I collaborate on projects that tell stories of connection, origin and resilience so that we can begin to mend ourselves, our communities and the earth.
#1year1outfit: Questions of Origin
This article was published on the Fibershed blog in 2016, I thought it might be time to repost it here for Fashion Revolution week which starts April 24.

From Fashion to Fabric: Questions of Origins

By Nicki Taylor

Nicki Taylor launched the One Year One Outfit Fibershed Affiliate, a project to investigate supply chains and spend the course of a year sourcing one local outfit. Based in Australia, Taylor invited people from around the world to participate in the challenge, cultivating a diverse range of local clothing and community. Fashion Revolution Week asks “Who Made My Clothes?” and as an avid sewist, Taylor knew the answer, but sought to determine who else was involved beyond cut & sew, and reflects here on the experience. 

I am a learning-by-doing kind of person. When I couldn’t find answers to all the questions I had about fabric – Who made it? Were they treated ethically and paid a fair wage? What are the environmental impacts of production? Where is it made? How is the colour produced? – I set about finding something to do about the lack of transparency in the system. That something was to make an outfit from only local sources, using the Fibershed principles of local fiber, local dye and local labour. I set myself a timeline of a year and called the project #1year1outfit.

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Above: (L) Taylor in self-made, local clothing, photo by Kerry Bardot; (R) image c/o Fashion Revolution

I hoped that by working from the ground up with local fiber experts I could get a better understanding of the system and how it worked. Exactly how fiber goes from farm to garment. I invited other makers to join me, and the project became a small network of intrepid researchers supporting each other through the challenges of making local clothes.

We visited farms, we visited mills, we interrogated retailers. We asked questions and when we didn’t get answers we asked questions elsewhere. We were now part of the small, but significant conversation, of “who made my cloth?”

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Above: Stages of One Year One Outfit production, photos by Nicki Taylor

In Perth, Australia, our little team was faced with a few major barriers. We had wool, but no one in our local area made cloth anymore, no one made thread, and no closures were available. So we set about making cloth. We used handspun wool to knit and weave. We used local roving to make felt. In my case, I had done none of these things before and a true appreciation of what it means to make cloth was born. I now appreciate not only the effort taken to sew clothes, but also the effort taken to make cloth!

Our clothes were hand stitched with local handspun wool, and our designs had to account for the lack of closures. I sourced some local clay and made some local buttons in a local wood fired kiln which was an experience in itself! The final outfits from our little Perth team were truly unique to their Fibershed, an achievement that we all felt incredibly proud of.

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Above: Details of Taylor’s locally grown & sewn outfit, photos by Kerry Bardot

Participants from other parts of the world faced different challenges. In Europe, finding information seemed to be the largest barrier, local textiles were available but often the retailers would provide little or no information. The most effective method was to go to the mills directly, and small lines of local linen, silk and wool were found. One cannot help but wonder if more of us were asking questions of the retailers would these products become easier to find? Can we make traceability a factor in fabric sales?

In the US, the work done by Rebecca Burgess and the Fibershed team and leading textile sustainability advocates like Alabama Chanin did not go unnoticed. Finding information was that little bit easier and micro mills are starting to re-emerge, both exciting changes for an industry that had largely moved production overseas. That said, participants still did their fair share of making by hand, with some working from fleece all the way to their final garments. One person carding, spinning and knitting an entire garment in one year is an exceptional achievement.

If you asked the participants of this project why they joined, you may get a variety of answers. But if you ask them what they learned I am certain that they will all tell you that the experience has altered their approach to textiles dramatically. For me, the project has taught me about the value of supporting the economy of our local textile industry; I have learned that synthetic colour production is one of the most damaging stages in textile production and I am determined to learn more about local natural dyes; I have learned how to knit and weave fabric and now can truly value the time and skill required to master these crafts; And, most importantly, the project has compelled me to keep asking questions, and to seek out those that have the answers.

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Above: Examples of Taylor’s natural dyeing explorations in Perth, Australia (sour grass, indigo, and bottle brush), photos by Nicki Taylor

#1year1outfit is now in its second year and makers from around the globe are again spending a year sourcing and building an outfit using only local or completely traceable sources. If you are a learning by doing person, why not join in the fun?

#1year1outfit 2016 Final Makes Melbourne

The Melbourne Fibreshed group is in an exciting phase.  Thanks to the work of Rachel there is an active group of members in the Facebook group, and this year several members participated in the both #1year1outfit and the Fibershed knitalong as an easy starting point.  Much kudos to all the quick knitting of shawls, despite it being the middle of summer here:

 

Elizabeth from Eliza-Beth’s Textiles and Crafts

Elizabeth used her all of her spinning, weaving, knitting and design skills to complete her pieces.   She faced a major challenge in using a local fleece that needed a lot work before she could even begin spinning.  She added some Corriedale wool and local dyes before weaving into the jacket.  I am in love with her bespoke closures too!

Her vest is made from Alpaca from Fibre Naturally, hand spun and hand knit herself.

Interestingly, the skirt yarn was found at the Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show and was a vintage yarn made in the now closed Yarra Falls mill in Abbotsford.  She used the same yarn in her gorgeous graduated shawl.

Elizabeth has more projects (yes, more!) and the full details here.

Pips from The Girl in a Tea Cup

Pip has been working towards a #1year1outfit project since it started, and it is so lovely to see her finally able to access a local product and an accessible knit design to do just that! She purchased her natural yarn from the Great Ocean Road Mill.   The sheep farm is in the Otways (less than 200km away) and she says “the wool is washed with rainwater, no chemical treatments used and bits of the field they graze in can be found in the wool due to minimal processing.”

Bria

Image may contain: grass, shorts, outdoor and natureBria completed two projects that were hyperlocal – from her own farm!  She spun Finn wool from her own sheep and used Oxalis and cherry natural dyes.  She hand wove the tabard and hand knit the shawl.   I am so impressed that she manage all of that in a year!

 

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Michelle from Country Victoria

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Michelle found the project a great chance to investigate processing, weaving, and natural dyes.  All of her projects were also hyper-local and she hand spun all the fibre.

She made a hand knit jumper from rams wool,  a hand woven wool scarf from Weaner (yearling) and a hand knit lace wrap from Chatsworth weather wool.  The first project used commercial dyes, but as she learnt more through the year incorporated pomegranate dye into the final projects.

It is so heart warming to see the project as a catalyst for learning new and exciting things.  Michelle has even started hand processing yarn to sell at the local market.

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Robyn

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Robyn also participated in the knitalong and impressively spun and knit the wool from 2 corriedales and one alpaca in an incredibly short time. 

I am excited to have joined Fibreshed Melbourne and we have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes so watch this space as we look to build projects that support the local textile community.

 

YOU ARE AWESOME

I would like to say that I continue to be humbled by the amount of thought and effort that all of the participants put into this project. There are many more makers out there who have  researched local textiles and have found the barriers too great.  All of these stories of success and failure provide valuable insight on the current fibre systems and how we might work towards a regenerative model that supports everyone in the chain and gives back to the land.

I am deeply thankful to everyone who has join me on this journey so far.  I look forward to reading more stories from around the globe so don’t forget to sign up.

#1year1outfit 2016 Final Outfits – Europe and US

Europe

Next up on the tour of completed Master category projects are two committed makers from the UK.

It is such a privilege to get an insight into Fibresheds on the other side of the globe. I have loved reading all the behind the scenes stories, like these ones:

Norma from She Sews You Know

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANorma describes her outfit as “wearing the landscape” which I think is a gorgeous approach. Norma’s outfit showcases the natural fibers available in her area.  She used Natural Irish Linen, welsh wool and handmade wooden buttons. She has fallen in love with natural dyeing so expect to see more natural colours coming from her in the future.  Congratulations Norma on finishing the challenge!

Norma has blogged the details here.

Steely Seamstress

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At the time of last years review she was still finishing up her project, so I thought I would take the time to highlight her efforts at completing an entire outfit including pants, shirt and hacking jacket. The project had an immense amount of consideration for all the details, and her blog is worth a good look around.  Her outfit includes:

See her review of the experience here.

North America

Domestic Lin from Victoria BC

If you want some inspiration on how to complete this challenge when the local area does not have fibres to work worth, look no further.  Sourcing everything from the island she lives on, she has started growing and processing her own flax to compliment the hand spun wool she is spinning.  Literally working from the ground up, she expects her outfit is another year away.

I highly recommend following her blog to see what is next.

 

 

One more post to go!  All about Melbourne : )

 

#1year1outfit 2016 Final Outfits Perth – Australia

Welcome to my brand new website!  I now have a dedicated page to welcome newcomers to #1year1outfit, where you can see the rules, find links to participants in your area, and even sign up.

If you needed some motivation to sign up, then look no further! I proudly present the 2016 Master Makers.  First up, Perth, my home town.   These ladies are proof that although this is an individual challenge, that having a supportive team is the key to success.

Doing the challenge for the second year running meant that many of the Perth crew could focus more completely on design as opposed to finding suitable fibre.

Hand knits, weaving, and felting all featured, but the common theme was learning more about local natural dyes and incorporating colour.

Some of the informative background posts you might like to read include:

Sue from Fadanista

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Sue had two parts to her project this year both using locally farmed and produced Merino and Corriedale wool. The first being this machine knit dress featuring beautifully delicate lace circle work.  Sue over dyed the dress with avocado pits to completely melt my heart into a soft pink haze of lusciousness. aaaahhh.

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For the second half of her project, Sue took to refining the felting skills she learnt the previous year to make this fabulous jacket and bag.  As Sue points out, felt is forgiving substrate to work with allowing you to shape, meld and fix things over time.  Hop on over and read all about her projects here.

Megan from Meggipeg

Megan used local wool rovings to make her gorgeous bag and shoes.   She then added some traceable silk to the mix to nuno felt her dress.  Megan was keen to find a way to make her felt more wearable in the Perth climate, and I am pretty sure she achieved that with the addition of the silk, in her own words “every inch of it was planned and designed and made lovingly agonisingly by hand in a process that was exhilarating and difficult and immensely satisfying.”  Megan has all the details on her blog.

Kyra from Once Woven

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Kyra was a first time participant this year, but look at what she did!  Kyra wove her skirt from a local black alpaca (a friend of Zac’s from my outfit last year!) and designed her hand knit jumper to take advantage of her natural dying trials.   She used local dyes from purple carrot, peppermint tree leaves, madder, WA shiraz, avocado, and fennel leaves.    She  comments that the project has motivated her “to (even more) carefully curate the fabric I use for my clothes. I am also making a concerted effort to purchase Australian wool for my projects, where the processing of the yarn is traceable…”

See her full post here.

Carolyn from Handmade by Carolyn

Carolyn and her talented hands made the most of this challenge again this year.  Everything in this photo was made by her from local materials, right down to the shoes, bag and beanie. Carolyn used locally hand spun merino to knit herself this cuddly showcase of natural materials and dyes. She used coreopsis, sourgrass, indigo and avocado to get the pops of colour.  I’m not sure about you, but I would be wearing this constantly over winter!  She even designed the dress and beanie herself and is offering the patterns up for free.

The details are here.

Nicki from This is Moonlight

And finally, my coatigan made from West Australian alpaca Roselea.  I completed this project as part of finishing my certificate in 8 shaft hand weaving.   I learnt a lot, and as the weather gets cooler am really looking forward to wearing it on chilly days.  My full post is here.

I will be back soon with more stories from around the globe…

#1year1outfit 2016 Final Projects

Roll up, roll up it is time to get your #1year1outfit endeavours together and show us what you have got!   Leave a comment on this very blog post with a link to your projects so I can compile a visual feast for us all.  Partial completions and progress reports are very, very welcome. Closing date for this round will be March 15.

I am going to leave the project open and running with the same rules for 2017 and will do a final round up in December 2017 for anyone that missed this deadline.   I am going to keep pottering along in 2017 with a couple of items that I didn’t get to in 2016.

Thank you for your understanding and patience over the last few months.  You will be pleased to know that I am feeling healthy and recharged again thanks to the break.

xx  Nicki

The Cloth Hugger 

Welcome to the first edition of The Cloth Hugger. A hug of eco-dressmaking tidbits.

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To Inspire..

..if you missed the Refashioners series you must check out the drool worth results of this year’s jeans refashion challenge.

..Slow fashion October led to lots of interesting conversations, like this one.

..if you find it hard to envision a modern dressmakers use of felt, here’s some wool felt inspiration

..hand woven artistry in a jacket

..the king of visible mending does a mighty fine job of invisible mending 

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To use..

.. Zero Waste Fashion Design – New book by Holly McQuillan and zero waste patterns available on the download section of her site.

..Wool and the gang – the release of this recycled denim yarn really excited me as a promise of the new kind of products we may soon see

..Great Ocean Road Mill – are promising an all Australian Yarn in the coming months

..Natural Color – New book by Sasha Duerr

..Botanical Colour at your Fingertips- New book by Rebecca Desnos

To skill up..

..I have been researching the idea of painting with natural dyes and found this article on painting with indigo, something I thought was impossible.

..If you are interested at trying your hand at weaving, the Saori technique is such a accessible way to give it a go.

..Upcoming courses in Victoria in indigo dyeing, weaving, spinningfeltingCouture sewing 

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To Read..

Interest in traditional permaculture for textiles and dyes led me to read The Oldest Foods on Earth and Dark Emu, two books that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in Aboriginal heritage and sophisticated permaculture techniques honed over tens of thousands of years.

To app..

Two apps for those that like some numbers behind their decision making:

..Making – designed by Nike (I know!) This app lets you compare the environmental impact of major textile types.  Definitely worth a poke around.  Only on  iTunes

.. My EP+L – Designed by Kering using their Environmental Profit and Loss approach, this app turns the impact of design choices into a dollar value (or euros more specifically). Currently quiet limited in its options and very European focused, but still an interesting approach and one to watch. On iTunes and Google Play

Today’s photos were bought to you by my fledgling dye garden which has wattle, bottle brush, rosemary, pomegranate, and baby native indigo. 

#1year1outfit Rosalea the Alpaca

Rosalea, little does she know it, is going to take pride of place in my local outfit this year. Rosalea is a 4 year old alpaca with  a rose grey fleece, raised by Carolyn at Windella Alapacas keeps 60 alpacas in the south west.

Before I left Perth for Melbourne (yes,we’ve made the big move back) I visited Carolyn and her alpaca’s and had a great chat about local natural textiles.   I am very keen for my outfit to be sourced from Western Australia again this year and I knew I was missing one important ingredient, something to weave.

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As you can see half of Rosalea’s fleece hit the indigo dye pot.  The next step was to find someone local to prepare the yarn for weaving.  Carolyn had some great leads but I was finding that my 750g was too much for the hand spinners and too little for the micro mills (1kg is a good starting point).

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I eventually found a West Australian solution but while we wait for the yummy yarn to head my way I thought I would share my findings with you to in case you too have a Rosalea, or a Toby or a Merrilee or a Alfie that you need spun : )

Australian Alpaca Processing options:

There is a comprehensive list of Alpaca processors here, the few below are options I investigated further.

Western Australia

Paca Molino, Jenny Cornwall processes to roving for $65/kg, takes small amounts

Fiber of the Gods, Hazel, process to roving for $64/kg or yarn in 3,4,5,8 ply for $90-108/kg, takes small amounts

Hand Weavers Dyers and Spinners Guild list of local spinners who may be able to help with one off projects. Prefer roving and small amounts.

Victoria

Fiber Naturally – Gail Herring, this service came highly recommended and it shows in the 5-6 months wait time, $120/kg  to yarn, will take single fleeces

Cashmere Connections – visited by Rachel, larger scale processing

Wool 2 Yarn – small runs possible, need to call

NSW

Adagio Mills – newly opened, $98-100.kg, min 5 kg, rovings or yarn.

Queensland

Paddock to Ply, Suzette Sayer, in set up stage, keep watch for more soon.

There was also talk that the Bendigo woollen mill and Waverley mills in Tasmania may be considering starting boutique processing again.

Who did I choose?  Well, you’ll just have to wait.

Indigo Fermentation Vats Top Tips

When we last talked Indigo I was wondering why my native indigo fermentation vat had carked it.

Since then I have been testing out a few theories and approaches in the hope that I could get a local vat recipe that was more reliable. This kind of vat is worth the effort, as it is devoid of harsh chemicals and can be disposed of safely.

I was very lucky to have the help of two very useful people in this mission, Trudi Pollard, of local natural dyeing studio Pollard Designs, and Tracey from One Thing at a Time, whose chemistry brain has been invaluable.

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We tried the honey lime recipe on all the indigo varieties we could get our hands on:

  • French indigo powder
  • Japanese Powdered
  • Japanese slurry ryukyu
  • Dried local Japanese indigo leaves
  • Dried native indigo or indigofera australis
  • Organic powder from Kraft Kolour

Fermentation vats are no difficult to set up but do take a little patience to get right for your local area and products.  So far, the 1-2-3 ratio has not worked for me, but I have used that as a starting point for considering potential quantities.

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Local Water Quality

Here in Perth our mains water can vary greatly in composition season to season, so to avoid this we used rainwater.  That said, even the rainwater used varied from a pH of 5 to a pH of 8 from different tanks.  The lesson here is to test your water pH first and foremost.

Sourcing Lime

If you are looking to source lime for an indigo vat, you need to find calcium hydroxide or Ca(OH)2.  Most lime products on the market are for building and may contain a combination of calcium carbonate and surfactants, neither of which you want in your vat.  Go straight to a chemical supplier and ask for the Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) , and ask specifically about surfactants.

The lime I would recommend for Perth is from Lime Industries, 43 Hector St, Osborne Park. The lime putty or the envirolime will work in an indigo vat, and are wholly WA made.

Lime Solubility

Be aware that the form of your lime will lead to it reacting different in your vat.  We sourced a liquid form of lime called lime putty, and it needed a lot less lime for the same result in comparison to powder. Pellets again will be a different story.

Indigo Forms

Indigo can be fermented fresh, dried, powdered or from a slurry.  Typical recipes are for powdered indigo so do not be afraid to increase the amounts for other types of indigo accordingly.   Other forms of indigo may also need 4-10 days to ferment so allow your vat time to mature.

 
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Honey

I chose honey as a base for my vat, which, whilst more expensive, was more predictable in behaviour.  That said, even honey can vary in pH widely depending on the location of the hive, the pollen and the time of the year.  Given this, fermented fruit may not be as bad as I thought!

Balancing the Vat

The ultimate aim is to balance the vat using your honey and lime to get to a pH of between 9-11.  Depending on your starting pH and what you are adding in, your quantities can vary widely.  So my number one piece of advice is to take it slow, and test at each stage.  I think stopping when the pH reaches 9 and waiting half an hour is a good approach too.
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Fold in the Egg Whites

Tracey suggests that you use a method similar to folding batter into egg whites when adding the lime.  Take a little out of the vat, dilute the lime mixture, slowly add it back in.

Start out Small

Making a small trial vat wont hurt anyone, and if you get it right, you can add it to a large vat later.  Because, after all, indigo is liquid gold.

indigo dip day trudi

If you have never used indigo, I hope the pretty pictures entice you a little!

Has anyone else got any top tips for making a fermentation vat? Did you have similar problems pop up or widely different?