Apologies for the lack of posting here recently. Like Elizabeth Bishop I have recently lost a continent and am still trying to figure out if it’s a disaster…..AKA I’ve returned to dear old Écosse.
After months without my stuff (the spinning wheel was the hardest to do without) I decided to ease myself back into all things fabric with a wardrobe update post-reunion.
It was whilst picking through my fabric stash that I happened upon an old pair of peach silk trousers I purchased from TKMaxx well over a decade ago. Quickly realising coralesque shades were a sartorial no-no for me, I filed the trews under “to be repurposed” and let them languish there until last week.
As I was looking for a low-cost/low-effort project I didn’t want to purchase a sewing pattern that would be sent to me. Instead I headed to a local charity shop and picked a generic vest that I could take apart, alter and keep for future use.
The result is the rather eccentrically finished top. Dyed using Jacquard’s SolarFast, a UV reactive product, and local East Lothian flora I’m overall happy with the results. Several lessons were learned on this off-piste sewing project that I’d love to share. Mostly, so you can avoid my mistakes and make whole new ones of your own!
Making clothes from pre-existing garments is not for the ardent rule follower. To make sure I had the right amount of fabric for my top I had to mix fabric grain lines, cobble scraps together and generally treat the fabric a bit rougher than I usually would. You have been warned.
When measuring off an existing garment don’t forget your seam allowances. In my case I like a larger seam allowance than the top I was working from had, so I had to bear this in mind whilst tracing onto my final fabric.
Don’t get too cocky or cut fabric whilst tired. Keep scraps to practice on before starting your project proper. You’ll learn the qualities of the fiber before even touching your final project.
In terms of working with the Jacquard SolarFast, I have some straightforward advice. Firstly, get someone to help you hold your fabric down if you treat it outside. A clear piece of plastic will hold materials down and protect from the wind etc. Watch your clothes as you work, the UV dye will permanently stain them.
Lastly, expect the unexpected. Upon completing my trousers-to-top project I wasn’t super happy with the fit of the top and wondered how often I’d actually wear it. I have no problem wearing clothes backwards if it works, so I tried the same with this top and I really love it. What a happy accident.
Are you working on any projects right now that utilise repurposed fabric? How’s it going for you if you are?
New Year, whether we want it or not, is a time for reflection and anticipation. Lose ends are woven into the fabric of the past year as we nudge our way into the next.
To that end, I thought I’d share a project of mine that was my constant companion throughout 2017; my recently-minted Fair Isle cardigan.
Designed by Lisa Richardson and printed in the no. 58 issue of Rowan, the “Unst” pattern was too tempting not to knit up.
Fancying the challenge of a larger spinning project I decided to make the yarn myself, and set to spinning up some corriedale with the childish enthusiasm of someone who doesn’t know what they’ve gotten themselves into.
The real challenge of this project however was the accompanying yarn dyeing portion post-spin: dye combinations, colour-matching, re-dyeing…you name it I stressed over it.
However, now that the masochism of this project is in the rear view mirror of 2017 I’m proud I took the time to push myself, and am looking forward to trying to edge it into as many outfits as possible. The extra good news? The corriedale is so thick that the cardigan can double as a coat!
Anyone else working through or recently finished a major project? Tell me about it, we can commiserate and congratulate each other all at once.
Hi guys! I wanted to share with you another item in my handmade wardrobe; a simple summer dress.
I don’t have much to say about it besides the fact that I clearly printed the fabric myself, and am happy to share how I did so in a future post if anyone is interested:)
The dye used was thickened cochineal on a myrobalan base…so I’ll have to be very careful how I wash it unless I want to end up with purple leaves instead of pink!
Cannot praise Maiwa enough for running a course which unlocked this skill-set for me. I’ve made so many mistakes already on my journey and have countless more on the horizon, but am at last able to make clothing that truly reflects my personal style.
Well, that’s it for today. Short and sweet, but hope you enjoyed all the same. What summer projects are you working on right now? I’d love to hear about them.
Thought I’d entice you into reading my post with a picture of my filthy shoes. They’re my beloved Dr. Marten’s that I’ve had for over 17 years. Only took about a decade to stop giving me blisters. I wish I was joking.
Anyhoo, this is the second of a series of outfit posts I’ll be making over the coming year, sharing clothes I’ve made and how I fit them into my wardrobe. My first post, featuring a logwood dyed shibori top can be found here.
Above is my beloved linen top/cardigan thingy. I throw it on on those days where I want to make it look like I’ve made a little bit more effort, even when I haven’t.
I made the pattern by sizing up a T-shirt, tracing it and essentially cutting a opening down the middle. Very fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants sewing. I did french seam the top though; the linen I used was very prone to fraying.
I had originally spent a long time sewing in a running stitch for shibori detail around the bottom of the top. I patiently dyed the top with osage and overdyed with indigo, hoping to achieve the perfect green. The results once again hit on that dowdy note that I’m trying to avoid. So after some deliberation, I mixed up some Procion MX and redyed the garment. I’m so much happier with the colour now. I even like that I can still faintly see the detail along the hem in certain lights. I don’t see that as a flaw, it adds character!
How are your sewing projects going right now? Any disasters like me?
As spring approaches and I begin to plan upcoming holidays and little sanity trips away, I always find myself in danger of overpacking when it comes to crafts. Paint brushes are loving slipped in amongst knitting needles, yarn finds it’s way in between the treadles of my spinning wheel, and I often try to squish some alum in beside my jumpers…you never know what interesting plants you may come across on your travels that are just asking to be dyed with…So, in order to minimize the risk of divorce on the grounds of chronic over-crafting I always ask myself a series of questions to help focus on what is the appropriate craft for my vacation, and I thought I’d share those with you too. Whilst definitely not a fool-proof formula you instantly extrapolate, it may help you get into the right mindset for mixing craft and travel by reading the experiences of someone else, in this case, me!
So without further ado, when preparing a trip away, I always ask myself:
Where am I going? San Francisco or wet and windy surf trip to Tofino? I always try to pick creative past-times which mesh well with my location. Now, I’d like to preface this whole post by noting that it really depends what sort of crafts you are into an how precious you are with your supplies. I’m coming from the perspective of mainly fiber arts, buy love a bit of sketching and photography too. It goes without saying that if you’re reading this you, like I, can never go anywhere craftless.
So honestly, if I’m getting a plane or any other form of mass transportation to my destination, I’m very conservative in what I choose to bring with me if clearing security and baggage restrictions weigh heavily on the to-and-back. I don’t even bring knitting with me if I’m not checking a bag. I certainly don’t keep knitting needles in my carry-on after once having them confiscated at security. For me, it’s just not worth the hassle, although I know many people who have never had a problem knitting their way through security:) For me, checked bag yes, carry-on no.
I’ve also never taken my spinning wheel on a flight with me. I know at some point it is going to happen, but from chatting to others, airline responses range from “book a seat like an instrument” to “just sky-check it, no problem.” I’d never put my precious baby in the hold and you shouldn’t be tempted to either! Costs can add up when hauling your supplies.
It’s also worth remembering that if you do take a larger item, like a spinning wheel with some roving, the materials your wheel is made from may been closely regulated at your destination. Roving which still has the odd bit of plant material stuck in it is often a big no-no and your wooden wheel may need to be fumigated before entry. Just weigh up whether it is a cost you are willing to incur and if you have the time to wait to be reunited. Check online with the respective agencies for your destination and get ahead of the game where possible.
I’m also concerned about leaving good equipment in hotel rooms. Often, special storage arrangements can be negotiated when you are out of the room and of course, travel insurance will help if there are any disasters, but I like to minimise my risk so often opt for photography as the camera comes with you, drop spindling or writing/journaling.
Think of the weather conditions where you will be. If you are very precious about your sketchbooks and it will be wet and windy on your holiday, forget plein air as an option:)
All bets are however off if where I am going is within driving distance of my home. Everything is getting rammed in the trunk in that case! I need to work on this!
How long do I have? OK, so you have your holiday booked, checked with your carrier (if applicable) and relevant authorities at your destination that everything is good if you’re not sure, know security will be a breeze and what extra costs you may incur, and have that super important travel insurance to cover more precious items from damage or theft……phew! So at this time I have another word with myself to remind me how much time I actually have, and set realistic crafting goals around that.
When taking short trips, especially city-breaks I often just bring my camera with me. At a push, a small pocket-sized sketchbook and pencils will also make the cut, but I draw the line (ha!) at paints and markers. I find that when you are somewhere for only a brief amount of time I’m never really immersed enough in a place to feel comfortable enough to stop and draw for any real length of time. This is often just for practical reasons; like I don’t know what sort of neighbourhood I’m walking through, I’ll be in the way of other folks, there may be a language barrier when dealing with the inevitable people who like to stop and ask you what you’re doing etc. People are however very used to others taking photographs. You don’t stand out, it’s almost instantaneous and it’s a wonderful way to keep a hold of precious memories. To me it is best creative pursuit if you want to keep a fairly low profile, depending on how many lens, tripods etc. you have.
Mid term to long term trips provide many more options for what you can bring although, this does depend on where you will be based. Moving around a lot/backpacking? Best leave the spinning wheel at home and grab a non-precious spindle to tote around with you. Knitting and crochet are wonderful options too. Paints and markers have a greater chance of bursting when repeatedly jostled and repacked for on-the-go travel. This shouldn’t stop you, just bear my bad experience in mind!
If I’m going to be in one place for an extended period of time I will often deal with the inconveniences of getting my gear there, as discussed above. However, it is important to bear in mind…
Who will be there and what you will be doing. Are you flying solo, with a partner or an extended family trip? Each scenario affects your crafting game. Travelling by yourself allows for the greatest creative freedom. I’ve snuggled up in many a hostel room and knitted a whole day away without bothering anyone. As a compromise with my husband we’ll often sketch together on holiday, which is his craft preference. Any of his other creative pursuits aren’t portable on the road so I placate him when my creative urge rears it’s head. We both enjoy the experience that way, even if it’s not my no.1 craft.
Family, especially holidaying with children is a whole different deal. If your project is going to take up a large amount of your time I’m tempted to say almost forget it. I doubt you’ll get the time and your prioritising it could cause disagreements. Crochet in the evenings works, journaling or setting down some short-story ideas no problem. Just don’t expect to get the sort of peace that will allow you to write the next Great American Novel. Often, you’ll only just frustrate yourself and others around you. Also, try to be considerate to others around you. Could your craft be considered irritating? The best example I can think of is camping. Generally, no matter where you go in the world you’ll find “guitar guy.” Borderline irritating at the best of times, downright inconsiderate all-day-everyday. Enjoy your trip, create the way you want to create, just worth factoring in.
Lastly, what are your expectations? Are you using your holiday to learn a completely new skill or just to get some hours in on a much-loved past-time? If all the stars align on your much-needed break (i.e. alone or with like-minded travelers, have enough time and aren’t on the move too much) then a trip away can be an excellent time to learn a new skill, especially if you take a course in your travel destination. However, if you’ve only got 4 days with your partner,your kids, your parents, your siblings, their partners, their kids, their parents, their dog etc (!!!!) then perhaps this isn’t your time to learn how to weave on a rigid heddle loom.
Hopefully this was a helpful, or at least enjoyable read. What are your travel tips? Do you have any great stories of maintaining your creative flow whilst travelling? Any horror stories? I’d love to know:)
Thought it was time to share with you a little wardrobe update of a different kind; a snapshot of some pieces I’ve made recently to update my look.
Featured above is a linen top I designed and naturally dyed with logwood. I also embellished it with whip-stitch shibori. In fact, here is a link to the tutorial right here for anyone that’s interested!
I’ve been actively trying to find my fit when it comes to the “slow clothes” movement. It seems to be, at least in terms of online representation, that there is not a lot between earth-mamma and eco-minimalism. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those vibes, it’s just that they’re not very…..me. Also, if I’m honest, I’ve had a tendency of late to pick comfort over any other consideration when it comes to clothes. Again, 100% A-OK, it just makes me feel a little dowdy. Does anyone else ever feel like that?
Anyway, this top is an attempt to hold-true to keeping clothes slow whilst also staying true to me…….and giving me an opportunity to step away from my pj’s. What do you think? Are you working on any pieces of clothing right now? I’d love to hear from you.
I wanted to share this exhibit with you before it ends on April 9th 2017. Layers ofInfluence is at the Museum of Anthropology located on UBC campus, Vancouver BC.
I was lucky enough to be part of a group that received a guided tour with the exhibit curator Jennifer Kramer. Organised by the Greater Vancouver Weavers and Spinners, the group met around 10.15 am on a cloudy Vancouver weekday. This mini-meetup before the tour was a great opportunity for guild members (including newbies like myself) to get to chat with folks outside of the monthly meeting. I learnt that for some it was their second or third time seeing the exhibit. Anticipation was running high.
Once assembled, we made our way through the museum towards the exhibition, unable to stop ourselves pausing here and there to marvel at the craftsmanship of potlatch ceremonial vessels and steamed cedar boxes created by gifted First Nations artisans. In fact, the very nature of walking to the exhibition space is preparation for the event. Gradually the impressive open gallery and glass panel walls; designed as a modern expression of traditional post-and-beams houses of the Northwest Coast First Nations, gives way to something more enclosed and intimate. Although the dimmed lighting in the exhibit hall is to reduce UV stress on the fabric, the experience upon entering is no less evocative.
Curator Jennifer Kramer, an associate professor at UBC and author on several books regarding Northwest Coast culture, began the tour by explaining the philosophy behind the exhibition. There would be none of the usual didactic-heavy, controlled visitor flow through the space. Instead people are encouraged to wander through the exhibit, arranged in “petal” sections as though an opening flower, and just experience it without feeling the obligation to read countless information panels. Pieces were displayed by country of origin in a unusual layered design (see below), sometimes overlapping to the point of obscurity on certain panels. Jennifer let us know this decision was borne out of a desire to create a sense of place, hinting at distant markets and evoking memories in the visitor. The sway of the fabrics as we ushered by only served to heighten the tactile quality of the exhibition…no mean feat in a “please do no touch” setting!
The only little wish from the group was that the visitor could have access to the back of the textiles so that they could understand how they were made. I was able to grab one or two photos (see below) for those fanatical about construction:)
Whilst Jennifer made it clear that most pieces in the exhibition were selected largely for their visual impact, there was still great depth to the pieces; both in the range of techniques on display and what they told us about the people who made them and their communities. We learnt, for example, that double ikat from Indonesia not only indicated wealth and status as it was passed from generation to generation but in some cases, was imbued with sacred significance as well. Used in ceremonies from birth to death it could be revered as a sacred object in it’s own right.
World events and technologies could also be traced through examining motifs within the fabric. Colonial influences on pieces from Nigeria, Tonga and India were noted by this immigrant Scot; although their incorporation within the designs is far beyond my simplistic interpretation, and suggest great agency and an active dialogue on the part of the artisans and the communities to whom they belong.
The decision to use almost exclusively textiles that hang as panels, and therefore wrap/enshroud the body, was contradicted only briefly in order to share some fantastic pieces from Tibet, Turkmenistan , Afghanistan and Pakistan. The woman’s mantle of embroidered silk (pictured below) is a personal favourite, with the yellow indicating the wearer was married.
Interestingly, the Tibetan chubas on display reappeared at our guild meeting some weeks after our visit, in the form of a talk from fibre artist Jean Kares. We learnt from Jean that Tibetan high-ranking officials would have Chinese silks that were gifted to them cut into appropriate Tibetan garb. One chuba on display is actually made up of 3 separate silk panels…so expertly crafted that I didn’t even notice on first viewing. Thanks Jean!
I highly encourage everyone to download the exhibition catalogue to look at these pieces further, one photo doesn’t do the collection justice.
Several guild members mentioned towards the end of the tour that the exhibition reminded them to maintain a broad definition of textiles, myself included. Shibori on Japanese kimonos that looked like heavily-textured woven cloth, direct application of pigment on mulberry bark, paste-resist from Nigeria, a Maori cloak of kiwi feathers and a Chilkat robe from Alaska, woven from goat wool and yellow cedar bark were just some of the many-varied examples of exceptional craftsmanship on display.
Before we knew it our tour was almost over, though Jennifer was careful to ensure we had time for questions and mingling at the end. It was at this last minute that I noticed what has become one of my favourite pieces of the exhibition; the bark cloth panel from the Solomon Islands, pictured above. Painted with wild indigo and depicting dugongs amongst other symbols, it is thought to date to near the beginning of the 20th century and is very rare.
Much thanks to the MOA and the guild for organising this fantastic tour. The catalogue is available to view online for anyone wishing to (re)explore the exhibition at their own pace. There is so much more to see than I have had time to mention here. Apologies for any innocent mistakes I’ve made in this post, when it comes to textiles on a global scale I’m an enthusiastic novice!
If you’d like to join us at Greater Vancouver Weavers and Spinners then please follow the link. We’d love for you to join us, whether you’re brand new to the craft/s or a seasoned enthusiast!