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:
(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.
When 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?