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 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…

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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#1year1outfit The Big Reveal

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At the start of this year I set myself a ridiculous challenge. I had no idea whether it was achievable, and that was part of the attraction. I promised you that I would make an outfit that was made from local fibre, local labour and local colour, even if that meant wearing a crochet bikini! Following the Fibreshed philosophy was a massive ask given the remoteness of the city I live in.

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Well, here I am fully clothed in local wool, alpaca, silk and clay, feeling pretty darn chuffed. I learnt to felt, knit, weave, crochet, natural dye, wood fire and handstitch in the making of this outfit. My one skill that I had any experience in (machine sewing) turned out to be completely and utterly useless.

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Throughout the year I actively recorded the colours and seasons around me in my visual diary (cough, instagram), and I fell head over heels in love with this city again.  The brightness of the sun, sky and sand, and the sleek black of the swan were my inspiration for the colour palette.  The nuts and flowers of eucalypts created the pattern in my vest and the pom poms in my shoes. The herringbone weave chosen as it looks like patterns in the sand under the waves.  Somehow it seems silly to write this all down, but I really do feel like this outfit is both perfectly me and this land that I grew up on.

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It’s rough, it’s edgey but underneath it is soft and warm.
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I wanted to learn about the sustainability of textiles and I thought that working from the ground up would be the best way to do it. I can tell you now, that it was that and so much more. I am privileged to have meet so many wonderful people (and animals) this year, people who care passionately about the environment and textiles and who shared their knowledge with me.

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Some of these crazy people even decided to give this challenge a go themselves, and together in Perth we have built a little community.  A little community of local textile discoverers who have made this project feel less overwhelming and who pushed me to make something that at the start of this year I would never have dreamed of.  For those in Perth, we hope to hold a gathering in the new year to celebrate this wonderful Fibreshed in which we live.
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Watch this space for more posts on local garments made by participants far and wide, and for details on doing it all again next year if you are thinking of joining in!

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Felt top: merino roving and olive oil soap, details here

Zac’s tank:  Alpaca fleece, details here

Herringbone Skirt: handspun wool, sour grass, local clay, merino roving, alpaca mill off cuts, hand reeled silk thread, details here

Necklace: local clay, handspun wool dyed with sour grass and eucalypts

Pom Pom garland: alpaca mill off cuts, handspun wool dyed with sour grass and eucalypt, details here

Neck warmer: merino roving dyed with native indigo, details here

Boots: not made by me, but 10 years old and resoled, re zipped time and again, making them a sustainability stand out in my wardrobe

And another silly pose just cause..
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#1year1outfit Handwoven Herringbone Skirt

Here it is!  My handwoven, naturally dyed 100% local skirt.

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And while it waits for me to model it, it decided to check out the sites in Toodjay…. sewaway

The windmill,

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The dam…. You get the idea.  She’s well at home, she came from this soil after all!

Herringbone Skirt

Pattern:  loosely based on pattern N from Garments of a Dignified lady sewaway

Fabric:   wool handspun and sourced by Bilby Yarns, hand dyed and hand woven by me. Facing used  Felt made from local merino roving sourced at Bilby Yarns.

Notions:  Buttons made from Western Australian clay made by me, Silk thread hand reeled by Margaret River Silk Farm, Alpaca thread sourced from Fiber of the Gods.

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Tidbits:  Hopefully you have read all about how I wove this fabric, which was an adventure into new and scary lands, so you will understand how difficult it was to take the plunge and cut it up!

After a wash in local olive oil soap, the weave seemed stable enough and I placed my pattern pieces on to the fabric to get the most use out of the selvedges.  I put all the on grain edges on a selvedge and determined the width of the Aline by the width of the fabric.  To be doubly sure I made up a trial with my amended pieces before going ahead and cuuuuuttting!

Without moving the pieces around, I stay stitched (all handstitching) the raw edges before doing anything else.  I then handsewed each seam with silk and bound the edges with felt.  As you can imagine, all this took a few hours!

Luckily, I had booked in to a sewing retreat for the weekend (kindly organised by Natalie) where everyone else’s desk looked like this:

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And mine looked like this:sewaway

I sat and I hand stitched the heck out of this little beauty for a good part of the weekend.  All the facings were in felt so under stitching was useful to keep them in check!

Most things went smoothly, but the buttons were a wee bit stressful!  I tried several approaches on scraps and eventually (after 4 hours) was brave enough to make the cut on the real thing.  The trick was finding the right thickness of thread, and lots of beeswax stolen from a retreat buddy!  I used the book Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire B. Shaeffer religiously over the weekend for the buttonholes and handstitching guides.

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Lessons:  This self imposed challenge is intense!  But I am very grateful for all that I have learnt.

Next time I will be back with modelled shots of the whole shebang!

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