One Block of Wood

I recently had the privilege of taking a vacation with my 10 year old daughter to Witch’s Rock, a surf camp in Costa Rica.  What a pleasure to spend a week with her, doing the thing that makes her happiest.  Right next to the camp, Robert August has a little studio where he shapes surfboards.  (For those who haven’t been forced to see this at least 78 times by a surf-obsessed spouse, here’s the trailer and the iconic poster).


One day while we were there, Robert asked my daughter if she’d like to shape a board.*  She was thrilled to get such a chance, and hopped right up.  While they were shaping, Robert mentioned that he’d been using the same piece of wood as his sandpaper block for 25 years.  TWENTY FIVE YEARS.  I can’t imagine, with all the traveling he’s done around the world, how he managed to hold on to it.  It’s worn down in the middle from the pressure of his hand all those years.

robert august block of wood

Those are their hands on the block, covered in the fine (and somewhat toxic) foam dust that coats everything when you are shaping a board.**

Wondering if others have examples of items that are this useful, that have been used for that long.  My snowboard comes to mind, but that’s such a ridiculous antique that I’m not sure it qualifies as useful.  We sail on the Laser Sam used growing up… that’s still perfectly good.  My grandmother’s piano still sits in our house.  Other examples?

Look for those items in your life… and post photos on our Facebook page if you come up with any!

*Actually, what he said was, “Princess, why don’t you come help me shape this board?”  And what she said was, “Don’t call me princess.”  

**I know this not because I’ve ever shaped a board, but because Sam used to create surfboards at Patagonia, and every time I’d go visit him in Ventura he’d arrive at the airport covered in white dust.  Not actually a great memory.

ReFleece in The Manual

the manual

I don’t usually re-post on our blog, but Cator Sparks really captured what we are all about here.  Have a read!

“With combined degrees from Northeastern, Stanford, Harvard and Yale, you would expect this power couple to be on Wall Street or CEOs of a Forbes flaunted company. Instead, Sam Palmer and Jennifer Feller have founded ReFleece, a company that designs iPad and tablet sleeves out of reclaimed fabrics. They work with some of America’s best companies (whom we like even more now!) such as Woolrich, Patagonia and Polartec.

Rather than throwing away extra textiles, the companies sort them and save them for ReFleece. They send everything from old scraps to damaged or returned garments that cannot be donated to charity. They won’t partner with just anyone; the company has to have quality materials and be eco-conscious about their wool, water, dyes and petroleum use too.

Don’t be afraid that old wool or felt isn’t going to keep your products safe and sound. With the Classic collection, all the items are double lined with recycled exteriors and upcycled fabrics on the inside. The exterior wool also resists wear, dirt and spills. The Wild Side collection is reversed with the colorful upcycled fabrics on the outside making each sleeve unique.

Recently ReFleece partnered with J.Crew and made a limited edition run of sleeves made from vintage US Army tents.  And 2014 is looking stellar for the brand. ReFleece has all sort of new stuff coming out for spring: an iWallet with room for the essentials, 4Square organizing modules for desktop, a City Bag that can carry a laptop, and some sweet little zip bags that work for toiletries, corralling cables or whatnots of all types. They will also start working with Ibex Outdoor Clothing,creating a source for  more magical wools to work with.

Stay tuned for what else these braniac sustainable pioneers have up their, ahem, sleeve on their blog.”

Vintage Tent Sleeves from JCrew and ReFleece

JCrew and ReFleece: What’s in a partnership?

ReFleece and JCrew mini sleeves

Made from vintage US Army tents. Limited edition.

What does it mean to form a partnership with a large corporation like JCrew?  Prior to starting a company, I assumed it meant lawyers and contracts and big meetings with people in suits.

In real life, what it meant was meeting a cool guy named Jamie (no suit), who also keeps chickens (like us), and who works for JCrew as a Style Ambassador, and one thing leading to another.  It involved a very fun trip to the JCrew headquarters in NYC, but no suits.  Some contracts, but nothing scary.

It also involved some dumpster diving.  Jamie found some beautiful fabric in the dumpster, and we turned it into cases.  They were gorgeous, but in the end, we didn’t use that fabric this go-round.  Maybe next time.

What did work was these sleeves, made out of some old canvas Army tents that Jamie found.  We made a limited run, and each one is hand-stamped (on the back, there is a number that indicates where in the run each one is).  Each one is truly unique: many have patches, scratches, even marks presumably made by whoever used them.  I couldn’t help imagining, as we looked through them, who used these tents.  I don’t know what era the

y are from (presumably soliders now use nylon, not canvas?), but someone, sometime slept in these tents, far from home.

ReFleece for JCrew packaging

So hats off to JCrew for supporting a small, U.S. based company (us) and for being cool enough to rescue fabrics from the dumpster.

Improper Bostonian

Improper Bostonian

So pleased to be judged Improper…

The Fall Cases Are In!

The Fall Cases Are In!

Bumper and Bernice visit us at the fall photo shoot


It’s been awhile since I last wrote.  So much going on!

The Big News

We have added a new partner brand!  Woolrich has started supplying ReFleece with material, damaged garments, other other textile scraps that would otherwise have gone to waste.  So we are now ReFleece-ing good old wool fleece as well as the PET fleece from our original partners, Patagonia® and Polartec®.  And it’s BEAUTIFUL!!!

woolrich IPS and IPM red and green

Part of the reason we have been absent from the virtual world for awhile has been all of the traveling in the real world we’ve done with ReFleece this spring and summer.  And one of our favorite trips was to Woolrich, Pennsylvania, to meet with the good folks there, and tour the oldest continuously operating woolen mill in the USA.


Spools of thread, waiting to be dyed

Dyed wool thread, on the way to being woven

Rob with wool_smaller

Woolrich Plant Manager Rob, our fearless tour guide

Not only was the tour of the mill amazing, it was terrific to visit a town where an American company has maintained a presence for over 150 years.   One of my favorite parts was seeing the houses that line the streets leading up to the mill, which were built by employees during the Depression, in order to keep them employed when work was scarce.  It reminded me of the stories about when Malden Mills, the original maker of Polartec fleece, decided to keep all employees on payroll after the factory burned down in 1995.  Sam and I were working at Patagonia at the time, and the story made a big impression on us about what it means to be a responsible business.

Available in stores (we will post locations on our website) starting in fall of 2013, the Woolrich cases will be tagged with their company of origin, but you can spot them easily by the iconic wool patterns on the outside.

And last but not least, a tip of the hat to rural Pennsylvania.  We had a beautiful drive down and back, and saw bits of America along the way that sometimes we miss holed up in front of our screens in Boston.  Looking forward to the next visit this fall, when leaves will be turning, and we’ll make time for those prime local stops we missed the first time, like this one.


The Wedding Registry: Was Your Grandmother Greener than you Thought?

Can a wedding registry be an act of eco-intelligence?

Can a wedding registry be an act of eco-intelligence?

I always thought that registering was a bit, well, gauche.  Greedy.  As in, “Hey, we’re getting married, so to celebrate, why don’t you read this long list of stuff we want and buy us some of it?”   That didn’t stop me from doing it, by the way. We had a ball running around REI making a wish list of every cool tent and camp stove we coveted.  And after a great deal of persuasion from my grandmother, we even registered for dinnerware.

Twelve years of marriage and two kids later, I was loading those very same plates into the dishwasher yesterday, and I realized that we have used these colorful plates, handmade by a wonderful artist in California, almost every day of our marriage.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner.  They have a few chips in them now, but they still work just fine, and they’re still quite beautiful.

I never would have bought these plates for myself.  They were expensive, in other words.  But thanks to the registry and friends of my parents, who knew a thing or two about long marriages, we received a full set for our wedding, alongside the tent and a really nice camp stove.  And all of them are still working just fine.

A damn fine camp stove.

A damn fine camp stove.

In an age when we are encouraged to think of our possessions as short-term fashion accessories, and to hunt for lowest possibly price in acquiring them, I am thinking again about the value of a wedding registry.  In one sense, it is a chance for a community  to come together to invest in items that are meant to last a lifetime for a couple, and even to be handed down to the next generation.

Now, a wedding registry filled with plastic items from Bed, Bath & Beyond is not what I’m talking about here.  But a set of china or stoneware that will be used for a generation or two is worth writing down, so that everyone can get on the same page and give the couple something useful.  Perhaps if we called it a “crowd-sourced sustainability investment,” it would get more play with the hipster set?  In any case, I’m tipping my hat to my grandma, who had it right all along.


My Granny and me.

My Granny and me.


Money Magazine: Prototypes, Patagonia, and Presses





Cool creations from Somerville

Cool creations from Somerville.

ReFleece Goes Fringe


Cool, right?  These letters belong to Mike Dacey, who owns Repeat Press, and who manages Fringe — an awesome studio workspace that is now home to ReFleece as well.  The old-fashioned press is right across from our space, flanked by pots of saturated, thick paint in big pots… it’s a visual feast.

Last winter, when it became clear that it was time for us to move out of the cold basement and into an actual office, we dragged our feet.  Sam said he preferred to stay put, surrounded by his beloved antique tools (and wearing mittens), rather than end up in a cubicle again.  So home we stayed.

But come spring, a friend mentioned that he was vacating his space at Fringe, an old warehouse that had been turned into a shared workspace, so we decided to check it out.  The first hopeful sign was the chicken coop  in the parking lot (we later found out that it belongs to the folks next door at Metro Pedal Power).  On the other hand, the constant stream of young hipsters was a bit intimidating.  Would a soccer mom fit in here?  Would I have to get a tattoo and a better haircut?

The hipsters, it turns out, are also engineers, entrepreneurs, and artists, each starting his/her/their own little engine of economic development.  To a person, they have been helpful and generous, sharing resources and ideas, as well as friendly smiles and a dose of encouragement.  I am still struggling to learn names (I am AWFUL at names), but I finally figured out that most of the men are named Mike, which did help.

Pretty Things Beer operates out of the corner office, with Cuppow right next door.  ReCover Green Roofs has the space next to ours, and I get happy every time I see the pictures of the green roofs they are building.

Stebs Schinnerer runs Paper Fortress, which I am assuming does absolutely amazing videos, because every time I walk by there is rad music playing and someone skateboarding, snowboarding, or otherwise being amazing on the monitor.  He lets us use his photography studio, which is downright decent of him.

There are many more cool businesses there:  Natalya Zahn does gorgeous animal illustrations; Foret creates floral designs and installations.  RocketMouse and Atedrake both do kick-ass web design.  (And they sit right next to each other.  Which is confusing.)  Michael and Christine run Price Hamilton Design/Build, which means they get to, well, design and build all day, which makes Sam slightly jealous.  Plane Paper makes beautiful laser-cut designs.  And Brian Hart paints stuff like this, which speaks for itself.

Painting by Brian Hart

We moved in this summer, and are busy organizing the space.  Or at least, we are going to organize the space.  Soon.  Drop by and say hello!

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