reuse and reclaim



My studio, my house, and my life is overtaken by fabric. Fabric yardage, fabric remnants, fabric scraps. Vintage fabrics, mod fabrics, silly fabrics. Fabrics collected and acquired over decades, lovingly washed, folded, and stored in piles. Fabrics left over from numerous projects and experiments.

Despite a promise to not announce any resolutions for this new year, I hereby declare 2012 the year of no new fabric purchases. Not only will I try not to buy more fabrics, I am also determined to use more of all the wonderful goodies I have on hand.



The last few days I have spent making pillows from fabrics originating from modern fabrics, a wonderful Charlotte, NC, based company that specializes in reselling remnants from furniture corporations and other industries. I am also creating small zip purses, using vintage linen and cotton prints. This new line of work will have its own place in my etsy store, some of the pieces are already listed, more will be added in upcoming weeks.

No promises can be made without caveat. I am running short on silk and wool for eco dyeing. And there may be a need to reorder my house linen fabric for new production work. But other than that I should be all set!






all about color

Work samples by my wonderful classmates.

Colors are not always what we perceive them to be. A piece of dyed fabric can look pale and unassuming on its own, beige and boring. But accompanied by another pale shade of cloth, both pieces may come to life. Color is on my mind, after this past week's natural dye workshop with Rowland Ricketts at Shakerag. I had a wonderful time, catching up with old friends (you know who you are), meeting new ones, and getting to know Rowland who is an amazing artist – generous, knowledgable, and fun.


Something is brewing.

Black willow bark samples hung to dry.

Towering trees everywhere.

Rowland's beautiful silk yarns.

The lovely compost pile.

My first attempt at shibori.

The focus of the class was the natural local landscape, and the colors we can gain from it. We were encouraged to collect plants that were either plentyful or invasive, and then by using japanese inspired dyeing techniques and mordants we managed to produce a wonderful range of soft (and sometimes not so soft) shades of cloth, yarn, and threads. I am much inspired and ready to fully make these natural dyes my own.

Documenting and organizing.

My finished samples. I love the range and the hues.

experimentation x 2

Two amazing women and their books have brought me on a joyful creative journey lately. I already gushed over India Flint, and her inspiring book Eco Colour, but have now followed lightly in her footsteps by experimenting with dyeing my linen fabrics using nothing but plants and natural materials. So far I am thrilled, mainly because many of the hues I have achieved are ones that I have unsuccessfully tried to produce for a long time using synthetic dyes. It is very hard to get pale shades of color from procion mx dyes. The soft greens here, created from boiling carrot tops in an iron pot are just perfect.

So is the grayish lavender color from the black bean water left over from our latest chili batch, and the rusty warm tones achieved from seeped onion skins, and the pale acid yellow made from chamomile tea bags...

I even tried India's famous eco printing technique, where you bundle your plants in tight fabric layers and put them in a steam bath to coax out the colors. I used geranium leaves, and although the result is nowhere near perfect, the impressions and imprints are intriguing.

I also recently purchased Natalie Chanin's book Alabama Studio Style. Her beautiful designs, technical skills, and innovative business methods, have inspired me for years. I love the new soft stencils she use, and decided to try the diluted ink spray bottle method included in her book. Well the result was quite disastrous – the ink bled everywhere, soaking through the felt stencil, making big blobs and splattering the fabric beyond the stencil. But once dried, I realized there was something appealing about this distressed mess. I added flower clusters, printed using rhododendron leaves, that echoes the blotches, but prettier. For some reason I just love the result. Next I will layer it, and add stitching, still using the same shapes.

The most wonderful side effect of these experiments, is that they taught me to cherish imperfection. I am by nature a perfectionist, wanting everything to be uniform, smooth, unblemished, aligned, and beautiful. These natural dyes come out mottled, uneven, and the stenciling is obviously quite ugly on its own. But somehow I have come to terms with how it all happens. The beauty is in the process, not necessarily in the end result.

I will take some time off for travels this week, but will return soon, with new reports, impressions, and imagery.

I just have to make an addendum to this post. Yesterday afternoon I found out from dear Claire at Shakerag, that I got a spot in India Flint's class this summer, after months on the waiting list. And guess who is the guest lecturer the week I am there – Ms. Natalie Chanin. I am so lucky!

just words

I have some technical problems with my photo managing software (I still love you, sweet mac...), so this will be my first post without pictures. Much is going on over here, worthy of sharing.

I've introduced a weekly shop update in the etsy store. Every Tuesday morning, I will list a handful of new handcrafted pieces. Most of them will be one-of-a-kinds, and most of them are truly new, not re-lists. Check in tomorrow for this weeks goodies.

I am happily experimenting with soy milk mordants, and natural plant dyeing per Ms. India's inspiration. I am amazed by the beautiful, subtle colors I have achieved so far. This is what I meant to post about, so look for more once the photo issue is resolved.

Lastly, we are taking off for Toronto next week. Can't wait to see this beautiful city, taste its foods, stroll by the waters edge, and visit with friends!

india flint

Images courtesy of India Flint. All rights reserved.

Prophet of bloom, is the name of her couture clothing line. She calls her blog not all those who wander are lost. These names exemplifies the imagination, travel lust, and free spirit of Australian born fiber artist India Flint. She is the queen of color; both vivid and subtle, faded and stark, and sometimes beautifully muddy and murky, all derived from plants and other natural materials. Threading light on this earth, and only using what is necessary, is India Flint's guiding light and it is evident throughout the artistic process. Even her preferred mordants, the fixatives used to make the dyes bonds with the fibers, are from natural origins.

I recently got India's book eco colour and am intrigued by the possibilities her techniques bring using leaves and flowers from our own back yards. Most plants are fair game, although some are more reliable than others (and be ware of the poisonous ones). Besides mordants, factors like water quality and what kind of vessel used, will affect the final outcome of the dye bath. The book includes vast plant lists, as well as safety and care instructions. It does not provide many exact recipes, instead it encourages the readers to experiment on their own using the book as a guide, and to celebrate unexpected results.

Image courtesy of India Flint. All rights reserved.

For her own fashion line, India Flint has developed a technique called eco-printing where leaves are layered with mordanted cloth, and then bundled up and treated with moisture, heat, or just time, depending on the preferred outcome. The result is magical impressions left behind by the natural pigments in the plant.

Image courtesy of India Flint. All rights reserved.

India is sharing her knowledge by teaching classes all over the world. This summer she will give two week long workshops at Shakerag, in Sewanee, Tennessee. I am currently on the waiting list for the first class, and although I do not wish for any of the current participants to miss this wonderful opportunity, I am secretly hoping that a spot will open up. I would love to meet India Flint, learn from her, and experiment alongside her.

Image courtesy of India Flint. All rights reserved.

to dos

My friend Mike doesn't do to-do lists. He is convinced that his former obsession with list making was one of the reasons his first marriage failed. My lovely husband keeps a long list of chores and projects on the computer, adding and deleting things as they come up or get done. He is perfectly content with his system.

I am always in to-do-list limbo. I am compelled to jot things down as I think of them, but these notes are scattered all over the house. If I am lucky enough to find them I will consolidate them into one list. Sometimes they get organized under random heading such as URGENT, BY MONDAY, LATER. But honestly, once a list is complete I rarely go back to check it. The longer the list, the more stress it induces. I don't like stress. Therefore I still keep my most pressing to-dos filed away in my brain, panic is never far away...

What is your relationship with to-do-lists? Do you add a recently completed task to the list, just to be able to cross it off? Do you use color codes? How do you organize your life? I would love some guidance and constructive advice on how to not let task lists overtake my life.

Check out my line drying post on the garden blog. I am in love with my clothes line and want to share that love with everyone. A special thanks to Jessica, who wrote so sweetly about inleaf and my work on her blog yesterday.

my wash room

After a lifetime of doing laundry in dingy basements, garages, and laundromats, we  finally have a real laundry room.  The small space next to our second floor bedrooms, was carved out and roughed in a couple of years ago, when we did a major house renovation. For many reasons, mainly financial, we have not finished the project until now. 

My lovely husband did all the work - laying, sanding, and staining the floor, making the shelves, installing the soapstone counter top, and all the painting... I was available for advice and good cheer throughout the project (yes, I know he is a very special man). I also love the new high efficiency washer and dryer, so roomy and quiet. Another favorite is the basket system for the boys sports gear. Here they find their jerseys and shin guards, and when they return from practice their grimy garments go directly in the dirty laundry bin. In theory their stuff never leaves the wash room unless it is on their bodies. I am no domestic diva, but I have to admit that this laundry room brings me happiness. No more hauling of baskets up two flights of stairs, or looking for boys' boxers in the dust piles on the basement concrete floor.

signs of spring

Slowly but surely spring is emerging. The star magnolia buds are unfolding and the maple flowers makes the tree aglow. To celebrate the season I invite you to visit the poppytalk handmade green spring market. An amazing array of artists are showing off their goods at this virtual market place. This is my debut as a poppytalk handmade seller, and I am impressed with the quality and beauty the market represents. You can find the inleaf table here, along with talented friends such as periwinkle bloom, enhabiten, and jewelweeds.


winter wonder

We woke up to more snow this morning. Wet and heavy, engulfing the neighborhood. Everything seems so pristine after a snowfall. This month I am starting two new partnerships. I am collaborating with Karen Young and her newly launched show:room, where she will promote independent artists and designers. Karen's own line Hammocks & High Tea is part of this small but talented group of eco conscious creative businesses. I have also placed my first ever sponsor ad on bliss. I can't imagine a better venue than Mrs. French's lovely blog, and I am proud to be a bliss supporter.

wedding favors

One of my favorite projects during these past weeks were the clutches I made for my friend Lynn, as gifts to the bridal party at her daughter Lauren's wedding this weekend. I had never tried to make framed purses before, but got inspired by red ruby rose's beautiful creations on etsy. They are leaf printed on organic hemp, and lined with vintage cotton. The sewing part was easy, at least compared to the trickery and patience it took to attach the purse to the frames. I do have it down by now, at least I think so... It is always fun to explore something new, and I am pleased with the final result.  Lauren and her soon to be husband Lincoln are renowned wedding photographers in Portland, Oregon. They are getting married this evening, among friends and family. I know it it will be a beautiful event and I wish them the best of luck and all the happiness that married life brings.
 

periwinklebloom

Periwinklebloom is one of my favorite blogs. I love the way Tyler writes about simple but wondrous things in life while stressing the importance of caring for the world we live in, and each other. Now she has launched an online shop where she sells her beautiful eco-friendly, locally made children's wares. The clothing is exquisite and the site photography, by Greg Rannells, is breath taking.
 
Many of us grownups wish that some of these garments were available in different sizes, like a maybe a 10... But for now, if you have a toddler somewhere in your midst, I recommend scooping up some of these goodies. A letter press paper line is in the works as well. I can't wait to see this endeavor take off and flourish. 


deux fm collaboration

My talented cousin Anna Gilkerson is the artistic force behind the Canadian clothing company deux fm. This summer she and I collaborated on some lace-printed pieces for her Spring 2009 collection. It was exciting to experiment with something new and different, and to discover how expressive lace designs and patterns can be. I love the look of the finished pieces.

 Anna creates lovely and elegant clothes while promoting ethical and environmental awareness. She uses eco- friendly as well as recycled fabrics and utilizes fair labor practices. All of her goods are manufactured and sourced in Canada. Deux fm's beautiful fall line is available now and you can visit their website for more information and retail outlets.

binnie

I know it is not proper to love a bicycle but my birthday gift binnie has earned my unmeasured admiration and affection. This bicycle was made by Raleigh in England in 1937, and I know nothing about her travels and adventures since then, except that someone else loved her enough to give her a name. She has a few new parts, but mostly she is a pre-second-world-war original, and she rides like a dream. No clunks, no wheezing, no squeaks. She has three speeds and old but reliable hand breaks, which is perfect for my short excursions. Most of all she is just plain beautiful! Since my infatuation with Binnie I have been looking for bicycle sources all over the web. Here are a few of my favorite blogs that promote commuting on two wheels in style ; riding pretty, vélo vogue, and chic cyclist.

47 and counting

Today is my birthday. My little guy is feeling much better, which is the greatest gift of all. He is back home playing with the dogs, cracking wry jokes, and delving into his favorite books. He even baked his signature chocolate chip cookies. He will need some additional medical attention for the next few weeks, but we are all hoping for a full recovery. Having a seriously ill child truly makes you reflect on what is important in life. So my birthday promise is to slow down and to live my days more fully, embracing every moment I have with my sons.

My mother and sisters sent me this beautiful necklace by swedish jewelry designer efva attling. Her work is world renowned and I am honored to have one of her pieces. The silver droplet is so sensual and simple. Tusen tack mamma, katta, och ulrika!

My lovely husband and the boys gave me a bicycle, which I will pick out from here. I am thrilled to be able to pedal to the market and the post office without leaving carbon wheel prints. Tonight we are off for a family dinner at duners. Life at 47 is bliss...

random delights

Back in the ambitious days I thought I could do one post a week featuring a few of the many people, places, and objects that delight my heart. Reality caught up with me, and therefor my reoccurring collection of inspirations now have a new name; random delights. They may still happen weekly, but the pressure is off...

Washington based graphic designer Saima Says specializes in exquisite custom invitations for weddings, baby arrivals, and other joyous events. Her designs are modern, elegant, and playful, while reflecting the style and personality of the people the special celebration is for.
Surface designer, screen printer, and embroidery whiz alison tauber is one of my etsy favorites. Her reasonably priced objects are both pretty and functional and her designs are simple yet fun and colorful. Her etsy shop is always well stocked – I have been wearing this t-shirt all summer long. You can find her lovely fabric patterns and beautiful custom pillows on her website.

This freshly founded website is a destination that looks and feel unlike any other web retailer or blog. It is a place for stylish green shopping and beautiful design, but also for eco-friendly ideas, information, and sharing. You will find work from independent artists such as dovetail, studio 1am, and inleaf along  with well known brand names like eva solo, amenity, and thomas paul. The site also feature articles like the one about an organic school lunch project in Chicago, a new electric motorcycle, and do good resources.  

pillow talk

The pillows for Juno & Jove are out the door, waiting for the friendly ups driver to take them on their journey south. They turned out great. All of them are stuffed with my new organic wool inserts from Holy Lamb Organics, which are incredible soft and cushy while holding their shape nicely. The photos show a small, but representative part of the order prior to shipment. I look forward to collaborating with Juno & Jove and I appreciate their effort to combine the importance of people, planet, and craftsmanship.

weekly delights

ladak
The Dutch design duo Jantien de Wilde and Jane Stroink makes these beautiful blankets from recycled sweaters, jeans, bedding materials, and other textiles. They are then creatively embellished with ribbons, lace and threads. Each blanket is named after a homeless person or a hero and 15% of the proceeds are donated to a shelter in Amsterdam. Ladak means warmth, comfort, and protection, and like people in need each of these blankets is unique.

Several years ago I discovered Canadian artist Sharilyn Wright and Lovely Design. Sharilyn makes the most delightful paper goods. Her books are made from reclaimed paper scraps, enhanced with hidden treasures such as old stamps and glassine envelopes for special keepsakes. The handprinted posters celebrate the Canadian nature and her thoughtful note cards, and clever address files are equally enchanted. Everything is created in an eco-friendly manner including clever packaging which eliminates the need for plastic. You can find out more about Sharilyn and her work on her blog
Jai and Lauren Soloy's woodworking studio sleeping forest is located in rural Nova Scotia, Canada. They make exquisite furniture, cabinetry, albums, boxes, business card holders, and spinning tops.  I have picked out a few pieces that I find especially irresistible from their etsy shop. The cedar waxwing pair is my favorite - made from carefully selected hardwood pieces to match the birds' actual colors. You can find out more about Jai and Lauren's life and work by visiting their blog.

modern fabrics

Ewa and James Powell has turned fabric recycling into a genius business model. The couple salvages discarded fabric remnants from furniture and upholstery industries and resells the high end fabrics to the public on their website Modern Fabrics. Not only do they keep these beautiful textiles out of the landfill, but they also enable artists, interior designers, and other creative people to buy them for a fraction of the original price. Above are examples of two fabrics that I have purchased. To the left is a wonderful wool fabric from Knoll, it is a lustrous shade of green and has fantastic drape. It is still on the roll waiting for the perfect purpose. To the right is an old office chair that we reupholstered in a striped green fabric made from recycled polyester – both durable and attractive.
Modern Fabrics is featured in the april/may issue of Ready Made magazine in a lovely article that applauds Ewa and James' efforts. Pick up a copy or check out Ready Made online for more information. Below are a few of my favorite fabrics currently for sale at Modern Fabrics.