Sunday, January 27, 2013

winter blues

The sky is the bluest of blue this time of year. No haze or humidity, just limitless blue. I have been working with remnants from last years indigo experiments. The small shibori pieces will be part of a group show at Chroma Projects opening next week. 25 Chroma affiliated artists will display affordable, lovable, and mailable art during the month of February. I hope you can come by if you are in the neighborhood.

A small throw quilt is also in the works. The layering and quilting is still left and I am imagining a soft backing and lots of hand stitching to finish it off. I love how the shades from the various indigo dips set each other off.

Then there are the blue sachets, all indigo dyed, lovingly stitched, and sweet smelling. They are available in the store ready to ship...

Blue is the color of choice this time around.

Monday, January 21, 2013

what to wear

I consider myself to be environmentally aware. We grow our own vegetables, I ride my bike or walk whenever possible, I turn off the tap while brushing my teeth and we keep the temperature low in the house. We recycle, nourish a thriving compost heap, and use eco friendly soaps and detergents...

Still, when it comes to my own wardrobe a majority of it originated in a foreign country, produced under circumstances that I am sure were less than ideal for our environment or for the people working in the production facility. Todays fashion industry and clothing manufacturing is responsible for almost 20% of all industrial water pollution, just from commercial textile dyeing and treatment, according to the World Bank. Add to that number all the waste (leftover remnants, discarded mass produced garments, and so on) that ends up in our landfills.

A discussions on the topic is starting to gain momentum. A recent post by Take Part highlights the problem as well as the growing number of organizations, corporations, and individuals working on a solution. At the same time there is an increased interest in the domestically made products, as people realize that promoting and buying things made in our own country, or even better in our own region, will further our own economy while creating jobs and opportunities in our back yard. Made is one organization devoted to promoting American made goods and work. 

Another solution is to return to the tradition of making our own clothes. What we wear does not have to be highly tailored or complicated to be beautiful and functional. A simple skirt or a tunic is well within the ability for most people, and imagine the satisfaction of wearing something truly unique.

Alapaca scarf by State©State, all rights reserved.

Noting the benefits of choosing hand crafted, domestic, or home made, I am also acutely aware that this is not a viable financial option for many of us. These products are expensive and I can understand that someone working two jobs and caring for a family may not find it realistic to invest in a sewing machine or spending time making clothes. It is difficult to bring up the distain for cheap mass-produced garments without seeming elitist, much like the organic food movement mostly has become a reality for the privileged.

Colorful frocks, by India Flint, ©India Flint, all rights reserved.

So what can we do on an affordable scale to make a difference? Personally I am starting by following my friend India Flint's advice from her wonderful book Second skin: "recycle, reuse, rethink, repurpose, and repair."

Long grey wool tweed jacket, by 13 threads, ©13 threads, all rights reserved.

I have sorted my closet - things I don't wear or don't like have been given away for better use by someone else, a few items are awaiting minor adjustments or repairs, some things will gain a totally new life after a short hiatus in the scrap fabric pile. I vow to take care of the things I already own, by not washing them too often, air dry them once they are clean, and to mend them if needed. As for new acquisitions, I will try to only buy pieces that are US made or hand crafted by someone I know this upcoming year. Truthfully, I can probably live quite happily for a long time without buying any new clothes. Like most people in our culture I already own more garments than I can manage, even after the sort-through.

Dress 98, by Sonya Philip, cotton print and African wax print, ©Sonya Philip, all rights reserved.

I will start to make clothes. When I was in my early 20's I wore nothing but hand made or vintage clothing. Back then it was more out of rebellion agains the mainstream, a protest against mass-production for other reasons than conscious regards for environment and community. Once life caught up with me, introducing kids, career, and responsibilities, my clothes sewing projects became few and far in between. After recently learning about artist Sonya Philip's project 100 acts of sewing, I am inspired to pick up the thread again - literally.

DIY Anna's garden swing skirt, by Alabama Chanin, ©Alabama Chanin, all rights reserved.

Naturally, sewing clothes and knitting, will become an artistic challenge for me as well. I am already imagining eco printed appliqués along a skirt hem, and eco dyeing my own yarn for a new sweater. I will not make predictions about my production, but I plan to document my efforts here. I have also started a pinterest board featuring sustainable clothing, my own and others'. I would love your input, ideas, and suggestions as well.

Jacobs wool sweater, by Fibershed, ©Fibershed, all rights reserved.

This post is illustrated with photos of some of my own clothes, but mostly I have borrowed images from makers from all over the country (and the world). All of them share a love for sustainable, sensible, and beautiful living. They are credited with links to their web sites if you want to take a peak. I will also feature them and their work here on this blog in the near future. Thanks for sticking with me to the end of an unusually long post! Happy making!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

winter whites

Powdery blue, silver, rosy taupe, celadon, winter white, blush, misty gray. The faintest of colors seem to dominate my surroundings this time of year. It happens to be my favorite palette no matter what season, but I love how the winter time somehow makes even the whitest shades of pale more vivid.

The color scheme in the landscape is influencing my work. There has been plenty of white on white stitching done (some may be altered in the dye pot at a later date) and a few older unfinished pieces has gained new life, despite being tucked away because of perceived lack of color interest.

Right after the holidays I made time for a dye pot, experimenting with only using plant materials gathered from the back yard despite the wintery weather. A combination of nandina, oak, magnolia and leatherleaf viburnum were layered between silk, cotton, and linen fabric, with a few pieces of paper thrown in for added interest.

The clamped bundle simmered with a handful of fustic wood shavings, for a couple of hours and were left to rest for another few days. The unveiling was far more thrilling than I expected. Somehow the wonderful imprints left behind mirrored the shades of the wintery cold landscape outside. In layers, and gradations, even the palest of impressions managed to stand out. Such joy...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


This is the season when freshness and hope inspire us. The promise of a new year lies ahead and it is easy to imagine all the wondrous things we can achieve if only there is will. I always get wrapped up in this sense of starting something anew, although I know that before soon more mundane and less glamorous tasks will take over. There is still much worth in dreaming, planning, and scheming.

I have spent much of my holiday break working on creative things not directly related to my work. I have been knitting (three different projects are underway...) and stitching clothing by hand (lucky to have received a Alabama Chanin DIY kit). I have also cooked, decorated the house, planned the spring garden, gone on numerous dog walks and spent time with my family. By now I feel relaxed and ready to go.

I mentioned before that I would like to keep the blog active and engaging. I will try to be here more often and with more direction. I am planning to show more of my work, both in progress and in finished form. I will definitely feature more book arts, both my own and others, and I will start a series of posts about clothing, how to make what we wear sustainable as well as stylish. For more frequent updates I still encourage you to visit my Facebook page, but I want the blog to continue to be a place for more in-depth reflections about my work, inspirations and things I care about.

I wish you the best for the upcoming year. May 2013 bring you happiness, peace, and plenty of creativity!

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