.post-body img { width:600px; height:auto; }

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Jean pocket project

It's now been more than two years since I've bought any clothes* and the longer it goes on, the more I'm drawn to working exclusively with upcycled textiles. I've recently spent time researching options for getting hold of pre-consumer (ie cutting waste from clothing manufacturing) or post-consumer textile waste, but, as is usual, the options in Australia are fairly limited.

I look at other countries that have innovative textile recycling programs (or even old-school ones) that give artists and makers access to the waste stream, but in Australia waste is big business and it's incredibly difficult to insert yourself into the cycle. The few places I can find that allow for community access, only deal with building and construction materials.

In terms of post-consumer waste, I'd really prefer to focus on textiles that aren't deemed fit for secondhand store resale. I'm looking for jeans that don't contain elastane, cotton shirts, cotton t-shirts (without writing or slogans) and 100% wool items. When I talk to secondhand stores, they say that once they've sorted what they don't need, the rest gets bundled and sold to brokers who use a very small percentage for turning into other products, but send the bulk of it to third world countries for resale (which has its own issues).  I've also talked directly to waste management organisations. Over recent times, especially in large Australian cities, local tips, and their accompanying tip shops, have become a thing of the past. Large multi-nationals such as Suez now run the show, and while recycling is definitely one of their services – according to someone I spoke to there this week, textiles go straight to landfill with no options for someone like me to get access before this happens.

In a country that bins the second largest amount of textile waste per capita – this isn't ideal.
Anyway, while I continue my search, it has got me thinking about how fast fashion is contributing to the destruction of local textile industries, skills and techniques and how clothes that were once created for a lifetime of service, such as jeans, are now a staple of fast fashion – an item created for its sturdiness and durability now churned out in the millions by, often times, child workers in Asia.

The result of all this thinking, emailing and phoning around is a personal art project I'm going to undertake for the year. One jean pocket per week decorated using a traditional textile technique. Each week I'll be posting the result over on my Instagram account.
I'm starting out fairly simple with kantha, or running stitch. I have a heap of ideas for decorating the pockets, but probably not a whole year's worth, so if you have any ideas you'd like to share, please do.

I'm also open to ideas on getting hold of textile waste. I have had some luck with the pre-consumer waste, so I'll share that with you in the coming weeks, but if you've got ideas for post-consumer waste, beyond shopping at charity stores, I'm all ears.
*except for the forgotten gym clothing episode.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

New year, new quilt

Introducing the Blue Giant! This quilt has been quietly plodding along in the background for well over a year now – but just as 2017 was getting underway I stitched the last stitch into the binding. Let's face it, a quilt top with pieces that big took no time at all to construct. It was the decision to hand quilt that dragged it out by months and months. I'm so glad I did it though, the larger stitches created with indigo-dyed sashiko thread really suit the aged and worn jeans. I just can't imagine that machine-quilting would have suited it as well.
The quilt front is made entirely from upcycled jeans collected from friends and family or bought at the local op-shop. I'm making a real effort to work with textiles that have enjoyed a previous life rather than buying into the whole cycle of new fabrics released each season.

There were a few jean pieces I wanted to use for colour balance that were worn through, so I patched them to add extra interest. They could just as easily have been patched from behind boro-style and stitched over to create even more texture.
Theoretically, you could make this quilt top from 12 pairs of jeans, and I've created a pattern over in my Etsy store so you can do just that. The quilt pictured here is 85" across (216 cm) and fits nicely on a queen-sized bed (pictured below). To get a quilt this size you need to use extra large men's jeans to make that centre star, but if you have a stash of old jeans and want to try this pattern out, I've provided instructions for you to be able to resize the pattern to suit whatever jeans you have handy.
It's so exciting to finally be able to show you the finished quilt. For the last month or so it's been schlepping backwards and forwards with me from Melbourne to Sydney as I rearrange my life to accommodate more day job work. Luckily it was just about done when I arrived at my Mum's in Wagga (the halfway point when I drove between the two cities), as it was the perfect place to show it off from the back verandah.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy break over the Christmas period. I'm looking forward to a 2017 filled with inspiration and more creative adventures.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Festival fun

Every two years the town of Wangaratta, in the north east of Victoria, hosts the Stitched Up Textile Festival. Part of the fun for 2017 is a group exhibition with the theme of 'Seasonal Stories'. Of course, most of us in my textile gang, Tenfold Textile Collective, signed up to participate when the call went out this past May.

We have to produce a work every three months using our preferred textile technique, with the only requirement being that the pieces must be A5 (21cm x 15cm) in size. The first deadline fell just after our exhibition so we all requested an extension. However, I was determined that Winter and Sprint would arrive in Wangaratta for the next deadline.

I've chosen to make a series of mini quilts – probably no surprises there. I could have gone with embroidery, but the time investment is just too great for me at the moment. I've had a pretty clear vision from the beginning, with the intention of trying out some new textural techniques and having colour palettes reflect the various seasons.
I started with Spring partly as that was the season we were supposedly in (but having reached the end with barely a day above 20ÂșC, I think we skipped it) and partly because I prefer working in colour. This one was really just improvising as I went, and apart from a change in binding approach, it was pretty straightforward.
'Spring Planting' mini quilt detail.
Winter was originally going to go the same way, but the reality of working with such a small size for the first one, made me try plotting Winter out on graph paper first. It's the most formal of the pieces, so it was definitely worth it.
It's been a while since I've been on the sewing machine – I needed a break after the exhibition prep – but these little pieces were a lovely way to get back into it.

I don't think I'll post images of the finished pieces until after the festival, but I promise to keep up to date with progress as I make Summer and Autumn. It's been very satisfying finishing a quick project as I stitch away at the denim beast... More on that soon too.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Keeping my clothes out of landfill

No matter how well I look after my gym T-shirts, they are, inevitably, going to wear out. I've been thinking about how I can keep this kind of textile waste out of landfill for a little while now, along with the textile waste from my making processes. So, I've started a few ongoing projects to ensure that everything can be repurposed.

First off, the T-shirts. Even if they're worn through in areas, or the elastic has gone, they can still be turned into T-shirt yarn for other purposes. There are plenty of online tutorials on how to do this. My favourite is from Mollie Makes. Ignore the bit about needing a T-shirt without side seams – for most purposes, it doesn't really matter if your yarn includes seams.

At the moment I'm making a mat, but I could just as easily knit, or crochet the yarn into something else such as a bag or even a new garment. Again, there are oodles of tutorials and ideas online – you can start here with Pinterest.
Lately, I've been making a lot of toiles (or muslins for Americans) for my pattern drafting class, as well as having quite a few leftover bits from screen printing, so these pieces are being turned into waggas (make-do quilts). They're improvised with whatever is at hand and I'm just adding to them when the mood strikes.
I also have a pair of pyjamas that are about to be worn through across the back. Buttons will be removed and kept for another project; the worn back area will have to be turned into strips that can either be made into a woven version of the T-shirt mat, or perhaps used for weaving; and the still-intact parts of the top will be cut into pieces that will eventually become a postage-stamp quilt.

I also have a pile of long, thin strips, mostly of denim, leftover from a quilt I'm making from repurposed jeans. I have plans for weaving these, but they're a little way down the 'to-do' list at the moment.

Last, but not least are the tiny scraps – too small for making anything useful – along with the thread offcuts, yarn ends etc that are the detritus of making. These, I'm turning into thread beads. The pic below shows the ones made mostly from the leftovers of my exhibition quilt – 10c piece for scale.
I hope this has given you some ideas for repurposing. If you want some background on the reality of the world's used clothing check out this Newsweek article that I found via The Fringe Association (the blog of Slow Fashion October's founder, Karen Templer).

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Slow Fashion October

This month I'm taking part in Slow Fashion October. Started last year by Karen Templar of the Fringe Association, the month is "a celebration of the small-batch, handmade, second-hand, well-loved, long-worn, known-origins wardrobe".

For me, slow fashion is about being intentional in all my wardrobe choices. Early in 2015 I decided to see how long I could go without buying any clothes, and I'm pleased to say, except for a gym emergency, I haven't bought anything 20 months on. That's certainly not to say I haven't bought fabric or yarn, and I've also made myself an item or two, but it has made me much more conscious of the lifecycle of my clothes and really look at ways to extend their life or repurpose them for something else once they are no longer wearable.
The hanging part of my winter wardrobe.
Sadly, for me, slow fashion seems to require the luxury of time. At the beginning of 2016 I returned to permanent work for six months and during that period I realised that one of my biggest barriers to being mindful about my wardrobe – indeed being mindful about anything – was lack of time. Working 50+ hours a week, then adding on 8 hours of commuting, leaves very little time for a handmade, mended or thoughtfully purchased wardrobe. Indeed, it was the lack of time that prompted the emergency purchase. In my rush to get to work I forgot to pack my gear for a session with my trainer, so rather than forego the considerable expense of the session, I bought leggings and a T-shirt so we could at least do Pilates (sans shoes!). For now, I'm back working for myself, so I am able to structure my time to focus on my preferred priorities, but it's something I'll need to think about if I return to a more structured work environment.

So, what do I hope to get out of Slow Fashion October?

Well, first off, I really like that the month coincides with the change in seasons. A time when I'm swapping my wardrobe from a largely winter one to a summer one. It gives me a reason to take stock, to see if my wardrobe can stand up to a second (and a bit) season without purchase, and to plan for mending, refashioning, and, if replacing, to see if I can make it myself, or find a quality, sustainable resource for purchasing.
The mending drawer.
Second, I've recently finished a pattern drafting course, and finally have blocks to fit my very long, quite-out-of-proportion shape, so a goal for this month is to choose an item to sew for my summer wardrobe that fits me perfectly! I've been a life-long knitter, but a hit-and-miss clothing sewer so this is the perfect reason to get back into it.

Another thing I'm hoping to get out of Slow Fashion October is a great list of resources and some new tips and tricks. There are people all over the world taking part photographing and writing about their experience with slow fashion, their go-to brands, tips for fibres and sources, favourite patterns and ideas for repurposing. Such a fabulous community to tap into.

Last, but not least – Slow Fashion October is an excuse for a few finishes... A cardigan that just needs seaming, progress on a top I'm making for my aunt, a pair of pyjama pants made from a thrifted flannelette sheet, and, of course, the mending pile and a prompt to get back to my #midmonthmending project on Instagram.

I encourage you to check out the #slowfashionoctober tag on Instagram and get involved however works for you. Happy Slow Fashion October!