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 Madder and Silk Dress

Craftivism. It’s a powerful thing.

Last year I introduced a category to the #1year1outfit makers challenge to create an outfit with a completely traceable back story.  When no one else completed the task, I thought I should dive right in and let you know it can be done.  In this messy, complicated textile world there are still glimmers of hope, stories of communities rebuilding and clothing that gives a little more back.   And as a surprise, if you read to the end, I’ve got some extra incentive for you to join me in this little, disruptive craftivism movement…

The Cloth

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This beautiful silk was bought from Trudi Pollard and has a wonderful back story.

As Trudi told me, her daughter Helena traveled to Cambodia to help an orphanage start up a sewing room and to find out about Cambodian silk.   What Helena found was that the prized mulberry plantations and gold silk yarn were all but wiped out during the 30 years of the Khmer Rouge rule which ended in 1979, and were only just starting to get back on their feet.  The Khmer woven silk production is traditionally done by hand, from the reeling to the weaving, but in the 1990’s the only skills left of this beautiful art were in the hands and memories of the “silk grandmothers.”    Helena met and talked to artisans on her visit and felt  that rebuilding the traditional textile knowledge was critical to rebuilding lives for this community.

A year after this first trip, Helena and Trudi worked to develop a sustainable model where women can learn skills, earn money and keep their children instead of needing to send them to the orphanage.  They formed a close relationship with a silk grandmother, who taught weaving to the women.  They then mentored the women in running a business and purchased their handwoven silk to sell direct to customers in Australia.  All money made from the sale of the silk is sent directly back to the women.  Helena describes the project as “the perfect blend between their humanitarian values and love of textiles.”

Trudi and Helen continue to have a wonderful relationship with the weavers and have been back on skill sharing visits.  Here’s a wonderful video from one of those trips.

The Colour

The colour of this dress has two equally inspiring parts.

The first is a story of a dyeing (pun intended) ancient tradition in Japan.   Kitta and Sawa are the custodians of the last ryukyu indigo farm in Okinawa, Japan, using traditional fermentation techniques. From harvesting the indigo crop to hand sewing the finished garments, Kitta and Sawa show care at every stage of the whole process.  They have also reintroduced madder which is no longer farmed in Japan and are advocates for the revitalisation of natural dyeing as an industry.

It is this madder root that they bought to Perth on a special trip to share their skills with our community. The Cambodian silk was dyed in the traditional way  under Kitta’s watchful guidance.

The second, lighter colour, was also from madder root, grown at a Perth school as part of an education program with Trudi Pollard. The madder had been planted at the school 3 years prior and the staff had been waiting patiently to teach the students to dye with it. I was lucky enough to go as an aide on the day that the students dug up the madder and dyed their school flag in rainbow colours.   The kids loved the idea of being witches for the day, brewing up magic potions. As a gift for helping that day , the children gave me some of the madder to take home. It was a small amount but too precious not to use so I dyed my 1ply silk lengths in this next generation Perth madder, and achieved the lighter shade.

 

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The Thread

The thread has a story that is a little mysterious and unfinished. While the back of this reel has metric measurements and is marked “Made in Australia, ”  but what I’ve found so far leads me to wonder if the reel was merely marked with a sticker as opposed to made here.

The reel (and several like it) was found in an op shop inside a sewing basket embroidered with flowers.  All the reels were wooden and of similar origin.  At a guess, the owner liked a number of textile crafts embroidery, crochet and sewing.

What I have found is that Dewhurst cotton was started by a Thomas Dewhurst in Skipton, UK, in 1789.  He converted a corn mill into a cotton mill and for almost a century after that his direct descendants grew the brand, especially this Sylko product,  into a household name across the British Empire.  Here’s where my research skills came up short.  I found the location of several historical cotton spinning mills but could not find whether a mill in Australia produced thread on behalf of the brand. Call me a skeptic, but given the practice of labeling a product as Made in Australia where major production steps are overseas still exists and is even endorsed, wouldn’t I be naive to think that this may actually be an Australian product?

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The Dress

So here you have it, the cloth, the colour, the thread and some vintage buttons found at an estate sale.  Add a bit of Named Patterns  magic and some time behind the machine and you have a dress and a slip with a story.  I saved all of the small scraps and used them in my belt and have put the larger pieces aside for an upcoming felting project.

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The Incentive

Congratulations!  You made it to the end.   If you’ve been toying with the idea of joining in with a bit of #1year1outfit craftivism, now is the time.  I’ve been working hard behind the scene on some prizes, what kind of prizes you ask?   Here’s a clue, if you like getting your hands blue in a very organic kind of way you might just do a little jig when I make the announcement…  Sign up!!

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#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 West Australian Coatigan

I’ve done it, I have a gigantic oversized West Aussie hug to see me through the winters!

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This coat is West Australian sourced, spun and made.  It has travelled from Roselea the alpaca to local spinning mill, and into to my hands.  The enormity of the task of turning this beautiful fibre into a woven garment was eased by the assistance of my certificate weaving teacher, Ilka White.

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Whilst exploring the weaving options available to me during the course, I decided to focus on the shapes of eucalypt blossoms given that the natural colour of Roselea and her indigo overdye reminded me so much of the beautiful hues in the bark.  Weaving operates on a grid so I first tamed the shapes into a more rectangular formation.

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This structure is called a double deflected weave and the scale of the pattern I could achieve made it particularly attractive.  The cloth was woven on a large floor loom, and I used the entire width, milking it for all it was worth! Once off the loom, the open weave and drape of the fabric gave me pause.  I had to re-imagine my original concept of a more structured coat to suit the fabric.

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The coat was hand sewn with the very same alpaca yarn and I have largely left the edges as they came off the loom, as I felt it was a more genuine approach to the piece.  The collar was supported by a piece of merino felt left over from last years project.

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So there you have it, the first part of my #1year1outfit project for this year.  Entirely West Australian with the small concession of using an imported biodynamic indigo powder as a starter seed to make the organic indigo vat, with local honey and lime.

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To those of you also making local garments, I hope this gives you a little extra pep to keep at it.   I hope that I have something to wear under the jacket by the end of the year, if not, I am sure I can wrap this around enough…..
Details

Alpaca: Windella Alpaca

Spinning: Fiber of the Gods

Dyeing:  Biodynamic organic indigo vat with local honey and lime

Weaving:  Double Deflected Weave, Self woven with the assistance of Ilka White

Sewing:  Hand sewn with alpaca and felt, self drafted.

Process Posts: #1year1outfit  

Worn with:  Naturally dyed Ginger Jeans and Wenona Bike Shirt

PhotographyBaker Photography

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#1year1outfit Growing a Community

Look, look!  I made cloth.  Lots and lots of cloth!

Rosalea, the West Aussie alpaca, is finally starting to look like a garment after a lazy 40  hours or so at the giant floor loom in the Guild here in Melbourne.  I will write more on the process soon, but for now wanted to take this chance to soak in the achievement.

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The Fibershed project has been getting a little attention lately in Melbourne thanks to the support of the Handweavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild.   In June,  I  teamed up with Fibershed Melbourne founder Rachel Bucknell and made a presentation at the Guild to a full house.  It was such a lovely, warm evening, and I was touched by all the support we received afterwards.   It was so successful that the Guild has invited us back to talk again on Sunday on August 28.  Click here for booking details.  If you are keen to know more, or are keen to host a separate event, you can read the press release or contact us on 1year1outfit (at) gmail.com

Rachel and I are slowly working on ways to build the Melbourne Fibershed community and are keen to hear from anyone that wants to get involved.    Excitingly, we have started processing local alpaca at a mini mill, as a trial of how group processing might work in the future.  A Melbourne Fibershed garment is in the making!

I am very keen to hear how everyone else is going with their outfits so far.   If you haven’t yet,  I am asking all new and old #1year1outfit participants to sign up using our new form:

#1year1outfit Sign Up

More soon!
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