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.
The Cloth Hugger

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

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To Inspire..

.. Perth artisan Elizabeth Leslie hand weaves and naturally dyes all of the exquisite contemporary clothing in her shop.

.. I am excited by this zero waste dress and even more so by the fact that we might convince Marilla to do some zero waste patterns!

.. have you ever made a garment out of old ties?  I know I have! I think Mary Katronski somehow managed to make it cool again.

.. I love that an exhibition led to a whole micro-business selling felt mending kits.

.. I love watching Emily Steele’s journey into mud dyeing and weaving.

To use..

.. Great Ocean Road Mill are now selling all Australian Yarn grown and spun in Victoria.

..string harvest is a great place to source vintage threads for weaving and knitting.
To skill up..

.. Learn to mud dye with Judy Dominic in Meeniyan (I believe she’d doing other workshops around Australia too)

.. Learn to make felt shoes and a bag with Felt West next year
..Upcoming courses in Victoria in weaving, spinningfelting

 

To Read..

.. this refashioned book  is full of refashion inspiration from 46 international designers.

To advocate..

.. Fashion Revolution week starts April 24, snap a pic and show your makes. Is it nerdy that the release of all the related reports and data excites me?

.. The Global Fashion Exchange is holding clothing swap events around the globe.

 

#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 Heartwarming Tales

b heartwarmer

When you are doing something difficult or new do you find your mind constantly battling against the thoughts “why cant I just?”  

b heartwarmer

I can easily get anything I need to make clothes from the local fabric store, and even with a reasonable hunt around the op shops I can find fabric notions galore to make any project a winner.  But this project, no.  It is not easy.  There is no local thread.  There are no local zips.  And every time I hit a wall my mind races with all the “why cant I justs?”

b heartwarmer

What really bothers me about it is that this thinking is so natural to me.  It seems to be a habit to just ignore the wider consequences and go with what is immediately within my grasp.  How do you break this mindset, how do you do the right thing, when any easier, faster option is always within our reach?

b heartwarmer

Whilst I battle against the why can’t I justs in making my local outfit, I needed an easy win. So this local handspun corriedale (from Bilby Yarns) became a heartwarmer for my gorgeous boy who is now the proud owner of my first #1year1outfit make.

 

Here is a glimpse at my progress on my #1year1outfit.  Chaotic. Anyone else doing a project that really challenges your mindset? 1y1o why cant i just

Naturally Dyed Gingers

Warning, there is a whole load of bottom in this post.  I made this fabric that I dyed with native plants into jeans, jeans, jeans!

GingersPattern: Ginger Jeans view B size 10 Fabric:  Bamboo Twill from Potters Fabric naturally dyed with Peppermint Tree, wattle and bottlebrush as per this post.

Ease:  Medium Gingers

Green Notes: When I bought this fabric over a year ago I believed that bamboo was a lower impact choice.  Now I understand that whilst bamboo fabric has some great properties it is actually an energy and water intense production process, similar to viscose.  This article is an interesting read (or this one if you are feeling technical) if you want to know more about the pros and cons. It seems it is not an open/shut case.

See Also: Soooo many versions of this pattern around the web. Sallie, Sasha are two of my favourites but there is a whole pinterest board for your viewing pleasure.

GingersTidbits:  I didn’t have many troubles making these up as per the instructions, but I wish I had read the sewalong a little earlier in the process as I may have had to less work on the crotch area with the new revised pattern, rather than the one I printed several months ago.  After basting, I spent some time fiddling with the front crotch curve (yep, I just said that) and ended up removing a whole 2cm and taking in the inseam a good deal too.   Gingers

Lessons: This picture above highlights a few of the tweaks I’d make second time around.  The other advantage of the new pattern pieces is that they have new pocket pieces that attached across the entire front as these suckers want to go walking a little northwards.

After wearing a little, as I did today, the fabric stretches a bit and I could possibly have taken more in from the knee to thigh area to limit wrinklage.  These are snug at the calves so no need to make adjustments there : ) Honest thoughts on tightness levels appreciated!

Finally, I have noted that I need a slight curve to the back waistband.  In this version, I made a teeny tuck.

Score: 4/5 The fabric is soft and comfortable, and I really, really needed a pair of jeans. I had zero operational pairs until today.  I’m a bit torn as to whether I will make the skinny jeans again or go for a more 70’s style flared pant with some actual denim I have been saving.

This beautiful silk scarf dyed with peppermint leaves is also awaiting its transformation into top..

#1year1outfit Myf Walker a Natural Dyeing Superhero

Today I am chatting to an Australian natural dyeing idol of mine, Myf Walker, about this gorgeous vest! Myf stocks a shop with pieces that she has thoughtfully made, from fabric to jewellery to garments.  Myf is hands on from the very moment she plants a seed in her dye garden through to the last stitch.

Enjoy.

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Tell us a little bit about the planning that went into this project.  How long did it take from start to finish?   (Include researching your fabric, trailing the pattern, fittings, dyeing etc!)

Honestly I try not to think about the amount of time that goes into the things I make. From drafting the pattern (and redrafting), dyeing, cutting, sewing, handstitching etc at least a couple of months.

(Photo credit to Myf Walker)

Can you tell us more the fabric used and how you dyed this gorgeous vest?

For this particular vest I used a silk/hemp blend for the vest itself with wool batting as lining. Then the collar is made using silk habutai stitched onto a wool melton base. The collar and most of the vest were dyed using a blend of materials Pomegranate (the gold) and Roses (purples) mostly. The bias binding of the vest was dyed using Weld.

Your approach to dyeing is very inspiring, from growing your own dye plants, through to the brilliant range of colours in your repertoire.  What is your favourite plant for dyeing?  And  What is your favourite technique?

Oh it’s so hard to pick a favourite, I love them all for different reasons! I love dyeing with pomegranate probably because I’ve had such varied results in colour from the one dyestuff, but also because the tannins in the peel mean there’s no need for a mordant. And solar dyeing is probably my favourite technique simply because it’s so easy (aka lazy). Because I only have very small pockets of free time stuffing something in a jar and leaving it for a few weeks is about all I can manage at the moment.

Mordanting seems like it could be hit and miss.  Do you have a standard mordanting regime that you like?

I tend to mordant a bunch of fabric at once and then dry it for later use. But quite often I’ll also mordant things whilst I’m dyeing them by adding the mordant to the dye pot (or using the pot as a mordant). The key is to use a large vessel so that you can keep the fabric moving freely so that it’s more likely to mordant evenly. I also soak my fabrics in water first before adding them to the mordant pot. I also think it helps to leave the fabric in the mordant pot for as long as you possibly can, I usually do it overnight.

When buying new fabrics to dye, do you have a strategy for dealing with trade-offs – like quality over cost,  local vs international, organic vs inorganic?  What do you value most?

This is a really tough one because the vast majority of fabric available here for dyeing is imported so yes there are tradeoffs. ALWAYS quality over cost. And local and sustainable wherever possible. Quality and sustainability are really important, I’ve chosen to work primarily with silk and wool because they tick those boxes for me. A lot of the fibres I use (especially the yarns) are repurposed or secondhand. I’m using a bunch of handspun yarn at the moment that came from the op shop (for example).

(Photo Credit Myf Walker)

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?(Don’t worry if not, I don’t either!) Or is there information that you wish suppliers would provide as standard?

Ideally I’d like to be able to travel to visit producers myself and I do hope to be able to do that in time because really it’s the only way you can be sure of what it is that you’re buying. The questions you ask will really depend on what kind of fibre you’re buying, your personal ethics and what qualities you require for whatever is it that you are doing. I have a good relationship with my supplier and I trust the information that I’m given about the fabrics I buy, I think that’s the most important thing.

Do you have any other go to resources that inspire you or recommend for the beginner Eco-dyer?

Kraft Kolour has a great range of natural dyes, fibres and resource books which makes it easy to get into using natural dyes. The internet is of course an excellent resource for tutorials and visual inspiration. And check out your local library for books on natural dyeing, you might even be able to find a group in your local area that works with natural dyes.

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A huge thank you to Myf for sharing her wisdom!

#1year1outfit Half Way House

We are 6 months down!   Aaaaaahhhhh, only 6 months to go to make my one Year one Outfit project  and I. Am. Starting.to.Panic.   Just a little. 

This might, might, have something to do with the fact that I am a novice at everything. No wait.  I am a stone cold begineer in all the things.  I’m learning to dye, weave, knit and felt – all in one breath. And well, things seem to be moving at a glacial pace when you are learning.

To catch you up since my last post, I need to show you the results of my wool dye tests……druuuuuuumm roll please…

And just because I tested a few other bits and pieces..

So after all those tests, what did I decide to do?  Well.  I took all 900g of handspun and dyed it with bottlebrush leaves.  Now for those of you paying attention you may recall that my first tangled dyeing disaster was with bottlebrush leaves.  I wasn’t happy with the colour, so I went off for a couple of months, tried everything I could get my hands on, and then, you guessed it, decided I liked the colour after all.  We all change our mind every now and then right!?

The dyeing took a whole week by the time I had scoured, dried, dyed and soaked all 900g.

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My knitting is going slowly as I chose a garment with cables, and yep, you guessed it, I’ve never done cables before!  I am at the point where things are starting to make sense so I hope the pace quickens a little.

In order to wear more than a cardigan (or boob tube as it currently stands)) I also want to get my head around weaving and felting.

I have been following along with @theweavingkind’s challenges on Instagram as incentive to read some tutorials on basic hand weaving.   My first hand weaving efforts were made using a small picture frame.  I have much to learn, much to learn..
Weaving startWeaving start

Then this week, I played with the big kids on a real loom at the local weaving, spinning and dyeing group and that was pretty exciting!  I have some basic information to get my head around before the next session and some designing to do, but looming my sample was very exciting!

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I also had a crack at felting at the Toodjay Fiber Festival.  I am excited to be catching up with Sue in the near future who is very close to finish the challenge and has become a ninja felter along the way!

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Finally, I have also been collecting design ideas from nature by taking photos of this beautiful place I live in on instagram. The black swans and floral shapes and colours are just exquisite, my favourite photo so far has to be this one.

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My head is spinning with everything I have learnt, and I feel like more and more of a fiber novice the further I dig!

This challenge would be overwhelming if it weren’t for the support of others joining in.  

–  Did you see Charlottes‘ post on natural dyeing?

–  I hear that Elle has had a bit of a break through in tracking down UK fiber so watch her new blog for more information there.  

– I am loving watching Raquel’s progress on instagram as she has sourced some wool very close to my heart and I cannot wait to see what she does with it, particularly when she keeps producing beautiful images of Peruvian textiles that inspire her and the dye plants she farms. 

–  And I want to welcome Zoe who has just decided to throw her hat in the ring and give this thing a go sourcing UK fibers. 

I would love to know how you are feeling about the challenge?  are you feeling overwhelmed like I am?  Anyone else got more than a boob tube so far? 

#1year1outfit – dyeing over decisions

It is funny to be working on such a long term project and yet feel like you are running out of time.  In my case, running out of sunshine for solar dyeing and flowers and fruits dropping off the trees at alarming rates means that I need to make some decisions, quick time.

When I last left you I was looking for an iron pot to redo my dyeing with peppermint tree branches (Agonis Flexuosa) in the hope of getting a grey.  Well, I found a cast iron griddle to pop in the bottom of pot and set about over dyeing  a neatly tied skien (ha!) using the leaves only this time.

natural dyeing progress

Well, it’s darker, but it’s not grey.  If you look closely, you’ll see that the hemp rope I used to tie it up has gone the colour I was hoping for! The handspun wool seems to be pretty resistant to the dye, possibly due to the lanolin content?  I did scour the wool by soaking it in a warm mild dishwashing detergent bath for a couple of hours, and I loathe to do much more to such a precious commodity.

natural dyeing progress

So yes, the brown is lovely, and I will still use this skein for another part of my outfit …. But ….given that I could get naturally coloured wool or alpaca in this colour I am determined to look a little harder for this garment. So I am setting about using this dye pot for something else (see above) and I am thinking about alternatives for my #1year1outfit wool.

On a walk around the neighbourhood I gathered together all the local dye plants that I could use:
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From top left here’s my thoughts so far:

– Bouganvillia – is dropping its blooms in a range of colours around the neighbourhood.  I have a solar dyeing jar going and the colour is slowly seeping out as a pink but I am unsure if it will be colourfast.

– Peppermint tree – plentiful and can get a soft caramel without the use of iron. ie stick with what I got from the first round of dyeing and dye the remaining skeins the same way.

– Bottlebrush – dyed linen and alpaca successfully and used in my kimono dress to achieve a pink but large amounts of blossoms are needed. Could be supplemented by Bouganvillia if that works.

– Hibiscus – a variety of colours around the neighbourhood but I have had the best results from the green hibiscus (yellow flower). It gave green on the linen and cotton samples used in my kimono dress after washing. I’m not sure I would get a green on the wool, but have set up a solar dye bottle to test. Time is running out for these as they fall off the trees rapidly at this time of year, so I would need to hurry if this is a goer.

– Wattle – branches and leaves.  I am not sure what to expect here but I am guessing Browns or greys – any advice on this one?

– Sunflower – a local house has over a hundred blooms coming to the end of their lives. My first attempt at solar dyeing with them was a fail, as I only had a tiny amount to work with.  But as I left it longer in the dye pot things did look promising and with a higher concentration, word on the street is that they work. Again, I’m not sure what to expect on this wool and would need to experiment a little before launching in.

– Various fallen eucalypt branches – again likely to yield a brownish colour but in plentiful supply.

– Olives – trees in the neighbourhood are currently laden with ripe olives.  I’ve done a simmer test with a small amount of handspun  which is soaking overnight to check out the result. Again, I have no experience with olives so any advice would be great.

I have tried to use limit my use of mordants to seawater, iron and dairy solution which are all local but I guess I could relax a little in that respect if one of these will work better with some Alum.

So there you have it, 3 experiments on the go at once to try and work out next steps!  Any advice on any of my options is very welcome.
natural dyeing progressnatural dyeing progress

The hibiscus pot is good and dark, but what colour will it yeild?

Solar Dyed Kimono

solar dyeing

This is the story of a pile of fabrics stuffed into bottles with bits of plants, the sun rendering colours into their fibers until one day I thought, I have enough for a dress.    I can officially say that this dress was a slow sewing project with it taking 4 months from start to finish.

  

It is pretty cool to wear something that has such a unique story.  If only these little speech bubbles could follow me around to make explanations easier.

Kimono Dress

Pattern: Ralph Pinks’ Asymetric Kimono Dress

Fabric: undyed natural linen from Miss Matabi, scrap cotton and silk remnants from Remida reuse centre.  Solar dyeing progress was tracked in my Instagram here, here, here and here.

Here is a summary of how I dealt with each fabric and plant:

– linen – premordanted with diluted milk solution overnight

– cotton – (used with hibiscus in the dark green) salt bath, dried, milk dip and dried times two before adding to the jar

– silk – no mordant used

– bottlebrush and hibiscus – wet fabric added to jars with flowers of each plant and left for 3-4 days

– avocado – used saved pits that I had been freezing as we ate avocados.  Boiled the pits for an hour then simmered the fabric for an hour, left in the pot overnight.

– eucalyptus bark – bark added to jars with boiling water then fabric added and left for 4 days. I believe it was salmon gum but will go back to the park to identify it now I have a good book to help me – (Gardener’s Companion to Eucalypts)

Ease: Difficult – Not only do you not have complete control of the solar dyeing process, the pattern I chose was challenging.

See Also: many people claim to own this pattern but I cannot find one on the streets of the web

Tidbits:  this may be why.  The PDF printout is a head ache. There are so many pieces to this pattern and there are limited markings on the print out. We are talking a whole room covered with jigsaw puzzle pieces. There was cursing.

Secondly, the instructions were patchy.  Cut one arm piece. No mention of finishes, no mention of how best to secure the facing.  You best have some experience before tackling this one.  In general, I really love Ralph Pinks drafting and believe he has some of the most exciting patterns out there, but the communication side of things is lacking compared to other indie companies, so if you want hand holding this is not the place.

I compared my pattern pieces to the bodice and there was plenty of ease so decided to just leave out the dart and take in the sides if needed.  It was needed.  I took the bodice in around a cm from the armpit tithe waist.

 eco dyeing dress

eco dyeing dress

Lessons:  I could have left more seam allowance on the collar as it was pulling seriously in my first go.  I extended it and reattached it but it is certainly not perfect still.   I also think I may have attached the bottom panel upside down, but really I have no idea on this, just a hunch.

This linen wants to wrinkle if I look at it which I’m not sure works with the style of this dress.  It’s also got quite a bit of body which I think makes the sleeves stand out more than I like on me.  I am toying with the idea of doing little kimono tucks on the shoulders as I am really not sure I like the sleeves as they are.

I think I would also lengthen the skirt pieces if I were to make this again.

eco dyeing dress

Score: in all honesty, I am not in love with this dress.  I love it’s story, but had trouble styling it and I think I may see if I can find someone else who it suits better.  I guess I give it a 5 for artistry and a 3 for how how it fits in my wardrobe.

In other news, I have started working on my first article for #1year1outfit but the first step threw up a few hurdles…. more soon!

#1year1outfit – Fibreshed and Eco Dyeing Adventures

Fantastic news!  Our project is now an official affiliate of the Fibershed project, with our very own logo!

OneYearOneOutfit

If you make a garment that meets the Fibershed requirements as part of this project, then you get to celebrate by using this logo.  I just request that you contact me if you do, so I can do a wonderful wrap up.  As this project encompasses a broader approach to sustainability, feel free to use the #1year1outfit logo for other discussion or garments. If you missed the #1year1outfit introduction, see it here.

In other news, February is natural dyeing month, I have an interview coming up for you next week but I wanted to start by showing you my first tentative steps into the world of natural dyes!

To make my very first ecodye project I used the approach taught to me by Jane Flower at a workshop held at the end of last year.  Jane’s approach is to avoid the use of mordants and to use native plants.  She uses mostly silk or wool to produce the most unique garments (ooooh…. aaaaahhh):

Ecodyeing Workshop

Ecodyeing Workshop

Ecodyeing Workshop

In our workshop we died silk scarves using resists.  We boiled 2 two pots (one eucalyptus and one peppermint tree), I chose the peppermint as I don’t often wear oranges and grey is more practical for my wardrobe.  Here is a little picture story of the class:

Ecodyeing Workshop

Ecodyeing Workshop

Ecodyeing Workshop

Ecodyeing Workshop

Ecodyeing Workshop

Ecodyeing Workshop

Ecodyeing Workshop

Ecodyeing Workshop

Can you spot mine on the drying rack? If not, you are going to have to wait…. mean, aren’t I!

After the course, a friend and I had a go at the bundling technique at home with a pretty mediocre result, but on a recent camping trip in the Jarrah Forrests south of Perth, I had more success and made my first garment : )

I had some thrifted wool with me and tried two different pots, the first of leaf litter:

Camp Dye Scarf

Camp Dye Scarf

and the second using some sap encased bark that I found fallen off a tree:

Camp Dye Scarf

ecodyeing scarf

We were camping in celebration of my husbands birthday so I knitted him a scarf right there in the bush. Note that this photo was taken back home with materials for my next dye project at the ready.

ecodye scarf

Sorry for the phone photos for these two – our camera had a little swim in the river : )
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If you follow me on Instagram you might have spotted that I have also be trying out some solar dyeing, so I promise a round of those results some time soon too.   This week the Perth gang are headed to meet some Alpaca’s so the project is really moving along!