade effort. Imagine the quality of handmade if we could source all of our materials from eco-conscious domestic pioneers. Imagine how businesses could grow and we could all be much healthier...everything from foods to homes. Ummm...didn't we used to do that??

  • blainedesign

    Karen Brown from blainedesign said 8 years ago

    It's unlikely that an industrial approach to developing materials would allow for something like LOVE to be a source of innovation. Yet throughout Sally's story, I was impressed again and again by how her pursuits are driven by love and loving care for living things. She loved spinning, and therefore selected strains of cotton to breed by spinning the little filaments that attached themselves to each seed. She trained as an entomologist and pollinator, and her love of insects made using pesticides impossible. Her values help me see how "practical" love can be, because it is so big, inclusive, thoughtful, and patient. I do not think I have seen an approach to textiles that has the potential so solve so many big problems all at once.

  • alangood

    alangood said 8 years ago

    A wonderful story. Inspirational, but full of facts and information. I hope that Sally prospers; she has shown us the way towards something better! Thank you KAREN for another wonderful post.

  • Gosyma

    Lisa Harling from Gosyma said 8 years ago

    How far astray industry did go... Breeding out cotton's natural resistance to pests and disease in order to produce a whiter, longer fibre! They are such beautiful colours. I am incredibly inspired by this, thank you. There is hope for us.... more than that, there is possibly an amazing future ahead...not only in textiles, but also for growing food, building materials, medicines, fuels... am I getting carried away?

  • GeorgieGirlLLC

    D George from GeorgieGirlLLC said 8 years ago

    Love this story and the cows.

  • softnwoolly

    Cheryl Jackson from softnwoolly said 8 years ago

    This is amazing! I had no idea cotton came in any colour other than white. I shall now investigate more. Thanks for opening my eyes.

  • fivebeansoup

    Jacqueline from ButtercupBees said 8 years ago

    Great story, so inspirational! Thank you.

  • minouette

    Ele from minouette said 8 years ago

    Thanks for another interesting read. I hope artisans here are more aware of toxicity of their materials than the art teacher poisoned by dye. It's sad that cotton agriculture has such a heavy environmental price.

  • expressyourself

    Natalia Snemis from expressyourself said 8 years ago

    Interesting story!

  • ikabags

    IKA PARIS from ikabags said 8 years ago

    Thanks for natural post ! Congrats !

  • blainedesign

    Karen Brown from blainedesign said 8 years ago

    Yes, Cheryl, and white can still be a very helpful color. For example, Sally has a color that is sort of a redwood tone -- when you spin it with white cotton, you get naturally pink yarn!

  • truecolorprints

    truecolorprints from truecolorprints said 8 years ago

    Great story!

  • allstarorganics

    allstarorganics from allstarorganics said 8 years ago

    This is yet another important story in a series of stories that Karen has brought us to remind us all that everything we do is connected to everything else. We are all beginning to understand the connection between the food we eat and the preservation of farmland, the environment, community, and farming as a way of life. This article makes clear that it is also true of the clothes we wear. Remember that the food system really includes food, fiber, flowers, forage, fodder, and fuel. In knowing more about how cotton fiber is grown and processed, and how our clothes are made and colored, we are in a position to be smarter about our choices. In doing so, we can protect and grow a US garment industry in line with a sustainable vision. We can begin to wear our values. I love the array of colors and textures of this fabric from nature. It makes me want to wear the clothes. Growing our own cotton would be an economic boon to many American communities. A small mill for processing and several sewing coops and clothing lines could grouped around each growing endeavor and be supported from each cotton planting. What a good idea.

  • Teachingmyown

    Ali and Madeline from eweandmehandmades said 8 years ago

    What an amazing woman!

  • KMalinka

    Natalia from KMalinkaVintage said 8 years ago

    Great article:O)

  • HandpaintedThreads

    Maureen from HandpaintedThreads said 8 years ago

    Very informative and interesting article! Thanks.

  • nelliemtorres

    Nellie Torres said 8 years ago

    great article! loved reading it

  • BrennysBibbies

    Ashley Noelle from BrennysBibbies said 8 years ago

    What a great article! So informative.

  • gracedmoments

    Sue Taylor-Davidson from gracedmoments said 8 years ago

    Thanks for such information! And thanks to Sally Fox who was ahead of her time....beautiful yarn, and I loved the cotton vest and the picture of the girl and the cow....such expression in that cow's eyes!

  • emwi

    Emily Wirt from emwi said 8 years ago

    Wow, I never knew that so much pollution came from chemical dyes. I've always been interested in natural dyes, but these varieties of cotton are really interesting. Such a great read. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story.

  • marysalaber

    Mary Salaber from marysalaber said 8 years ago

    Gorgeous! Capay Valley, Ca?? That's only 30 mins from my house!

  • LEFTright

    Nicole Leone from LEFTright said 8 years ago

    Such an important story to share Karen! Thank you.

  • CampbellCreekWeavery

    Kate Foreman Suko from CampbellCreekWeavery said 8 years ago

    I often think of the Peruvian cotton farmers who were resistant to growing organic cotton for EcoCotton (Sweden) until they noticed the improved health of the organic farmers and their families. We become inured to the hazards and risks. Thank you, Karen, for clearly identifying those hazards. And thank you for including Campbell Creek Weavery -

  • EnterpriseAmericana

    Enterprise Americana from EnterpriseAmericana said 8 years ago

    Great story.

  • StayArtisan

    J.K. Ramirez from HudsonBlueArtisans said 8 years ago

    Salty Fox.... I salute you. Your skills and craft are valuable. Thanks for keeping the art alive.

  • BlueMoonLights

    Alexandra Simons from BlueMoonLights said 8 years ago

    Thank you, Karen, for bringing such an important topic to the public. When we are aware of the facts, we can make better decision that influence the world and all its creatures for the better. Love the natural colors of the different cotton strains, simply beautiful!

  • 2NFrom

    Carol Frechette from 2NFrom said 8 years ago

    Thank you, Karen, for bringing Sally Fox into the limelight and for including my bag in your blog. I encountered Sally Fox in the mid-1990's when I was making hats for my company, Watership. At that time, I was making hats in my U.S.A. factory with transitional organic cotton and hemp fabrics. When I discovered Sally Fox and Foxfibre®, I was in heaven and began to make hats in denim that was woven with her naturally grown green and brown cotton. They were a big success and I still have some of this beautiful fabric that I continue to share with my current customers, now in the form of totes and zippered pouches. Hurray for Sally Fox for cultivating nature's gifts and for her continued work in biodynamics!

  • andiespecialtysweets

    Jason and Andie from andiespecialtysweets said 8 years ago

    Karen, what an amazing contribution, yet again, to inspire, inform and transform! Thank you, Sally, for taking a risk on something deemed unmarketable. And thank you for illuminating the world of textiles for us so that we can be savvy and judicious in our textile support, and more aware of the effect of fiber in our daily lives. Your work is beautiful and the love is apparent!

  • LaMeowVintage

    Regan from LaMeowVintage said 8 years ago

    When I first glanced I thought this was about natural dyes, like using mushrooms and vegetables. I had no idea cotton grows in different colors. Wow!

  • gardenmis

    Priscilla from Gardenmis said 8 years ago

    A truly inspiring story! Thank you for sharing!!

  • shecological

    Sheila Clancy from SheilaForever said 8 years ago

    So exciting. Makes me feel there is hope for the world! Thanks for sharing this story.

  • PattiTrostle

    Patti Trostle from PattiTrostle said 8 years ago

    Great article!!

  • CroquisKnits

    Jessie Steien from CroquisKnits said 8 years ago

    This is fascinating--thank you for this wonderful article!

  • DewyMorningVintage

    DewyMorningVintage from DewyMorningVintage said 8 years ago

    Enlightening article, I had no idea about the pollution dyes were causing. Thank you for changing the modern paradigm to something more healthy. Very interesting read. Thanks!

  • Chervlenyyar

    Irina, Larisa from ChervlenyYar said 8 years ago

    Very interesting! Thank you so much!

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty said 8 years ago


  • unastigsdottir

    Una Stigsdottir from Unaberries said 8 years ago

    So inspiring! Love from Iceland.

  • lilimilan

    Liza Milan from AdieuMonCoeur said 8 years ago

    Thank you for a very interesting article.......makes you wonder about so much!

  • PonyLegsStudio

    kim barbieri from PonyLegsStudio said 8 years ago

    Fantastic story with so much to give - information, a better healthier world and the knowledge that one person (again) can make a difference!

  • postmanlily

    sun li from lililililili said 8 years ago

    Nature is the best gift for us

  • eclectivist

    Kasia from Eclectivist said 8 years ago

    This is story is so inspiring, thank you for bringing it to us Karen! Not long ago I learnt of the pollution caused by the textile dyes and their possible impact on our health - we sleep in it, wear it... There is still not enough alternatives on the market so I started to learn of natural ways of dying fabrics but I never heard about dying cotton at the breeding stage!

  • PoetryofObjects

    PoetryofObjects from PoetryofObjects said 8 years ago

    One idea blossoms into creative beauty...

  • northernbayhandspun

    Linda from northernbayhandspun said 8 years ago

    Awareness, Hope, Excitement -- these are what I feel reading Karen's blog. Thank you so much for bringing Sally and her work into people's consciousness. Maybe in addition to using her fantastic cotton, more people will now ask questions about the products we wear and use and what it takes to produce them. And, of course, a huge thank you for including my words and my Sally Fox cotton yarn (Organic Desert) in your article!

  • StarTribe

    Penelope Neil from StarTribe said 8 years ago

    Thank you so much for this wonderful article. I used to dye vintage linens for my textile jewelry, but I stopped just over a year ago now; I could no longer continue to process my materials in such a toxic way, especially given that the main drive of my work is it's eco-friendly! I've been looking into techniques developed by India Flint on natural, mordant free dyes, so it's wonderful to see others like her investing their life in bringing a more sustainable facet to our lives.

  • onlymadeonce

    Carol Wagner from EclecticBead said 8 years ago

    Wow! Very informational. Thanks for sharing!

  • AuntieOm

    AuntieOm said 8 years ago

    Fantastic post! Thank you for bringing Sally Fox and her work to our attention.

  • PinkCheetahVintage

    PinkCheetahVintage from PinkCheetahVintage said 8 years ago

    Super interesting and informative!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  • BunnyInDisguise

    Bunny Hipps from MimosaMornings said 8 years ago

    Fascinating article! Definitely gives me something to think about.

  • rosebudsvintage

    rosebudsvintage from WillowsWear said 8 years ago

    Thank you for the beautiful informative story, Love the pictures of the sheep and cows. I live in a State that was where the Industrial Revolution began with the cloth mills & jewelry spilling pollution into the water for centuries. Some of my state has the most contaminated land & water in the country. I lived near a large mill and over the years the smell of the dyes emitted at night was gagging. My children still remember it. Now the mills are gone as a lot of the workers and neighbors dying from one form of pollution from the air. Glad to know that people are striving to go back to the Natural ways of life. An enormous Thanks to Sally Fox and all her wonderful products.

  • StarMountainPottery

    Jim Ed Brown from StarMountainPottery said 8 years ago

    Ohhhhhh.....finally someone that's helping instead of moaning and complaining.....Laus...Deo

  • beeanddew

    Edna from beeanddew said 8 years ago

    Wow! Wakeup call! Thanks for the article, and thank you, Sally!

  • rofelt

    Maria Romana from roFelt said 8 years ago

    Great article!

  • lorenabr

    Balea-Raitz from LorenasLaceDesigns said 8 years ago

    It's a great article! Thank you very much Sally :)

  • finethreadz

    SharonH from FineThreadz said 8 years ago

    Wonderful article! No idea that cotton could be grown in different colors!

  • hasincla

    hasincla from travelwanderings said 8 years ago

    Wow, I am so encouraged by stories like this! Making the world less toxic is *definitely* a good thing, I hope other producers can learn from Sally's success, that being ethical and maintaining a successful business don't have to work against each other.

  • TigerLiliGems

    Julia Berg from PetiteMortShop said 8 years ago

    great article. very interesting subject

  • bookBW

    Benjamin Wieler from bookBW said 8 years ago

    Gosh, thanks for the fantastic article, my favourite set of bed linens were from Foxfibre, the more they were laundered the deeper the colour got. But they gave up eventually & I still have pieces of the sheets in my recycle stash to use as base fabric for embroidery projects. I hope to sleep between FoxFibre again!

  • designlab443

    Tracy from designlab443 said 8 years ago

    Neat story!

  • RealfaerySupplies

    Betti and Jeno from RealfaerySupplies said 8 years ago

    Wow, it was a really interesting article. I never heard of natural colored cotton. Thanks!

  • InMaterial

    Peggy McCallum from InMaterial said 8 years ago

    What an eye opener! I've been thinking of moving into organic fabrics, and after reading this article, I am going to start doing some serious research. Thank you for this great article.

  • PostedProperty

    Doris Mawyer from PostedProperty said 8 years ago

    Absolutely fascinating! I made a page of notes to look up. The colors are heavenly. If only all this was so widespread that I could afford it.

  • byDelirium

    Angela from DeliriumAccessories said 8 years ago

    Amazing Story!!

  • SquidWhaleDesigns

    Elizabeth McTear from HonestAlchemyCo said 8 years ago

    I have a textile design degree, in which I only learned how to use synthetic dyes (though, we always took precautions when using them). It's only recently that I've switched to using natural indigo and am working to learn more about natural dyes for cloth. Pollution is often talked about in terms of oil, CO2 output, and the like, but hardly is the spotlight put on the textile industry. It's not only the dyes and their non-biodegradable molecules, but also synthetic fabrics, that when washed, shed billions of particles into the ocean. These kinds of facts and concerns have changed me from working with the synthetics to seeking out eco friendly fabrics whenever possible and supplementing with vintage finds. I think a radical worldwide shift is necessary in how dyes and fabrics are produced, as well as our attitudes towards "fast fashion" and cheap home goods to help really aggressively attack issues of pollution. I look forward to the revitalization of Sally Fox's work.

  • hmdonlon

    Hilary Donlon said 8 years ago

    To clarify pesticides are a management tool used by farmers, mostly to control noxious weeds and pathogens in their crops. They are dangerous in large amounts but most are applied in small amounts over a large area, think 4 ounces on 43560 square feet.

  • dheinze

    dheinze said 8 years ago

    An inspiring story! I'm glad that Sally is on the move again. Sorry, though to see that in a time when we are trying to bring more business back to the U.S. that she needs to outsource to foreign countries.

  • teazel

    Linny from teazel said 8 years ago

    what an amazing story- I realised while reading it that I actually HAVE the same foxfibre backpack hanging on a chair in the runway photo...its beautiful naturally colored cotton velour type foxfibre fabric...hmmm....I wonder where that bag is? Anyway- the sally fox story is more relevant than ever now, 15 or so yrs since I bought the bag... really inspiring!

  • VandaFashion

    Vanda Fashion from VandaFashion said 8 years ago

    What a great story!

  • inacircle

    Jeanne L said 8 years ago

    One of the best stories here ever! Thanks for so much info & inspiration :)

  • annastina52

    Anna Stina Sandelius said 8 years ago

    Agree with Jeanne L and others; one of the best - and most important - stories I´ve read on Etsy!! I will include some of the info in my next class of plant physiology (University level) when I cover plant use/abuse. BUT: I miss the "e-mail link" that used to be on this page; I want to e-mail this to not-yet-Etsy textile friends! (All are not on facebook or Pinterest or...)


    Clarice Booth from RECCIEatETSY said 8 years ago

    I love the natural neutral colors. Thanks for sharing, and I wish her all the success in her adventure. Blessings,

  • colorganic

    Sally Fox said 8 years ago

    Oh I send such an enormous heartfelt thanks to Karen and to all of you for your encouraging support and kindness in the comments above. I feel absolutely elated and filled with hope that with you backing me up, I'll get my cotton plants in the ground again this spring. The sheep are currently preparing the soil by eating all the great greens coming up in this sunny January rest from the rains. I want to also thank sincerely my many Vreseis Ltd customers- many who sell their gorgeous products composed of love and skill on this very site- for their support since 1985! And lastly, for the mill in Japan that is continuing the work of the very first Japanese (that specialized in Japanese natural dyes and historical textiles - no outsourcing involved) mill that supported my business in 1989 without whom I would never have gotten Foxfibre® into the industrial marketplace. I remain grateful for their 23 year belief in my cotton and work.

  • jessiandco

    Jessica from peachylane said 8 years ago

    Oh my goodness, this article has seriously opened my eyes. I had no idea about the effect of cotton on the environment and after reading this article I did some further research and found out about the shocking mulesing practice on Merino sheep and Australia being one of the only countries still using this practice. Being Australian this is really upsetting for me, and I think after I sell everything I currently have, that I need to take a whole new approach to my shop and the yarns that I buy.

  • oraconcepts

    Karin Lindroth from oraconcepts said 8 years ago

    There's a craft I'd love to learn. There's nothing like natural beauty. She is on my list of women to look up to for sure....such an interesting article.

  • brushcreekwoolworks

    brushcreekwoolworks from brushcreekwoolworks said 8 years ago

    I have been in the fiber business since 1983. When Sally Fox came on the scene with her wonderful cottons, we were all thrilled. From the meteoric rise, her star faded and rumors abounded as to what had happened. The prevailing rumor was that white cotton farmers basically ran her out of business because of the fear of her colored cotton crossing with their white. This was not a surprise, because that time the same feeling persisted in the sheep raisers community about colored sheep. But whatever the reasons,it's so nice to see she is coming out of "hibernation." Now would be the time to rise again, bigger, better, and more understood . I am so looking forward to seeing Sally Fox cotton on the market again.

  • aressa

    aressa from OriginalBridalHanger said 8 years ago

    Love your efforts regarding the sustainability...Kudos!

  • WoodlandCottage

    WoodlandCottage from WoodlandCottage said 8 years ago

    Just a cautionary note to this great, inspiring story. Before anyone goes out and plants any cotton seed, be sure to check first that it's legal where you live. That's right, please check with your county extension office first because in some states it is illegal to grow cotton without a permit, even for a small, private garden. There is a reason for this--it is to prevent the spread of boll weevils in areas in which it might decimate commercial crops. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but...

  • LazyTcrochet

    Tricia from LazyTcrochet said 8 years ago

    Wonderful! I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks

  • Iammie

    iammie from iammie said 8 years ago

    So interesting!

  • metalicious

    Stephanie Maslow Blackman from metalicious said 8 years ago

    What a beautiful and inspiring story about how one person can change so much. Thank you for sharing!

  • firecat

    firecat from firecat said 8 years ago

    Very enlightening, and wonderful images, thanks so much.

  • iris756

    IrisLighting from iLighting said 8 years ago

    how beautiful!!!

  • nativestrandsjewelry

    Rachel from PeppersJewelry said 8 years ago

    The picture of the loom is marvelous. The information on the dye was particularly interesting. Thank you for showing us how you work!

  • newtribetextiles

    newtribetextiles from newtribetextiles said 8 years ago

    YES!!!!! Finally some specifically fiber oriented posts! Creating these things, and educating about all these fibers is so important (not to mention beautiful). I have been working with, and wanting more access to, naturally colored cottons these past few years. Thank you so very much for this post!

  • sarahinthewoods

    sarah from ForestRoomArtYarns said 8 years ago

    Wow! I've never heard of this. Those fibers are so beautiful.

  • DeepSilence

    Sonja Bikić from DeepSilence said 8 years ago


  • underneaththeoaktree

    Natalie Atkins from underneaththeoaktree said 8 years ago

    That was a great and very informative article. Fiber is one of my great loves in life and I'm glad there's someone out there treating it, and the rest of the world, with a bit of respect. Some of those statistics were quite shocking.

  • daisyjanie

    Jan DiCintio from daisyjanie said 8 years ago

    Incredible story. Truly heartening to know someone like Sally is out there in the world! I'm sure she sleeps well at night, knowing she's doing all she can to be a good human! I design & manufacture organic fabrics for the quilting industry. My fabrics are a drop in the bucket in the market, and it is an uphill climb most of the time. It allows me to make a contribution to agriculture and industry gone distastrously awry! Thank you for sharing her story, adding facts n figures, and giving us hope!!! All the best!!

  • saulebaltaa

    Liga from DIYDigitalStudio said 8 years ago

    Great article! Inspiring!

  • Blinkett

    Blinkett said 8 years ago

    Had no idea. I can see big business shutting her down. Can't have something that is not destroying our planet.

  • FreakyPeas

    FreakyPeas from FreakyPeas said 8 years ago

    This is an amazing story. Thank you Sally Fox for never giving up!

  • millerkent

    Kent Miller said 8 years ago

    Reason for hope.

  • butikonline83

    Hendri . from butikonline83 said 8 years ago

    Finally, an issue that I am passionate about. I have looked for information of this caliber for the last several hours. Your site is greatly appreciated.

  • katkruse

    katkruse said 8 years ago

    It's so good to hear that Sally is working with her cotton again. I was lucky enough to be part of the Handweavers Guild when she first started her experiments. I can remember groups getting together to help pick and I can remember when the growers forced her out of the valley. It's great to see her back!!

  • lauraprilltoo

    Laura Prill from lauraprilltoo said 8 years ago

    thanks for a wonderful post!

  • cammyann

    C. Ann Anderson from ArtfullyAnns said 8 years ago

    Just the type of information I love reading and learning about. Thanks for pulling together the article. It's good to hear that Sally is back in business!

  • UrthForged

    Síle Murphy from UrthForged said 8 years ago

    Wow, this is fascinating!

  • Honiggras

    Sophie Wunderlich from Honiggras said 8 years ago

    very inspiring

  • JeanineDesigns

    Jeanine from JeanineDesigns said 8 years ago


  • gatehouseweaver

    Betty Forsyth from GateHouseWeaver said 8 years ago

    I love Sally's cotton roving I have been spinning it off and on for years. Now I am back in business I am looking forward to spinning and weaving her fabulous product. Thank You Sally for your years of hard work that we all enjoy now.

  • gatehouseweaver

    Betty Forsyth from GateHouseWeaver said 8 years ago

    I love Sally's cotton. Now that I am back in business I am looking forward to spinning and weaving her colors again. Thank you Sally for all your years of hard work that we now enjoy

  • AmyLueP

    Amy Lue Patrick from AmyLueP said 8 years ago

    I read about you back in the 80's when I began weaving. I am so glad you are still around!

  • Jusadreamin

    Jusadreamin from Jusadreamin said 8 years ago

    Nice Blog I Like your story

  • MonetsGardenArtYarns

    Carla Hanson from PurpleLamb said 8 years ago

    Wow! What an inspirational lady. I'd love the see the full range of colors she was able to grow and have spun.

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