Today I have an interview with one of my favourite bloggers, Rebecca. She makes modern garments in organic materials which she then dyes naturally. A romp around her blog is highly recommended!

I love Rebecca’s explanation of why natural dyeing is so important to her so I don’t want to add to much more except to say that the health impacts of commercial dyes that use known carcinogens is a huge motivator for me in undertaking this project. If there is a better way, I want in.

Here’s Rebecca and her hand dyed indigo jeans:

Indigo Dyed Jeans Sew Pomona

(All Photos from Sew Pomona)

Tell us a little bit about the planning that went into this project. How long did it take from start to finish? 

My Indigo dyed jeans were a work of love and took about a month or so to complete all together. They were quite time consuming as I really wanted them to be a perfect fit and long wearing. My quest for perfect jeans began after reading Vogue Patterns’s January Denim issue with articles on making Artisanal jeans. I also recommend their Aug/Sept 2013 issue on sustainability if you can find it! I chose Vogue 8774 for my pattern as I wanted a straight leg that would sit on my natural waist for comfort and went through I believe just 2 muslin’s for this pair to get the fit just right. I used the Craftsy course Sewing Designer Jeans with Angela Wolf for construction and fit. My supplies were all bought online, as they’re are very few sources nearby. The fabric is a natural undyed organic cotton denim from Near Sea Naturals (they currently supply to Organic Cottons Plus). I dyed it twice to get the color depth I wanted using an Indigo Kit from Noon Design Studios. My rivets, buttons and zipper were sourced through Taylor Tailor and thread was purchased locally at my nearby Jo Ann’s. Probably the most time consuming parts were my sashiko stitched pockets(all hand done) and all my top-stitching for the jeans. But those were also the most enjoyable and relaxing projects to work on.

Can you tell us more about where you bought the denim and what led you to choose this particular fabric? 

One of the hardest parts was sourcing my fabric for these jeans. I had a difficult time finding the color of denim I wanted in an organic mix so I decided I would try dyeing my own after finding a lovely natural denim from Near Sea Naturals. The fabric itself is a hemp cotton mix , 9.6oz, which was a nice weight to work with, strong but not so rough. One of the reasons I love this company is that they are so committed to sustainable practices, transparency and fair working conditions overseas. They list were the fabric is produced ( I believe mine was India but it’s not available currently) and under what working conditions.

Indigo Dyed Jeans Sew PomonaWhen buying new fabrics, do you have a strategy for dealing with trade-offs – like quality over cost, local vs international, organic vs local? What do you value most? 

Handmade and naturally dyed comes first for me, it’s one of the reasons I started making my own clothing. I usually try for organic and/or sustainable fabric next. I prefer organic cotton, hemp and hemp mixes, flax and peace silk and try to use only animal friendly materials. I usually aim for local first, and if sourced from overseas fair trade with good working conditions if possible. I also try to take advantage of recycled materials. I reuse or donate the ready made clothing that isn’t being worn in our household. My kids wardrobe’s are actually almost completely hand-me-downs, my sister passes down all her kid’s clothes to us, so they rarely need me to make them anything.

I’d love to be able to find better sourcing for knits and athletic wear, as well as recycled materials. Sometimes performance trumps organic though. For example if I know I’ll get more use out of a specialty performance fabric such as a sun protective UV fabric. And sometimes I just can’t find what I like for a particular project, like this summer when my usual source was shut down as they moved facilities. I want all my pieces to be long lasting, well sewn and stylish additions to my wardrobe.

On this (and many more of your hand made garments!) you go to the effort of hand dying the fabric with natural dyes. What drew you to natural dying? And do you have any top tips for beginners?

I love hand dyeing!  I haven’t been at it for long at all, I’m still learning every day but it’s just so rewarding to see your project change and morph into something beautiful.  I love that my pieces are unique and one of a kind as well as being gentler on the earth.  It was after I read some of the ingredients in a store bought dye when my kids were little that I started researching and came across the amazing work of India Flint.  Her artistry is so inspiring.  I now have a stack of wonderful natural dye and Shibori books that are my go to resources.  As well as websites like Noon Design Studios, Maiwa and Botanical Colors that offer instruction and supplies.  My first project was dyeing with Cabbage, so easy and readily available, to produce a purple grey color on a skirt, after that I was hooked!
 
Indigo Dyed Jeans- Sew Pomona
I just love all the little details on this project, including the sashiko pockets! I get the feeling that getting all these things right was more important to you than finishing the make by a deadline.  What is your favourite part of the make now you have worn them for a while? 
 
All the details really make the jeans special for me, but it’s really the good fit and versatility that makes these my favorite pants.  The sashiko pockets are definitely my favorite feature as well.  It’s actually a very simple design but so lovely.  I love embroidery but haven’t done as much as I’d like since the kids were born so it was nice to get back into it with a simple project.  
Indigo dyed jeans Sew Pomona
Have you found a supplier(s) that you consider to be the best  you can get in sustainable fabric to you in your area?   Do you have any questions that you ask suppliers about their fabrics before you buy so you know what you are getting?  Or is there information that you wish suppliers would provide as standard?
 
My favorite sources are Organic Cottons Plus (Near Sea Naturals now source to them) and Honey Be Good and Fabric Treasury  .  Dyes I purchase from Botanical Colors, and Noon Design Studios as well as Mountain Rose Herbs.   These companies are all very transparent about where they are sourcing from and under what conditions.  I wish every company was so transparent.  
Do you have any other handy resources that inspire you or help you sew more sustainably?
Some of my favorite natural dye books are Eco Colour by India Flint, Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess,and The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes by Sasha Duerr.  Sustainable Fashion and Textiles by Kate Fletcher is a great resource as well.  I’m participating in two great challenges, the RTW Fast and A Year of Ethical Fashion, that challenge me to not purchase ready to wear clothing for the year and to source ethically!
Thank you Rebecca for sharing your knowledge, I’m off to the library!