Janet at work in her sewing room

by Rachel Everett-Fry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Janet’s Artisan Coats is bringing sustainable and striking outerwear to Kemptville. Janet Stark of Kemptville transforms old wool blankets and other found textiles into beautiful coats full of new life. Trained as a dressmaker and tailor, Janet has also taught sewing and design at the Kemptville College.

“My mom taught me to sew. I love colour and I love wool. I did have a career, but now that I’m retired, I thought I would go back to my first love — sewing.”

Her passion and history with the craft is clear: each coat is a work of art. Janet dreams up themes for each jacket: adding appliqués, embroidery, unique buttons, linings, and trims to build completely unique designs. But Janet’s work is more than just art, it’s also recycling.

Though the project took off as something to keep Janet “busy during Covid,” the actual inception of the project happened shortly before Covid. Janet explained that she “found a blanket in my aunt’s garage after she had passed away, and we were cleaning up her things.” This blanket was “frozen in a lump, full of oil stains” and destined for the dump. But Janet “took another look at it and decided to take it home.” With nothing to lose, she laundered the wool blanket, even though you are not necessarily supposed to wash them in such a manner. It emerged spotless. From this blanket, Janet made her first custom coat.

From there, Janet became interested in “sustainable sewing.” Her “ethic is doing something out of nothing.” She’s not the only one: sustainable sewing is a growing movement, aimed at reducing textile waste, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and develop fair labour practices.

Janet says that it’s not only a waste, but a loss “if you’ve got a good piece of textile, and it only sees one life before going into a landfill.” In today’s era of fast, synthetic fashions, quality wool textiles are increasingly hard to come by: consumers favour clothes that are cheap, trendy, and easy to care for. But this has a cost: fast fashion is notorious for relying on cheap labour from offshore factories, and for quickly falling apart or out of style.

North Americans send about 10 million tonnes of clothing to landfills each year. Reusing, or repurposing, these textiles saves on the materials and processing required to produce new textiles. Further, though corporate suppliers of most of the clothing we purchase negotiate, for better or worse, labour laws and fair trade mandates, keeping things local keeps things simple. Customers are invited to Janet’s own home workshop. When the supply chain is that short, transparency and trust are easily facilitated.

Wool coats can last for years, even decades. Janet also happily takes custom orders. If you have a wool blanket, or a blanket of any of type, that has been kept in the family without much purpose, having Janet make a custom coat from it may give it a whole new lease on life. Janet also welcomes donations of wool blankets that folks don’t have use for, but don’t want to throw away either.

For more information, contact Janet at [email protected], or home phone 613-258-3323. You can also visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/JanetsArtisanCoats



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