During the 2015 Auburn “Autumn Days” one could walk and visit many booths, exhibiting various crafts and products.
The annual event, presented by the Auburn Tourisim Committee, was held this past weekend in downtown Auburn.
Of examples of items for viewing and/or purchase, none was more interesting than the Kentucky Tobvcco Shirt.
The brainchild of Kathy and Roger Cook, the Kentucky Tobacco Shirt offers a creative alternative way to use the long-time cash crop of tobacco.
Many can remember that tobacco farming often and for a long time was the means by which many families made ends meet in Kentucky. Revenue into the household from either the raising of tobacco crops or the money earned in labor in tobacco often made possible the purchase of that first car or that Santa would have a good visit. In cases more often than we might like to think, profits from tobacco paid the bills necessary for families to survive lean wintertimes.
The Cooks asked, “What if there was an alternative market for Kentucky Burley Tobacco?”
In hope to save a Kentucky Tradition, the Cooks decided to use the tobacco leaf as a dye. It takes about 50 leaves to produce enough color to transform an ordinary garment into a custom dusty brown unique to this area.
Roger Cook explains, “The leaf will have differing amounts of the natural color. We make a kind of soup and the shirt is left in the soup until the color takes.”
Kentucky Tobacco Shirt has worked with the folks at Fruit of the Loom through the process. According the Kentucky Tobacco Shirt’s website, www,kentuckytobaccoshirt.com, research and experiment has determined that the outside temperature seems to affect the amount of color a shirt takes. Cooler temps equals darker colorings – warmer temps equals lighter colorings.
The company has consulted with scientists at Western Kentucky University, as well, about concerns such as the possibility of side-effects and/or allergies that might come from wearing a garment colored with tobacco. To date there has been no ill effect noted and no customer has ever reported any concern in the matter.
The shirts are availkable in all sizes and in many styles. As each item is first purchased uncolored and dyed one batch at a time, each piece of clothing is a one-of-a-kind item. Prices for completed Tobacco Shirts are very comparable to other types of premium tee-shirts and garments.
The Cooks have been in the business of refining this use of the Kentucky cash crop for five years. The couple travel with their wares to various events similar to Auburn’s “Autumn Days” around the state. In years past Kentucky Tobacco Shirts have been available at Logan County’s Tobacco Festival and the Cooks plan to be at this year’s festival.
The product and more information about it is available on the website, www.kentuckytobaccoshirt.com, and you can find the Cooks on facebook at kentuckytobaccoshirt.