After the whirlwind of last week’s Long Read on inclusivity, a post which overwhelmingly resulted in thousands of views (a lot for me), I half-jested and half-warned that this week, I’d write about my bed sheets. And here I am, doing just that - partly out of curiosity to see who stays along with me and partly because, well, I simply want to.
In Thoughtful Little Things, I take a purposeful minute to remind myself of a small thing that may have recently brought me a little moment of joy. Lest that sound a little flighty, it is simply a reminder to myself to take note of these sort of things in the first place, the sort of things I’d otherwise take for granted. In amongst all the thinking in the aftermath of my post last week, these new bed sheets have brought me whole and entire nights’ worth of much needed comfort and deep sleep. And since for the last five years, we’ve had three sleep snatchers in our midst, sleep is not something I ever take for granted anymore.
Our small set of existing plain and simple cotton sheets, while not exactly threadbare, were indeed wearing thin after years of weekly rotation that saw us through three newborns, endless night feeds and hours of lonely wakefulness in the long, long dark. Constant washing still left those sheets feeling stale. But now that our nights appear to be unbroken by babies spilling up thin milk, sleep is beginning to feel like a sip of something quite delicious in which we may all partake again.
It felt significant for me to mark this quiet and otherwise ordinary triumph by shaking out new sheets after what feels like so many years of restlessness. It feels as significant as packing away maternity clothes or discarding an old and tired nursing bra; there’s a brief forlorn tinge, a feeling of something coming to an end, but mostly a wholehearted glow of what lies ahead.
I had long wondered what all the fuss was over linen sheets and I also long assumed it was but that; a fuss for a luxurious price. Our cotton bedding had served us well and long and while not exactly cheap, was no where near as costly as heavy linen. But after having bought no sheets for years, I thought it was worth buying well. After mulling it over for quite some time, I ended up investing in linen after all. I’m relieved to have had my scepticism proved wrong; our linen sheets and pillowcases feel as soft as a slip of a thing but also weighty and warm. It’s the texture that has won me over though - homespun, a little nubby but not unpleasantly so; substantial.
At the same time, it is not lost on me that these sheets and pillowcases come at an equally substantial cost - and that too, after everything I wrote about inclusivity last week. This little story seems more simple: I saved for something we needed and also wanted and I am grateful for being able to do so. Not everyone can afford to buy less or buy better all the time but on this occasion I used our budget wisely. I invested in something not just beautiful but also ethical, because I could. I chose to shop with a conscious brand.
Aerende believes in what it calls life-changing homeware - pieces for the home that are made by crafters who would otherwise be unemployed or marginalised. Its sustainable bed linen is made at FabricWorks, a social enterprise based in East London which offers isolated women opportunities. Emily Mathieson, Aerende’s founder, explains how it works on her website:
Women facing multiple disadvantages are supported on free programmes that provide in-depth training in sewing, machining and garment making, and offer individual one-to-one support for complex issues. Courses are designed to raise aspirations, confidence, skills and well-being for women that need it most. In some cases, women enrolled are suffering depression, are survivors of trafficking, have limited English or little/no education. The courses holistically enhance skills for future employment, either with the FabricWorks production team or in the wider textile industry, or in other avenues of employment.
Emily told me the names of the women who stitched my duvet cover with such careful precision: Malika and Fathema (you can read their story here). If I am honest, several years back I would not have even considered the sort of impact I had as a shopper. I greatly admire what Emily, and so many others, are doing by raising an understanding of the ways in which we may be more considerate consumers when or if we have the choice to be so.
In the absence of matching pillowcases, Emily directed me to Deco Collective (a fine commitment to community over competition) where I picked up an olive striped pair. After some searching, I found a second set of pillows in a favourite shade of mine from Piglet, an earthy terracotta rust the colour of leaves turning in autumn and scorched bare earth in summer.
It’s made our bed a little more beautiful, our room a little more peaceful. And I also hope that somehow my act of purchasing might make a difference for Malika and Fathema somewhere along the line. I shall hold that thought in my mind as I shake and straighten the sheets, passing one hand over to smooth them out.
Conscious Consumerism is a Lie (I’m not sure I agree with all of this but it certainly put all sorts of questions in my mind)