Part V in a series profiling the women-owned vendors featured at the Birchtree Catering Supper Club at New Century Trust on International Women's Day, 08 March 2017.
Name of Business: The Kitchen Garden Series
Official Title: Heidi Barr, Owner
Years in Business: Four years
Size of Business: Me and Assistant Stephanie Kane just started working regularly a few months ago to help, the next person waiting in the wings is a woman seamstress.
Percent of women employees: 100%
What do you make?
Heirloom quality kitchen textiles that support Philadelphia's growing urban agricultural movement. A quarter of our proceeds go to urban agricultural programs.
What called you to your work?
I’ve always known how to sew. Prior to this, I was doing costume design. Then I joined a CSA a mile and a half from my house, and derived a lot of joy working in the field. Costuming involved a lot of mileage in the car and I wanted to refocus my work with an environmentally driven mission, applying my skills to something more holistic.
What was the best piece of advice that you were given when starting out?
The imperfect action is better than no action at all. As a perfectionist, that was very important for me to hear.
Supper Club tablescape featuring Kitchen Garden Series napkins I Photograph by BG Productions
Was this your first Supper Club?
Yes, it was so great, my first time working with Birchtree. This also marked the first time my linens were used for catering, thanks to Stephanie Kane.
What is your biggest business success?
It’s been such a feel good business. My proudest moment was seeing my whole spring collection in the Longwood Gardens gift shop. Really, there’s been a lot of yes to this business. Every time someone who has bought something from me comes back to buy something for a friend is a moment of pride.
Originally, I only made napkins out of reclaimed men’s shirt. I got some linen curtains at The Resource Exchange and started making the tea towels with a shirt sleeve edge. This got me on a path of looking for reclaimed linen. I’m committed to making pieces out of materials that would otherwise go to a secondary market or landfill. Roughly 50% of materials are made from reclaimed linen and I make pieces from offcuts and remnants. Vintage flour sacks make up the market bags and the aprons come from vintage feed bag. These pieces are dyed with logwood with an iron ore in it to give it a smoky color by my friend Tara who dreamed up the business with me.
What is your favorite thing about your workplace?
It's my home; geographically it’s the midpoint between the two growing organizations I support, the Weavers Way CSA farm at Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences and the East Park Revitalization Alliance in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood partnering with the Strawberry Mansion High School.
What is the tool/object/ritual in your workplace you could not live without?
Scissors and my sewing machine, a Juki industrial straight stitcher with a freaking motorcycle engine on it.
What woman has been your biggest inspiration?
The woman who taught me how to sew when I was a wee child, Ione Goode. She took in monograms for a living, a home-based sewer who freehand designed every monogram. She was very talented.
Nina Berryman, the farm manager from Weaver’s Way. She is one of the happiest women I know, small and strong and an amazing community builder.