Empire Wool & Canvas News

Old is new again….I think.

May 21, 2018 Category:
old/New hybrid landing net

We’ve got this stash of older fishing gear from my wife’s family. Some is good. Some is golden. Tucked away in there was a Jim Haney landing net. The mesh was rotted, the wood worn bare and cracked. It took it to task. Sand, glue, seal, varnish, etc. The grain and color popped to life. I wanted to add a fish-friendly net bag. I tried 3 sizes or rubber, and used yards of string before I found the fit.  That involved drilling lots of holes. The result was a pleasing mix, like Disturbed singing ‘Sound of Silence’. Sure, I’ve already got an Kmart alumonster, and a shiny new Fishpond. But this Old/New net one is my favorite.

This distracting project came a time of the year when I am left to spin. Winter is over. “Did we do OK?” “Were folks pleased?” I count the shipments, tally the count per item, and re-read the feedback. I lounge on social media, claiming “It’s research honey…there are other brands out there saying stuff..”  That last part got to me this year. I used to operate in my stealthy niche. I knew most of you by name. I never took my gaze off my work. Now there’s serious effort to bring wool and cotton up to speed. I saw EWCC mentioned on another company’s website.  Filson just tried to buy a load of gear off ours. Buttery soft Merino Wool shell fabric is hot, marketable, and pricey. Plastics are out because they’ve shown up in our microbrews and our kids. There’s a Canadian hooting about his bestest-ever version of our Boreal Shirt. Whoa. #nineyearsofborealshirts

John Chase of Chase Harper Bags told me in December 2010:  Keep your eye on the road, and don’t look in the mirror unless you hear a horn.”

I see 4 lanes of headlights. That’s probably why I shut down and blew off work to make fishing stuff- one high ride chest/backpack combo with a fishing net holster…. Oooh, fun.  But I returned to the shop, and dug deep. Search engine optimization, keywords, and target audience are terms I  never cared about before. I just bumped along for the last decade making the stuff I liked. I’m using the same patterns I made in the 90’s. Incorporating natural fibers was a novelty, not my mission. Empire gear is the latest set of products in a long line. However, I can’t seem to shake the need for some fleece, nylon, and the occasional zipper. I may have doomed my Karma with the unholy marriage of petrochemicals and itchy blanket wool.

Honk honk. Here they come.

Then again, it’s Spring. I should mow. I should ride. I should hit the mouth of the river and spook the Steelhead. I should work a little.

Wait. I did all that two weeks ago Thursday May 10th. It was 38 degrees F when I watched the sun come up at the lake. No fish. Cold toes. Sidi’s are great for fishing. I bought coffee and bakery goods on the ride back up the hill, fly rod wagging like a whip flag on a Big Wheel. I swapped the net from my lumbar pack and strapped on a few boxes for the post office. Jack ran along side….for a few blocks at least. By lunch it was 48F.  Yardzilla the 5HP Toro was cooling under the shed roof. I was neck deep in cut vests, still wearing mine. It’s not even a new one. Mine is 6 years old, Emerald green, and laced with Collie fluff. I wash it about once per year, and wear it morning to night. It works for me. Active, passive, sporty, errands, and fun. That combo of new and old seems just about perfect….by accident of course.

I remembered May 10th just as I finished the net. One vest, a dozen  pursuits in the course of one day. Wallet, keys, license, Looper bugs, 1lb of ground coffee in the rear pocket, mud spattered up the center. I felt better. I also remembered a Garrett Conover quote I used in a radio interview about natural fibers vs synthetics:

“Everything we use is drenched in blood and diesel fuel.”*

It reminds me to give 100%. It’s my compass rose. Don’t build crap, because the world has already paid a heavy price for your materials. So, I’ll stick to my blend of Old/New textiles until I don’t like it any more. I’ll keep using my Old/New net too.

I need to mow again, apparently.



*Garrett wasn’t exactly sure what he wrote, and I can’t remember either because my copy of A Snow Walker’s Companion is AWOL. He said I could say it anyway.