The Ideal Bandana: What's Mine is Yours
Dear Bandana Lover,
Have you stopped to think about the qualities that make up your favorite bandana, the one you reach for time and again? It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that this is something I think about all the time. I thought I had a pretty clear picture of the thing when I founded Last Chance in late 2015. Over the years, I’ve chatted with many of you about your favorite bandanas and the qualities you seek out. You’ve often described the intangible. This bandana has earned a special place because it "reminds me of my grandma" or “it just gives me confidence.”. You’ve also given me more tangible feedback, like telling me softness and absorbency are key; “I’m constantly using it to wipe the sweat off my forehead.” You love it when the print shows on both sides; “it’s just nicer that way.” Along our journey together these past seven years, my version of the ideal bandana has merged with yours. This newly revised cotton bandana is closer than ever to our shared ideals. I’ve achieved this through some adaptions of fabrication, printing, and finishing processes while finding the perfect partners to help us along the way.
Our New Fabric
Most noticeably, we have switched to a cotton voile fabric. You’ll notice this fabric is a touch lighter than our previous cambric. It’s a bit sheer when held up to the light but will still be opaque when you fold or roll it up to wear as a bandana. What’s nice about voile is the drape and super soft feeling, making it effortless to tie on without too much fuss.
What hasn’t changed is that our cotton fabric is still 100% certified GOTS Organic. Organic cotton is grown free from pesticides and uses less water than conventional cotton. GOTS is the global leader in organic standards. Its certifications cover the growing process and supply chain, including social and labor criteria. GOTS Certified means doing better for the earth, workers, and consumers.
Mercerized for Absorption and Strength
Our bandana fabric is mercerized after being woven and before printing. Mercerizing is a non-toxic, non-synthetic process invented in 1844 by John Mercer in which cotton is tensioned through a caustic soda bath (lye). Afterward, the caustic soda is washed away, but the cotton fiber is permanently altered. The cross-section of the cotton fiber is now a more rounded shape. I liken this effect to “going from squished kidney bean to cous cous.”
This transformation dramatically increases the fabric's absorption, strength, and light reflection- giving a slight sheen. Not only is increased absorption good news for your sweaty neck, but it is also immensely beneficial to our printing process.
Our New Printing Process
We can now print our bandanas as running yardage. As a textile designer, it is a thrill to have my designs printed in yardage. More importantly, this development improves our final product in the following ways.
Design Shows on Both Sides
This is a big one I’ve heard from many of you over the years. We’ve gotten close in the past with our discharge processes, but that success varied across colors and designs. The real achievement came from combining a new fabric and printing process.
Waste Not, Want Not
We have our cotton fabric woven especially for us, so we can order just the right width for printing. Printing yardage before cutting also means any shrinkage or torquing in the final wash parallels the printed pattern. This means fewer second-quality or ‘wonky’ bandanas. But don’t worry- we’ll still have some for our ‘sale pail’.
This process allows us to print up to twelve colors in one design! We love our classic two-color bandanas, but it’s exciting to think of new possibilities. I’ve only begun to explore this new realm, and later this week, we’re launching a new bandana with four colors.
Full Bleed Printing
Our new printing setup also allows us to print to the edge of the fabric. When printing on individual bandanas, we needed blank margins so the design could be centered and the folded hem didn’t cause a problem. If we print on yardage before cutting bandanas, the printed design can run off the edge to be cropped when cut. Many of our classic bandana designs look best with a frame of negative space. But again, it’s about expanding into new possibilities. Later this week, we are introducing a new color of our Daisy Bandana with a full bleed design.
Business is Personal
Beyond the technical, it’s the how. How is it made and who’s making it? This bandana business is a very personal endeavor. The best part of any job, including this one, is the people you work with. I invest in building trusting and friendly relationships with my vendors. That’s what most impacts our every day here at the LCT studio and every hand that contributes to our process along the way.
Our cotton bandanas are now made at a fair and ethical family-owned facility in Mumbai, India that is SEDEX 4-Pillar Certified. We’ve been working with them for the past couple of years on our silk bandanas. With the whole LCT bandana family under one roof, we have expanded our capabilities as outlined above and reached our goals to further reduce waste and carbon emissions while maintaining consistent inventory. I was able to visit the facilities and better acquaint myself with the team this past September. Call me old-fashioned, but nothing is better than meeting face-to-face. I gained transparency for my business and was warmly welcomed as a guest and friend.
So, given everything we thought would make the ideal bandana, why not make it this way from the beginning? The straightforward answer is that Last Chance Textiles has been built one piece at a time from the ground up. Every LCT cotton bandana reflected the best I could make with the resources available at that time. At every stage, your feedback has been foundational to our process. It’s satisfying to offer you an authentic product that has been shaped by years of hard work and a continuous search for the right pieces to build the best bandanas. Thanks for reading along and getting in deep with me on everything that has gone into the newest adaptation of our (yours and mine) favorite bandana.
Founder of Last Chance Textiles