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Ratty Tees, Reincarnated

Lauren Murrow | February 6, 2014 | Lifestyle Story Shopping

Last year, Pam DeLuco, owner of the year-and-a-half-old Shotwell Paper Mill, had an epiphany in the aisles of Rainbow Grocery. "Everyone’s on board with $9 chocolate bars," she says, "but no one knows anything about paper." So this month, she’s launching a collection of blue, white, cream, and brown single-origin note cards made from jeans, thrift store T-shirts, Four Barrel and Dandelion Chocolate burlap sacks, and New Zealand flax, which grows outside her Mission studio.

Before you say it, DeLuco knows what you’re thinking: "When people say, 'Oh, this is so hipster'’ I get a little snarly," she remarks. "I had to go through years of craft persecution before people started thinking about supporting local makers and using recycled materials. This isn’t just anyone with a glue gun. We do things local, and we do it really well."

Consider the process of making a single denim card. First, the hardware is removed and the pants are cut into small squares. Next, the fabric goes into a formidable machine called the Hollander Beater, which mashes it into a pulp for up to an hour. DeLuco forms each card in a mold (the envelopes are made separately), presses out the water, and moves it to a dryer. Then she transfers it to a press, where it cures for up to a year. Finally, the card is letterpress printed by hand with a missive about its origin.

Unexpectedly, DeLuco has found that nostalgia is as big a draw as the eco-factor. One couple brought in a pile of old clothing from friends and family and had their wedding invitations made out of it. "Oh my god,” she says, “I have friends bringing in these torn-up old Jordache jeans and holey T-shirts. People like knowing that their stuff is going to get a second life." Available at Dandelion Chocolate, 740 Valencia St. (near 18th St.), 415-349-0942, and shotwellpapermill.com

Originally published in the February issue of San Francisco

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