Sunday, 13 September 2015

My kind of fashion icon – the wonderful Iris Apfel

Imagine a teenager's enthusiasm for putting an outfit together, the bargaining skills of a Moroccan carpet seller, combined with delicious personal style and a collection of costume jewellery started more than eighty years ago. This is Iris Apfel.

I can't remember when I first heard about Iris – it was probably around the time her jewellery collection filled a last-minute gap in the exhibition schedule at the Metropolitan Museum in New York – but I've been keeping an eye out for her ever since. 

Iris has been gaining popularity in recent years, having been the face of campaigns for Kate Spade and jewellery designer Alexis Bittar, as well as appearing on countless magazine covers – she now calls herself the "geriatric starlet" – but a recent documentary really gives you a peek inside her life and wardrobe. I popped along to see it on Monday.
The Iris movie is such a sweet celebration of one woman's life-long love affair with textiles, costume and the thrill of the find.

For years Iris was an interior designer and ran the company Old World Weavers with her husband Carl, who sadly passed away last month. Their most well-known commission was the ongoing work they did for the White House, designing interiors for no less than nine US presidents.

Iris has the most colourful, joyful style and it reminded how much I used to love planning and putting outfits together which has just gone by the wayside as I've gotten older. 

I don't have Iris' massive collection (which was slightly terrifying in its scale), but part of the reason I think the joy has gone out of dressing for me, is that I've taken such a scattergun approach to buying things over recent years and you end up with a whole lot of clothes but not a lot that hangs together.
Iris goes against the grain in so many ways, especially in our youth-obsessed culture. She's 94 for goodness sake, has had grey hair forever, thinks plastic surgery is awful and when asked why she never comments on what others are wearing declared "Who am I to judge – it's better to be happy than well dressed".

What a fabulous woman!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Warp and weft from go to whoa

This week I finished my quilt that was inspired by the weavers of Teotitlán del Valle and the cochineal they use to dye their yarns. I've decided to call it Warp and Weft.
It started as a scribble in my sketchbook.
Palette chosen.
Marrying the pairs.
Cutting, piecing and ironing.
The finished top.
Binding… So close now.
The ta-dah moment! Hanging out at the park.
I've also written a pattern for the quilt in three different sizes – queen, lap and a baby quilt – which you can find on both my Etsy and Craftsy stores.

I often have to remind myself to take photos as I work, but I'm always really glad when I have because I love being able to look back at how it all came together. I'm already planning the next one…

Sunday, 30 August 2015

A sustainable wardrobe – Part 3, Raw materials: On to natural fibres

This month I decided to check back through my credit cards to be absolutely accurate about the last time I bought clothes. It turns out it was December 2014 – a pair of pyjamas, and March was the last time I bought shoes – a new pair of runners to replace my seven-year-old pair that had lost all support. So I can definitely say it's now eight months since I've bought clothes and five since I've bought shoes, and right now I can't say I'm suffering in the slightest.

I'm also starting to feel much better informed and know this will lead to better choices when I do need to replace something.

Today though, I'm bringing you my second post on raw materials. Last time I talked about synthetic fibres, so this month it's the turn of the natural fibres.

I'm going to start with those from animals and really, you can't go past wool as a pretty stand-out option. It currently makes up less than 2 per cent of the world's textile production so it doesn't have the issues of some more intensively farmed fibres. If it's farmed responsibly, or even better, organically, then it's a really good choice – it's cool in summer, warm in winter and breathable ie it can absorb a large amount of water and move it away from the skin for evaporation. Wool is also naturally odour and stain resistant so it requires less care than other fibres.
Taken at the recent Bendigo Wool Show.
In future I'll also be looking at wild silk, alpaca, mohair and cashmere as options, but I draw the line at animals having to suffer or die in the production of fibre for my clothing. I just prefer to use other options when there are so many out there, so possum, angora rabbit and fur are off the list for me.

The last fibre-types to look at are plant fibres, and one fibre that I particularly want to talk about – cotton. As we saw last time, my wardrobe is currently made up of 44 per cent cotton or cotton blend items, but since the story of conventional cotton is the one that I've found the most shocking in my fibre research, that balance is going to have to change over time.

If you want more information I'd suggest watching 'The True Cost' – if you haven't already. It's apparently now available on Netflix, as well as iTunes. The other thing worth watching, if you can bear it, is 'Blood, Sweat and T-shirts'. So, here goes…
From now on I'll be choosing hemp, linen or organic cotton, and probably in that order.

After all that I'm now pretty clear on my clothing fibre preferences, but I also promised you some options for crafting. From Australia we have organic wool from Woolganic. From the US there's Swans Islands Yarn and I found Cornish organic wool in the UK. While not organic, I think Manos del Uruguay deserves a mention. They are actually a 40-year-old collective that cares for people, animals and the environment. In the last couple of years they been granted full World Fair Trade certification.

For organic cotton try KPC Yarn, Danish company Onion, or EcoYarnsQuince & Co have an organic linen. Also from Denmark, BC Garn have a good range of both organic wool and organic cotton.

For those into patchwork, there aren't a lot of options. As far as I can find there's Cloud 9, Monaluna or Birch Fabrics. I think those of us who are into textiles need to start asking some hard questions about where our quilting cotton comes from.

You can also get lots of unusual natural fibres such as banana (abaca), coconut, kenaf and hemp from String Harvest.

These links are all over on the Pinterest board along with further options.

I hope this gives you some food for thought. Until next time…

1, 2, 3, 6 and 9 To Die for – Is Fashion Wearing out the World?, Ch 7 – 'Picking at Cotton', Lucy Siegle, Fourth Estate, London, 2011
4. Cotton Campaign,
5 and 10 The True Cost, movie, Direct quote from Vandana Shiva
7. WWF Global,
8. 3Fish,

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Making a flying geese baby quilt

Well, the baby quilt got finished in time, and without any ridiculous late nights – got to be happy about that! The house did look slightly like a tornado had whipped through by the time I was done though.

I'm using a lot of Kaffe Fassett shot cottons at the moment. They were all from bundles I bought at Brooklyn General Store a few years ago. 
For this quilt I used seven fat quarters for the front (pictured below), one dark grey fat quarter for the binding and three more fat quarters for the back, along with some leftover scraps from the front.
I used this no-waste method of flying geese construction, with my large squares being 6 1/4" and the small ones as 3 3/8". I made a few of the odd-numbered flying geese as one-offs (the no-waste method makes them four at a time), so they'd all fit on the fabric, but I made a cutting plan first so I knew I'd be OK. If you're interested in the cutting plan, I'm happy to send it to you if contact me through the email address at the bottom of this site. 

My quilting foot decided to give up three-quarters through the quilting, but my standard foot finished the job fine. It's not perfect, but I don't think my quilting ever will be.
And last, but not least, I had these labels printed up at Spoonflower with my last batch of fabric. It sure beats hand-stitching a label on the back!

The quilt was gifted yesterday and, happily, mum-to-be was pretty chuffed to receive it, which, for me, is a big part of what making is all about.

Happy week everyone!


Sunday, 16 August 2015

Projects on the go

Oh yeah! Despite the lack of posts on here recently, don't think I haven't been stitching and knitting like a madwoman. Actually it's only putting all these pics together now, that I realise why I haven't been on here for a while.

Let's start with the knitting. There's been swatching. This is the gorgeous yarn I picked up at the first Natural Fibre Market. It's Spinning Yarns, Weaving Tales and I'm planning something for my sister. The swatches haven't been blocked as yet, but the one on the right is knitted as a single and the one on the left with two strands. No decisions made on this as yet, but I do love this tweedy goodness. By the way, the next market is on at the Queen Vic Markets on 13 September.
There's also been knitting of sleeves. I'm so close on this Millamia cardigan that I can taste it. Unfortunately it's the project with no deadline and it's for me, so it doesn't get picked up too often. You know how that goes.
And then there was the glorious finishing of the girls' cardigans. Juliet's (the smallest one) was knitted last year, but the other two have only been finished in the last week or two. Juliet refused to try hers on as I was knitting so I could see if it would fit, but she's barely taken it off since; Phoebe's looks crooked here, I'm pretty sure it's just been made that way through photo shenanigans; and Olivia will have grown out of hers in about five mins, but since she's the oldest it will still get a lot of wear as it passes down the line. All the patterns and notes are on Ravelry for those interested.
Next, there's the fabric stuff… There's been shibori and rust dyeing,
and, inspired by Mexico last year, a small fabric range, Mestizo Festiva. I stitched the patterns and then had swatches printed on Eco Canvas. The designs are available to be printed on all sorts of fabrics from Spoonflower. Now that I'm happy with the repeats I'm going to order a bit more and make myself a bag.
And last, but not least, the quilts. There's this happy one that I've been working on for years. I get it out, do a bit more and then put it away again. The reason it's been so stop-start is that the fabric is from South America and it's very random. The shapes were all cut to follow the pattern on the fabric, leaving things a bit wonky. I change my mind fairly frequently as to how I'm going to deal with this and whether or not I'm going to hand quilt it or quilt-as-I-go. Decisions, decisions.
Then there's the baby quilt… This one is now on a bit of a scary deadline so I don't want to talk about it.
The baby quilt is suffering due to this beast arriving back from the quilters and needing to be bound. This is the quilt that was inspired by the cochineal dyes and hand-woven rugs of Te├│titlan del Valle. I'm so happy with the quilting that Karen, from Quilts on Bastings, has done and I can't wait to show you the finished piece.
Then, of course, there's also been some mending as I continue my #midmonthmending project on Instagram, more knitting in the planning stages as I wait for some new yarn to arrive, and a wedding quilt I should really put some thought into.

Holy moly, I don't know what I'm doing sitting here – I need to get back to it! Maybe another cup of coffee first… Happy week everyone.